Artist Michelle Stoney explains her process for creating a giant salmon on the bank of the Skeena River at Anderson Flats (South Hazelton) July 16. (Thom Barker photo).

Gitxsan artist waiting for public apology for using her design

Michelle Stoney said lacrosse teams were using her artwork without permission or consent

A Gitxsan artist has been left shocked after two Canadian National Lacrosse League teams used a design that was similar to hers without permission on t-shirts.

Michelle Stoney created an intricate hand with feather fingers and a botanical palm two years ago for Orange Shirt Day. The design used on the fundraising lacrosse shirts was strikingly similar.

“I felt my heart sink, I was mostly in shock, surprised after someone told me about it,” she said. “ I was doubtful at first and then I saw the image, flipped it and lined it up and it was almost a perfect trace, I couldn’t believe it.”

The Vancouver Warriors posted a photo of a member of their team wearing the shirt with the design on Facebook last week with the designed credited to another person. The Halifax Thunderbirds also started using shirts with the same design.

Stoney said a member of her team contacted both the Warriors and Thunderbirds. The Warriors quickly removed their photo from their Facebook page and posted a statement:

“Yesterday we posted an image featuring a player in an Every Child Matters orange shirt,” it read. “At the time we were using information provided to us regarding the artist credited for the design. We understand that this information may be incorrect and have taken the post down to slow the spread of misinformation. While we reach out to the artists involved, we would like to continue to recognize and support the Every Child Matters campaign.”

She said they apologized personally to her quickly but the Thunderbirds were slower to respond. However, days later she did receive an email from the owner and general manager of the Thunderbirds Curt Styres who took full responsibility for not doing his due diligence.

He offered her the job to make a new logo that honours and brings awareness to residential school victims.

Stoney told The Interior News she hasn’t responded yet, but will inform them she would like to see all the teams hire an artist local to their own region.

She was told that no one was paid originally for the design, so she is assuming it was made in-house. Stoney said artists should be paid for their work. She understands the teams’ intentions were good, but they went about it the wrong way.

This is not the first time an Indigenous artist has had their work stolen, especially recently in the wake of hundreds of unmarked graves being discovered near former residential schools.

Stoney is asking for a public apology from both teams to help bring awareness to the issue.

“This is the last straw, I’m not going to let this slide,” she said. “We need more people to know it is against the law to take someone’s image and use it.”


Michelle Stoney's design (left) and the image (right) used by the two lacrosse teams side by side.

Michelle Stoney created this logo to be used for Orange Shirt day two years ago, a day that brings awareness to the effects of residential schools and their legacy. (Facebook/Michelle Stoney)

The design that lacrosse teams were using, that Michelle Stoney said is too similar to her art and was not used with permission. Both teams have since stop using it and apologized to her. (Facebook/Michelle Stoney)