Strengthening UBC’s relationship with the xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam) band on whose ancestral lands its Point Grey campus is situated on has been a major commitment in recent years. In late 2021, UBC’s Athletics and Recreation department initiated a project in partnership with Musqueam to develop an art piece that reflected the Musqueam story of UBC’s sports nickname, the Thunderbirds.

The more than year long process started with over a dozen concepts submitted by Musqueam artists. A joint group representing Musqueam and UBC pored over the submissions and selected Deanna-Marie Point’s design because of its strong representation of the characteristics of Musqueam art and dynamic presentation of the Thunderbird.

Thunderbird Takes Flight

The thunderbird was created by Mother Earth and Father Sky to communicate their love for each other. It was the messenger between the two and showed the love and life on earth. Father Sky controls the weather and the four seasons. Without the seasons, we could not survive. If someone saw thunder and lightning in the sky, it meant that Mother Earth was sending a message to Father Sky. And if they were lucky enough to spot the thunderbird, it brought wealth and good fortune.

Deanna-Marie’s version of the Thunderbird represents a significant milestone in the relationship between UBC and the Musqueam people, on whose land UBC’s Vancouver campus is situated.

For decades, UBC has been associated with the Thunderbirds nickname and has used it with permission from the Kwakwa̱ka̱ʼwakw people since a ceremonial gifting in 1948. This gifting included the dedication of the Victory Through Honour pole, which features a figure of a Thunderbird at the top. Based on Kwikwasut’inuxw story of the five tests of Tsikumayi and carved by Ellen Neel, the pole was raised in a public ceremony with permission of the Musqueam people.

Despite this history, the Thunderbirds story at UBC lacked the same representation and storytelling from the Musqueam people. Deanna’s artwork marks the first official Musqueam representation of the Thunderbird at UBC. 

Deanna’s art is being showcased at Storm the Wall, a popular event amongst UBC students that includes scaling a large, 12-foot high wall where the artwork is featured. Its use at Storm the Wall is the first stage in a number of new ways that the UBC will be featuring Deanna’s artwork as part of its storytelling about the Thunderbird.

About the Artist

Deanna-Marie Point is an emerging xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam) artist with experience in 2D design, jewelry carving and other visual mediums. She comes from a family of artists – her mother is a master weaver trained in Musqueam weaving and design, and her father is a carver. Deanna was raised with cultural and ancestral teachings, which deeply inform her artistic practices. At a young age, Deanna developed a passion for visual art and would sit with her father and his teachers to learn about traditional Coast Salish art and its history. Her work has been featured on local TELUS fleet vehicles, indoor and outdoor murals, and the Pride crosswalk installed in Musqueam in 2022.