Coast Salish Artist Maynard Johnny Jr.’s kit design features the salmon as a symbol of hope for the future

Langford, BC – (March 21, 2024) – For Maynard Johnny Jr., his art is a mechanism for not only driving awareness about truth and reconciliation in Canada, but a way to push the conversation forward from a place of aspiration to a place of action. 

“I’m realizing (by) using my art as a vehicle to get me into organizations, corporations, universities, it allows me to express what’s going on with Indigenous peoples and the history of Indigenous people in this country,” said Johnny. 

Pacific FC is one of those organizations. Johnny, a Coast Salish artist for the past three decades, first began working with the club four year ago, as the design process for the Trident’s 2022 kits was underway. His Coast Salish designs would eventually adorn the club’s iconic 2022 alternate kit, the Indigenous Kit. With the launch of that kit, which also remained in the club’s jersey rotation for the 2023 Canadian Premier League season, Pacific became the first organization in professional sports history in Canada to don an Indigenous-designed jersey. 

The relationship between Johnny and the club continues today, as Pacific announced on Thursday its 2024 alternate kit, once again designed by Johnny. The design of the new Resilience Kit features salmons in both of Pacific’s club colours, purple and teal, on a white background, and speaks to the animal’s innate ability to survive the threats posed by predators such as fishermen, whales and seals as they migrate thousands of kilometres from birth between their freshwater habitats and the ocean. 

“That kind of reminds me of Indigenous people, the resilience of people surviving oppression in Canada,” Johnny said. 

Johnny hopes that seeing Pacific players wearing a jersey that features his design will inspire Canadians not only to ask questions but to put in the work to educate themselves on the oppression the Indigenous community has faced in Canada, in order to take positive steps toward reconciliation. He also hopes the kit will resonate with young people in Indigenous communities and inspire them to pursue their passion, whether their passion is to play soccer professionally, become an artist or follow another path entirely.

That’s a pretty big theme in the last five to ten years, is being able to see our people doing things that we normally wouldn’t have (seen) them in: movies, TV shows, playing professional sports, all these things that create inspiration for young adults,” said Johnny. 

Many members of the Indigenous community grew up in poverty under Canada’s Indian Act, which is still intact today, said Maynard. Seeing the designs of a Coast Salish artist, who hails from a small community on Penelakut Island between Vancouver Island and mainland British Columbia, land on the jersey of a professional soccer team generates a positive message for all young people about what they can achieve when they set their mind to a goal and work to achieve it. 

“As I became an artist, I realized how hard it actually is,” said Johnny. “Even though I was really good at what I did, it was still hard to break into the market, it was still hard to become a professional artist. I had to work a lot and I had to suffer setbacks or have somewhat of a failure. I realize now that that actually made me smarter and stronger and more resilient to move forward and not let it take me down. Having this inspiration, seeing soccer players, professional players, wearing my jersey on the pitch, it’ll inspire youth to know, ‘I can do this too.’’

Maynard applauded Pacific for once again including an Indigenous-designed kit in its jersey lineup permanently, rather than as a warmup kit or as a one-off instance in a season, but he also wants to push the club to do more to play its part in the hunt for truth and reconciliation.

“What I push Pacific FC and any organization to do is do more,” said Johnny. You’re not doing enough. I know that’s very firm and stern, but the idea is to keep raising that awareness … Working with Pacific FC, I realized I had to keep pushing them and I still have to keep pushing them and I will, and they’ll keep learning and they’ll keep wanting to do more and more.”

The journey toward truth and reconciliation is a long and drawn-out process, said Johnny, and it can be exhausting to tell his story again and again. 

“For a while I’d gotten to the point where I was like, ‘I’m sick of this,’” Johnny said. “At the same time, I realized I have to share my story in order for people to understand, but it’s also their job to go from there and do more … study of what the residential school is, what the Indian Act is, the Potlatch Ban, the Sixties Scoop.”

As frustrating as it can be for Johnny to have to share his stories and trauma again and again, talking about them helps Canadians better understand the Indigenous experience in Canada. And more understanding, he said, is the ultimate goal.

“Hopefully working with Pacific FC, we’ll be able to do this, we’ll be able to continue raising awareness, raising the questions so that Canadians will understand what happened and what we need to do to move forward.”