Leticia Spence makes Pimicikamak Cree Nation proud as Jets wear her Indigenous-style jersey.

By Brayden Solberg

Spence, a product of Pimicikamak Cree Nation, now works as a graphic designer for Manitoba First Nations Educations Resource Centre (MFNERC). /BRAYDEN SOLBERG

Graphic designer Leticia Spence inspired Pimicikamak Cree Nation community as Winnipeg Jets stepped on the ice for a pre-game skate sporting her Indigenous-style logo.

 “The feedback in the Indigenous community has been overwhelmingly positive,” said Spence.

Spence, a graduate from Red River College’s graphic design program in 2019, began sketching designs for True North Sports and Entertainment while she was still a second-year student at RRC.

Spence was initially brought into the collaboration between Winnipeg Aboriginal Sport Achievement Centre (WASAC) and True North Sports and Entertainment to ensure the Indigenous appreciation campaign was culturally sensitive.

“Once they found out I was a graphic designer, they were like, ‘Why don’t you come up with a few logo ideas and jump on board with us,’” said Spence.

The Manitoba Moose also dawned Spence’s original designs during a game on Jan. 18.

“I was walking down the street and overheard an Indigenous lady see my logo on a poster and say ‘Wow that’s beautiful. It makes me proud to be First Nations,’” said Spence. “It made me feel like my research paid off.”

Spence spent hours researching her culture and talking to the elders in her community.

“I didn’t want to slap a bunch of random designs together and call it ‘inclusive’” said Spence. “I wanted it to have a narrative.”

Spence said the logo features hidden meanings from a variety of different Indigenous tribes.

Spence said that working on the Indigenous-style designs for the Winnipeg Jets and Manitoba Moose, gave her the opportunity to reconnect with her culture and learn more about her history. BRAYDEN SOLBERG

Chief of the Pimicikamak Cree Nation David Monias wrote about the positive impact Spence’s designs had on their community.

“She just set a prime example to all young Aboriginal people, that when you put your mind to accomplish something, you can do it,” said Monias in an email.

The game-worn jerseys from both the Jets and the Moose are being auctioned off with the proceeds going to WASAC. The proceeds will go towards creating opportunities for Indigenous youth.

While pleased with the growth in Indigenous inclusion, Spence hopes more Indigenous youth have opportunities to express their culture while having access to support systems that help them succeed.

“[post-secondary education] was hard for me at first, because there weren’t really any students like me,” said Spence. “As an Indigenous woman, I felt isolated.”

Former Red River College instructor Andrew Boardman, who helped Spence connect with WASAC, wrote about the importance of an effective outreach program for Indigenous youth.

“I only taught at RRC for one year, but I do know that the resources that the college provides are real and substantive,” said Boardman.

Red River College offers preparatory programs and hosts the Indigenous Student Support and Community Relations department to help Indigenous students successfully transition into post-secondary education.

Spence said the graphic design program was tough but gave her the tools she needed to succeed.

Spence was a student of the graphic design program at RRC’s Exchange District Campus. /SARAH THIESSEN

“You have to be ambitious to get through the program, but it prepares you for the reality of the workforce,” said Spence.

As she spread out posters and t-shirts containing her work, Spence talked about her passion for drawing and how it feels to be in a profession she loves.

“I feel like I’m where I am supposed to be, said Spence.