Who Did Your Ink?: Justin Trudeau’s Haida-inspired tattoo is tied to his past
In preparation for Canada Day, we emailed the Office of the Prime Minister with a request for Justin Trudeau to participate in the Straight’s weekly Who Did Your Ink? feature, where we ask Vancouverites about the artists and stories behind their most treasured tattoos.
Sadly, we did not receive a response. But that didn’t stop us from scouring the web for every tidbit we could find about our Prime Minister’s single—as far as we know, anyway—piece of ink.
Here’s the lowdown on the tattoo belonging to former Vancouverite, occasional boxer, soon-to-be three-time Vancouver Pride Parade marcher, and reigning Prime Minister of Canada, Justin Trudeau.
What’s your name? Justin Trudeau.
Who did your ink? According to an interview with the Hamilton Spectator from 2013, Trudeau’s planet Earth tattoo—which now sits within an image of a Haida raven—was done by “Tom the Tattoo Artist” in Thailand.
Trudeau has yet to publicly reveal the tattoo artist who inked his raven, which is inspired by Haida and B.C.–based artist Robert Davidson’s Raven Bringing Light to the World.
Why did you choose this design for your tattoo? “My tattoo is planet Earth inside a Haida raven,” Trudeau shared in a tweet from 2012. “The globe I got when I was 23; the Robert Davidson raven for my 40th birthday.”
He explained in 2013 that he added the raven tattoo “at an age when I was figuring out who I was and what I needed”. In 1976, a four-year-old Trudeau, along with his then–PM father, mother, and two brothers, was adopted into the Yaghu’laanaas lineage of the Haida First Nations.
The ceremony was conducted by Davidson’s grandmother. The artist recalls that, at the time, she dubbed Trudeau “Kihl gulaans”, a Haida name which translates to “his voice is as good as gold”.
Is there any meaning behind it? “The raven is a symbol of the trickster...who creates with irreverence a powerful force,” Trudeau remarked in 2013.
Drawing from Haida mythology, the Canadian Museum of History describes the Raven as “mischievous” and “lecherous”, though he also has the capacity to teach humans the art of “living a good life”.
Traditional Haida tales illustrate the Raven as a resourceful—though cunning—creature, who frequently encounters supernatural beings. In these stories, he obtains useful objects such as fresh water, salmon, and fish for humans, which suggests that he teaches by counterexample.
What’s next on your ink list? We don’t know for sure, but during his 2012 charity boxing match with Conservative Senator Patrick Brazeau, Trudeau had a temporary Katimavik tattoo on his right bicep.
It was a message to then–PM Stephen Harper following the elimination of funding for the youth program which his father, Pierre Trudeau, founded in 1977.