The Ceremonial Seahawk

December 10, 2020

When Seattle got its first football franchise in the mid-70s,

they wanted a unique mascot. Something that honored Seattle’s beautiful landscape and its history. Enter the Seahawk. Sure, it looks pretty cool. But you might be wondering what a Seahawk even is. A bird? A made-up creature?
Technically, the Seahawk is another name for the osprey, a seafaring bird of prey from the Puget Sound region. And the Seahawk is a big figure in local Native American lore, translating messages between the realms of water and air. (And it’s certainly a more unique choice than, you know, another dog or something. Sorry, Georgia fans. And UW fans. And Cleveland fans. And Gonzaga fans…)
For years, the origins of the Seahawk mascot was unknown. Recently, the original Seahawk mask was rediscovered at the Hudson Museum in Maine and loaned to the Puget Sound’s Burke Museum, where fans can see it in person. The original mask was made by the Kwakwaka’wakw tribe of Vancouver Island, who are known for crafting huge wooden masks. These masks are used by the tribe during dance ceremonies to share stories passed down through the ages.
In fact, Kwakwaka’wakw masks weren’t made to be hung on the wall of a museum or kept by collectors, although that’s often where you’ll find them. The masks serve as a totem: a symbol that brings people together and unites them through shared meaning and identity. They’re meant to be worn, amongst community, to bring people together.
It might sound strange, but a football game might actually be the perfect place for a Kwakwaka’wakw mask. Because a football game is very ceremonial. Think about it: ceremonies are about worship, and community. Sports fanatics are intensely loyal, and that loyalty forms instant bonds between fans. At the game, we paint our faces team colors, wear our coolest gear, and bring our rowdiest signs. Do we know for sure our dedication will make our team win? Of course not. But we do it anyway. And that’s its own form of worship: win or lose, we keep the faith.

Tagged: Football, Seattle Seahawks

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