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History of Indigenous Art in Canada
The history of Indigenous art in Canada begins sometime during the last Ice Age between 80,000 and 12,000 years ago. To date, however, the oldest surviving artworks (excluding finely crafted, aesthetically significant stone tools) are datable to no earlier than 5,000 years ago.
Thomas John Thomson, painter (born 5 August 1877 in Claremont, ON; died 8 July 1917 in Algonquin Provincial Park, ON). Tom Thomson was the most influential and enduringly popular Canadian artist of the early 20th century. An intense, wry and gentle artist with a canny sensibility, he was an early inspiration for what became the Group of Seven. He was one of the first painters to give acute visual form to the Canadian landscape. His works portray the natural world in a way that is poetic but still informed by direct experience. Many of his paintings, such as The West Wind (1916–17) and The Jack Pine (1916–17), have become icons of Canadian culture. He produced about 50 canvases and more than 400 sketches in his short professional career. His legend only grew after his untimely death at the age of 39.
William Ronald Reid, sculptor (born 12 January 1920 in Victoria, BC; died 13 March 1998 in Vancouver, BC). An internationally recognized Haida artist, Bill Reid is frequently credited with the revival and innovative resurgence of Northwest Coast Indigenous arts in the contemporary world. (See also Contemporary Indigenous Art in Canada.)
Klee Wyck (1941) is a memoir by Emily Carr, consisting of a collection of literary sketches. It is an evocative work that describes in vivid detail the influence that the Indigenous people and culture of the Northwest Coast had on Carr. Klee Wyck (“Laughing One”) is the name the Nuu-chah-nulth (Nootka) people gave her. The book won a Governor General’s Literary Award for nonfiction in 1941 and has been translated into French.
Carl Ray, Cree artist, illustrator, editor and art teacher (born January 1943 in Sandy Lake, ON; died 26 September 1978 in Sioux Lookout, ON). Ray was known for his innovative paintings in the Woodlands style and was a founding member of the Indian Group of Seven. Ray’s work has influenced Indigenous art in Canada and can be found in the collections of various galleries and museums across the country.
Jackson Beardy (also known as Quincy Pickering Jackson Beardy), Oji-Cree artist (born 24 July 1944 at Island Lake, MB; died 8 December 1984 in Winnipeg, MB). Beardy was part of the Woodlands School of Indigenous art, and in 1973 he became part of a group of Indigenous artists popularly known as the Indian Group of Seven. His stylized artworks — sometimes painted on canvas, birch bark or beaver skins — were often concerned with the interdependence of humans and nature. They also tended to depict figures from Ojibwe and Cree oral traditions. From the late 1960s to his death in the early 1980s, Beardy promoted Indigenous art as a valid category of contemporary art. His influence as a Woodland artist has contributed to the development of contemporary Indigenous art in Canada.
Northwest Coast Indigenous Art
More than 3,000 years ago, Indigenous peoples of the coast of British Columbia (and adjacent areas of Washington State and southeastern Alaska) such as the Haida and Kwakwaka'wakw developed artistic traditions that are heralded throughout the world for their imaginative and stylistic qualities.
Andrew Qappik, CM, RCA, Inuk graphic artist and printmaker (born 25 February 1964 in Nunataq, in what is now known as Nunavut). Qappik helped design the Nunavut flag and coat of arms, as well as the logo for the Government of Nunavut. In 2017, he was appointed to the Order of Canada “for his contributions to defining the visual culture of Nunavut as a master printmaker and sculptor.” He is based in Panniqtuuq (Pangnirtung), Nunavut.
Carl Beam (Carl Edward Migwans), artist (born 24 May 1943 in West Bay, Manitoulin Island, ON [now M’Chigeeng First Nation]; died 30 July 2005 in M’Chigeeng First Nation). The first contemporary Indigenous artist whose work was acquired by the National Gallery of Canada, Beam was one of Canada’s most ground-breaking Indigenous artists. (See also Contemporary Indigenous Art in Canada.)
Indigenous Arts & Stories Teacher’s Guide: Primary Art & Writing Activities
The Indigenous Arts & Stories Primary Activities Guide gives step-by-step directions on how to create different art and writing projects to submit to the contest. Teachers can use the guide to help choose activities for their students and to assist youth in the creative process of developing their art and writing.
Maisie Hurley, née Maisie Amy Campbell-Johnston, Vancouver-area political activist, Indigenous ally (see Indigenous Peoples in Canada), newspaper founder and art collector (born 27 November 1887 in Swansea, Wales; died 3 October 1964 in North Vancouver, British Columbia). Although Hurley had no formal legal training or law degree (see Legal Education), she worked on several legal cases and advocated for Indigenous peoples’ basic human rights as well as for changes to the Indian Act. In 1946, Hurley started a newspaper called The Native Voice that aimed to bring attention to important issues concerning Indigenous communities across Canada (see Rights of Indigenous Peoples in Canada). In 2011, Hurley’s collection of Indigenous art was displayed at the North Vancouver Museum.
Thomas H.B. Symons
Thomas “Tom” Henry Bull Symons, CC, OOnt, FRSC, FRGS, teacher, historian, university president, author (born 30 May 1929 in Toronto, ON; died 1 January 2021 in Peterborough, ON). Thomas Symons was founding president of Trent University (1961–72) and founding vice-president of the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada(1978–84). He is perhaps best known as chair of the Commission on Canadian Studies (1972–84).
The main purpose of historical societies in Canada is the study and promotion of Canadian history. There are hundreds of historical associations in Canada. Activities include publication of scholarly and amateur works, public education programs, and assistance to and co-operation with archives, museums, heritage groups and other similar organizations.
The Montreal metro opened on 14 October 1966. The second Canadian subway system after Toronto’s, which opened in 1954, the Montreal metro was the first subway in North America to run on rubber tires instead of metal wheels. Extensions to the Montreal metro were built on Montreal Island over the two decades after it opened, and then to the city of Laval, on the island of Île Jésus, during the 2000s. The system runs entirely underground, and each station has a distinct architecture and design. The Montreal metro consists of four lines running a total of 71 km and serving 68 stations. In 2018, its passengers made more than 383 million trips.
Historical Thinking Concepts
The six “Historical Thinking Concepts” were developed by The Historical Thinking Project, which was led by Dr. Peter Seixas of the University of British Columbia and educational expert Jill Colyer. The project identified six key concepts: historical significance, primary source evidence, continuity and change, cause and consequence, historical perspectives and ethical dimensions. Together, these concepts form the basis of historical inquiry. The project was funded by the Department of Canadian Heritage and The History Education Network (THEN/HiER). Seixas and Tom Morton published a book, The Big Six: Historical Thinking Concepts, that expanded on these concepts.
Historians use written, oral and visual sources to develop and support their interpretations of historical events. The historical discipline divides source materials into two categories: primary sources and secondary sources. Both categories are flexible and depend on the subject and era a historian is investigating.
Oral history is an account of the past transmitted by word of mouth. It has made important contributions to the ways in which we understand and interpret the past. Today, oral history has become an important field of study. Oral histories are also central to Indigenous cultures, both historical and contemporary. (See also Historical Sources and Indigenous Oral Histories and Primary Sources.)
Black History in Canada
"Have we read our own authors such as Dionne Brand, Afua Cooper and George Elliott Clarke? Do we know that the story of African-Canadians spans four hundred years, and includes slavery, abolition, pioneering, urban growth, segregation, the civil rights movement and a long engagement in civic life?"
The totem pole (also known as a monumental pole) is a tall structure carved out of cedar wood, created by Northwest Coast Indigenous peoples to serve variously as a signboard, genealogical record and memorial. Some well-known carvers include Mungo Martin, Charles Edenshaw, Henry Hunt, Richard Hunt and Stanley Hunt.