SEATTLE — The Burke Museum — and 12s across the area — are learning a bit of history behind the mask that inspired the Seahawks logo this week.
The Native American transformation mask that inspired the logo arrived at the Burke Museum and is being studied by Bruce Alfred, a member of the Namgis Band of the Kwakwaka’wakw Nations. After it is carefully looked at, it will be on display to the public.
Now that the mask is in Seattle, researchers have discovered cool details that were previously unknown.
From the Kickstarter campaign blog:
Scuffs and scratches on the mask show it was used in ceremonies before it was sold. Bruce described how a dancer would enter the longhouse, hunched low with the mask on his back, firelight reflecting in the mask’s mirrored eyes. As the drum beat grew stronger, the dancer would spin rapidly, whipping open the mask to reveal the face inside. The face represents the eagle – or Thunderbird – coming to earth to take human form.
A tag in the mask dated 1910 includes a catalog number from the Fred Harvey Company, which operated hotels, restaurants, and Indian marketplaces throughout the southwestern U.S. in the late-19th and early-20th centuries. The Company’s collectors traveled throughout the Southwest, California and along the Colorado River buying art for the marketplaces. They also collected objects from Plains and Alaskan tribes, which offers a possible explanation for how the mask came to be part of the Company collection.
“We knew it was made on Vancouver Island in the 19th century, but we didn’t know anything else until it came in to the Max Ernst collection,” said Kathryn Bunn-Marcuse, Assistant Director of the Burke Museum’s Bill Holm Center for the Study of Northwest Native Art. Ernst lived in Sedona, Arizona, in the 1940s—suggesting an opportunity for his acquisition of the mask. “We are filling in the gaps in the mask’s history.”
Bringing the mask to the museum is part of a fundraising campaign headed by the museum. The idea came to fruition last year during the Seahawks’ Super Bowl run, when many blogs and commenters speculated about the origin of the logo.
Seeking the correct record, Burke Museum Curator Robin K. Wright recalled a conversation about its source being from a photo of a Kwakwaka’wakw transformation eagle mask from a private collection. Wright and students tracked down the mask to the University of Maine. The school agreed to donate the mask for the Burke Museum exhibit Here & Now: Native Artists Inspired. A fundraising campaign was put in place to safely transport the mask across the country.
The museum is still searching for donations, as the Kickstarter campaign has $5,209 left to raise before 12 p.m. on Nov. 10.