Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

At Tribe's Request, SAM Withdraws Native Artwork From Super Bowl Wager

It was meant to be a friendly wager with a cultural twist: Seattle Art Museum and Denver Art Museum each bet a temporary loan of a work of art on the Super Bowl.

But SAM has withdrawn its original choice of artwork,"Forehead Mask" by the Nuxalk First Nation, at the request of the Nuxalk, and has replaced it with a different piece.

“They informed the Broncos about it and they’ve never contacted us. If they’re not going to respect what they have of ours, send it back to us where it will be looked after right,” Nuxalk First Nation Chief Wally Webber told the CBC. "They call it a man-eating raven. It is not that. It's a high ranking mask for the chiefs' sacred dances, and to see it being used this way in a bet is not very kosher with us." 

Barbara Brotherton, SAM's curator of Native American art, initially selected the mask, which bears a striking resemblance to the Seahawks logo. After news reports in Canada noted the Nuxalk were angry about the bet, she reached out to the tribe and apologized. 

"We consider ourselves cultural stewards of these pieces," Brotherton said. "We also recognize indigenous people's claim to their cultural patrimony. The issue wasn't that we would lend it; the issue was that it looked like we were gambling with it."

SAM is now offering up a work from its Asian Art collection: "Sound of Waves" by Tsuji Kak?. The six-paneled Japanese screen features an eagle with outstretched wings. The piece will be loaned to Denver for three months — if the Denver Broncos win.

If the Seahawks win, SAM gets to borrow "The Broncho Buster," a bronze sculpture by Frederic Remington.

Florangela Davila is KNKX’s news director. A journalist in Seattle since 1992, she’s earned numerous individual and team honors in print, online and broadcast, most recently three regional Murrows for KNKX.