The National Hockey League’s Buffalo Sabres dedicates an evening to the Seneca Nation in a special first-ever Native American Heritage Night home game sponsored by the Seneca Resorts and Casinos.
Tonight marks the beginning of a new friendship between the Sabres and Seneca Nation of the Haudenosaunee, more commonly known as the Iroquois Confederacy.
It’s the first game night of its kind since the franchise’s founding more than half a century ago in 1970.
The Sabres squad faces off against the Metropolitan Division’s top-leading team, the Washington Capitals, following a derailing 4-2 loss handed by the on-the-road Pittsburgh Penguins in the nation’s capital on Friday, Dec. 10.
A Seneca Nation’s Snipe Clan member, Carson Waterman, is a well-known Indigenous artist based in Salamanca, New York. He’s the artist behind the design of the new Native-inspired logo, resembling a single-feather headdress or gustoweh.
The Sabres hockey team wanted to honor Native American history. Waterman ended up getting yet another opportunity to “strengthen our identity,” a passion he has spent his entire life pursuing.
“I’m honored to be working with the Buffalo Sabres,” Waterman told FingerLakes1.com. “It symbolizes the togetherness of our people and the Sabres and the city of Buffalo.”
He says it’s “scary at times” to see the fracturing of an increasingly divisive socio-political undercurrent across America. Collaborating with the Sabres is a step in the right direction, setting an example for Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples alike.
“It’s important to show that our people are still working together,” Waterman added.
This season’s team has autographed a limited-edition print of Waterman’s Sabres logo, ready for auction with proceeds benefiting the Native Arts Collective.
Fans may also purchase long-sleeve T-shirts of the Indigenous artist’s design; $5 from each sale will go directly to the Native American Community Services of Erie & Niagara Counties, Inc.
Waterman is not unfamiliar with crafting sporting logos either.
In 1991, Waterman redesigned the St. Bonaventure University’s “Brown Indian” logo, 30 years before being asked by Dave Kimelberg, a longtime friend and founder of K Art, a Buffalo-based and Native-owned commercial art gallery, to design the Sabres special game night design.
He was motivated to create a design that’s “more appropriate to who are are” by drafting corrections to the university’s previous mascot by more accurately representing the Eastern Woodland peoples’ single-feather headdress called a gustoweh.
Looking back, Waterman accredits his vast collection of cultural knowledge to his tenure at the Seneca-Iroquois National Museum, an educational space that has routinely inspired and enriched his artwork for decades.
At one time, Waterman worked in their exhibits for 13-years, allowing him to learn about his heritage, which wasn’t taught in school or anywhere else.
“Identity today is so important for understanding who you are, your history and background,” Waterman elaborated.
Being given the creative license to create an exclusive Sabres logo has granted him a chance to represent himself and his Native community by crafting his own interpretation of a beloved sports franchise for a mainstream audience.
Waterman has already expressed his support of future Native American Heritage Nights inside the KeyBank Center in Buffalo, especially if the outing is successful.
The Sabres team has donated more than 200 tickets to youth from the Seneca Nation of Indians’ (SNI) Cattaraugus Community Center and Native American Community Service to attend tonight’s highly-anticipated home game.
The SNI Cattaraugus Community Center, home to an ice rink open to the public on the reservation, has also partnered with the franchise to host the first-ever Indigenous “Learn to Play” hockey program run by an NHL team in the United States.