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The Indigenous Art Behind the Seahawks' Helmet

A 19th-century "transformation mask" from Vancouver Island, British Columbia, inspired the team's logo. A new exhibit explores the history and significance of the piece.
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AP, Robert Bruce Inverarity

At the peak of Seattle's obsession with its NFL team last winter, art-loving Seahawks fans wanted to trace the roots of its logo. After a Super Bowl win, a few months of research, and a Kickstarter campaign, a local museum exhibit will now be showing the very object that inspired the design.

The name "Seahawks" came from the winning submission to a 1975 naming competition, but the logo was done by NFL Properties, the merchandising and licensing arm of the NFL. The league's designers looked through books about Pacific Northwest art for inspiration, and it turns out that there was one specific piece that inspired the logo: a Kwakwaka’wakw transformation mask seen in Robert Bruce Inverarity’s 1950 book, Art of the Northwest Coast Indians.