An artifact housed at the University of Maine’s Hudson Museum with a connection to the National Football League’s Seattle Seahawks received a football-related sendoff on the Orono campus Wednesday night.
Head coach Jack Cosgrove and members of the UMaine football team were on hand as a carved wooden mask from the Hudson Museum collection began its trip to the Pacific Northwest.
The Northwest Coast transformation mask, part of the William P. Palmer III collection at UMaine, soon will be on temporary exhibition at the University of Washington’s Burke Museum.
The artifact, carved out of cedar in the late 19th or early 20th century, is believed to be the inspiration for the Seahawks’ official logo, according to Hudson Museum Director Gretchen Faulkner.
When closed, the mask is 2 feet long and depicts a bird of prey. When opened, it measures 3 feet long and displays a painted depiction of a human face. It has mirrors for eyes.
In a UMaine release, Faulkner said the late Richard Emerick, the UMaine anthropologist who founded the Hudson Museum, explained the wooden mask was the inspiration for the Seahawks logo, which was put into use in 1975.
There had been no documentation to confirm such a connection until recently, the release said.
Robin K. Wright, curator of Native American art and director of the Bill Holm Center at the Burke Museum, said the mask comes from the Kwakwaka’wakw, the indigenous people of the Pacific Northwest Coast.
Early in 2014, shortly before Seattle played in Super Bowl XLVIII, Wright penned a blog post titled “Searching for what inspired the Seattle Seahawks logo.”
The blog includes photos that appeared in a book published in 1950, “Art of the Northwest Coast Indians,” by Robert Bruce Inverarity, which appear to depict the same mask that has been on display at UMaine for more than 30 years.
After the Super Bowl, Faulkner shared her story about the mask’s origin with museum board member Isla Baldwin, who subsequently found Wright’s blog while researching the mask.
The UMaine release explained such masks are worn in Kwakwaka’wakw ceremonies that involve dancing, singing and the giving of gifts. Such rites are common in recognizing a deceased chief.
Fans of art and football in the Pacific Northwest will have the opportunity to get a first-hand look at the artifact that appears to have inspired the Seahawks logo.