Friday, July 17, 2009

Indians and the just society

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“Forty years after Jean Chrétien's ‘white paper,' we still struggle to reconcile the Canadian square and the aboriginal circle”
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"The Takers", © 1974 Norval Morrisseau
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William Johnson,
'Globe and Mail', published June 24, 2009
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A bombshell. No, a mega-magnitude earthquake. The tectonic plates underlying Canada collided against each other. To this day, the aftershocks continue their eruptions.
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Forty years ago, on June 25, 1969, Indian Affairs minister Jean Chrétien proudly presented his Statement of the Government of Canada on Indian Policy. Known since as “the white paper,” it pursued Pierre Trudeau's concept of a “just society” by rescinding all of the Crown's policies and commitments made toward Indians since the 1763 Royal Proclamation.

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Its logic was summarized in two sentences: “The policy rests upon the fundamental right of Indian people to full and equal participation in the cultural, social, economic and political life of Canada. To argue against this right is to argue for discrimination, isolation and separation.”

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For most Canadians, that seemed only fitting after a decade marked by immense struggles worldwide against segregation and for equality. But it also meant that Indians would lose their centuries-long unique status. Treaties would be scrapped. Indian lands, long owned collectively under the trusteeship of the Crown, would be privatized and distributed to Indians individually. The Indian Affairs bureaucracy would shut down. Indians, like other Canadians, would receive services from provincial governments and federal ministries serving the general population.

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“The government hopes to have the bulk of the policy in effect within five years,” was the forecast. After 40 years, none of it has occurred.

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The white paper caused an explosion of outrage and existential anxiety. The reaction of Indians was forcibly expressed by Harold Cardinal, a Cree from Alberta who had studied sociology at Ottawa's St. Patrick's College and, just the year before, been elected, at 24, as president of the Alberta Indian Association.

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“The history of Canada's Indians is a shameful chronicle of the white man's disinterest, his deliberate trampling of Indian rights and his repeated betrayal of our trust,” he charged in his riposte, titled The Unjust Society: The Tragedy of Canada's Indians. “Once more the Indians of Canada are betrayed by a program which offers nothing better than cultural genocide.”

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For this voice expressing a new Indian generation, the “white man” had proved himself a liar, a cheat, a swindler, a racist, a colonizer, a tyrant, a brute who spoke with a forked tongue. The solemn promises and contractual obligations of the treaties were betrayed.

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What he then articulated prophetically would become the countervision to the 1969 white paper. He expressed the main themes of a native renaissance that flowered across the country beginning in the 1960s, after the half a century of virtual silence since Pauline Johnson wrote. It would include such notable figures as Norval Morrisseau, Duke Redbird, Buffy Sainte-Marie, Maria Campbell, Tomson Highway, Alanis Obomsawin, Richard Wagamese, Eden Robinson, Joseph Boyden and innumerable others.

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Then the Supreme Court of Canada, in judgments such as Calder (1973), Sioui (1990) and Delgamuukw (1997), would repudiate the Trudeau vision of a single standard of citizenship, and would assert the continuing validity of historic commitments made to Indians by the Crown.

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Mr. Trudeau came to recognize the error of the white paper. His repudiation would be expressed by Section 35 of his 1982 Constitution Act: “The existing aboriginal and treaty rights of the aboriginal peoples of Canada are hereby recognized and affirmed. ... For greater certainty, ‘treaty rights' includes rights that now exist by way of land claims agreements or may be so acquired.”

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History has left Canada as a jigsaw puzzle of fault lines running between regions and communities with varying commitments and many unfulfilled obligations. The task of defining and mending them has only just begun.

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Some principles to guide current and future negotiations in fulfilment of Canada's obligations to Indians were spelled out by the court in Badger (1996):

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“First, it must be remembered that a treaty represents an exchange of solemn promises between the Crown and the various Indian nations. It is an agreement whose nature is sacred. ... It is always assumed that the Crown intends to fulfill its promises. No appearance of ‘sharp dealing' will be sanctioned.”

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And the court laid this obligation on the government: “Any ambiguities or doubtful expressions in the wording of the treaty or document must be resolved in favour of the Indians. A corollary to this principle is that any limitations which restrict the rights of Indians under treaties must be narrowly construed.”

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The racism of the past left Canada a legacy of multitudinous debts to Indians that must eventually be acquitted. At the same time, the court recognized that third parties - most Canadians - have also acquired rights over the centuries that must be respected. And the entire financial structure of the country must not be destroyed in the process of pursuing a justice long delayed.

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Can the Canadian square and the aboriginal circle somehow be reconciled?

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Source: 'Globe and Mail'-
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* The acrylic painting in this post: "The Takers", © c. 1970s Norval Morrisseau /Private Collection/

Words of Genius XXXV

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- Norval Morrisseau's Prime Period [1970's]--
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"Windigo in Transition", © 1974 Norval Morrisseau
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"Let's put it this way. I know what is to be hungry and poor in cloths. But the spirit of one that is poor shall never be weaken by hunger, as hunger is good matter. This is what gives a man life and wisdom. I don't regret that I was hungry."
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Norval Morrisseau
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* The acrylic painting in this post: "Windigo in Transition", 24"x24", © 1974 Norval Morrisseau /Private Collection/

Thunderbirds of Norval Morrisseau (Part XXI)

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- Norval Morrisseau's Prime Period [1970's]--
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"Untitled", © 1974 Norval Morrisseau
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"It is our Ojibwa tradition to recall our history or obtain our history in an oral manner. It is important for our children and others to benefit through the process of continuing to recall and make history."
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Norval Morrisseau
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* The acrylic painting in this post: "Untitled", 17"x12", © 1974 Norval Morrisseau /Private Collection/

Insects of Norval Morrisseau (Part III)

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- Norval Morrisseau's Prime Period [1970's]--
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"Untitled", © 1970s Norval Morrisseau
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"I paint with these colours to heal, my paintings honour the Anishnaabe ancestors who have roamed the Great Lakes for centuries upon centuries."
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Norval Morrisseau
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* The acrylic painting in this post: "Untitled", 14"x20", © c. 1970s Norval Morrisseau /Private Collection/

Thunderbirds of Norval Morrisseau (Part XX)

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- Norval Morrisseau's Prime Period [1970's]--
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"Thunderbird", © 1978 Norval Morrisseau
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"Personally I am not thinking about myself truthfully in this present year but years ahead when I am death for the children of mine and the generations of my people to feel proud of the art heritage of the Ojibway and every nationality is proud of its culture."
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Norval Morrisseau
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* The acrylic painting in this post: "Thunderbird", 17"x12", © 1978 Norval Morrisseau /Private Collection/

Shamans of Norval Morrisseau (Part XLIII)

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- Norval Morrisseau's Prime Period [1970's]--
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"Untitled", © 1976 Norval Morrisseau
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"I started to do some painting. I guess I saw some art literature from Arizona or the Southwest somewhere, but I was hungry to learn more. I wanted to paint my house and paint the walls in traditional pictographs like the ones I saw from the rock paintings and birch bark scrolls our people used to make."
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Norval Morrisseau
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* The acrylic painting in this post: "Untitled", 26"x30", © 1976 Norval Morrisseau /Private Collection/

"Ancient Fisherman", © 1974 Norval Morrisseau

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- Norval Morrisseau's Prime Period [1970's]--
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"Ancient Fisherman", © 1974 Norval Morrisseau
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"The fish, sacred trout, was the most respected of all fish. The trout gave the Indian life in abundance and according to Ojibwa Indian mythology it represented his soul carrier. The trout carried the Indian soul through transmigration into an other existence in the supernatural or reincarnation. All this belief worked for the betterment of the Indian food in reality - faith in the supernatural."
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Norval Morrisseau
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* The acrylic painting in this post: "Ancient Fisherman", 29"x21", © 1974 Norval Morrisseau /Private Collection/

Spiritual Paintings of Norval Morrisseau (Part XVII)

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- Norval Morrisseau's Prime Period [1970's]- -
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"Untitled", © 1979 Norval Morrisseau
/Click on image to Enlarge/
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"These paintings only remind you that you're an Indian. Inside somewhere, we're all Indians. So now when I befriend you, I'm trying to get the best Indian, bring out the Indianness in you to make you think everything is sacred."
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Norval Morrisseau
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* The painting on canvas in this post: "Untitled", 20"x36", © 1979 Norval Morrisseau /Private Collection/

Monday, July 13, 2009

Extra! Extra! Copyright for the Artistic Legacy of Norval Morrisseau has been registered!

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Norval Morrisseau's daughters Lisa and Victoria in attendance at the unveiling of "Androgyny" at The Office of the Secretary to the Governor General (OSGG) in the Rideau Hall Ballroom on September 18th, 2008 - Ottawa, Ontario, CANADA
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For the record, as per Canadian Intellectual Property Office the copyright for 'The Artistic Legacy of Norval Morrisseau' has been registered on June 30th, 2009 in the name of Victoria (Morrisseau) Kakegamic.
/Registration No. 1068638/
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Source: Canadian Intellectual Property Office
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* Photography © 2008 Office of the Secretary to the Governor General

Thursday, July 9, 2009

The Ballad of Norval Morrisseau

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Norval, Norval, What's driving you?
Are the spirits talking?
Are the spirits coming thru?
Are they talking to you?
You've lived in the forest, all of your life
You've been hungry and you've suffered strife
And you paint with the blood of a thousand years
You paint the legends and you paint the fears
And you paint the birch bark and you paint the sand
And you paint your sweat with an ancient hand.

They took your paintings and hung them in town;
They took your body and flung it around,
So the world could see an Indian in high society.
They gave you a china cup filled with tea,
But you drown their pale faces in brown whiskey,
You painted their Jesus to expose their hypocrisy.

You've lived in their churches, you've known their jails
And you laughed when they said you had failed,
Your art will be living when they're all dead;

You took their green money and you painted it red;
You paint your canvas with a brush of pain,
You signed your works with an Indian name.

You're an Ojibway man, a child of this land;
An artist, a prophet with a torch in your hand;
A blueprint for seeing, and it's not for sale;
A harbour for living in the eye of a gale.
The people, they love you, and they know your truth;
The culture is yours; you can never lose.

The Algonquin nation is listening to your voice.
They're learning your wisdom and pride;
They're painting with a brush you passed on to them,
With a talent they no longer need to hide.
Yes, you've opened the doors and the windows too;
The spirits are talking;
yes they're coming through.

Duke Redbird
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* Photography: Author unknown

Paper sets of Norval Morrisseau (Part III) 1-7

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- Norval Morrisseau's Prime Period [1970's]--
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"Untitled" (1-7), 15"x12", © 1974 Norval Morrisseau
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"I started to do some painting. I guess I saw some art literature from Arizona or the Southwest somewhere, but I was hungry to learn more. I wanted to paint my house and paint the walls in traditional pictographs like the ones I saw from the rock paintings and birch bark scrolls our people used to make."
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Norval Morrisseau
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Note: Each painting from the set had been individulay numbered and signed on the front /bottom/ with pencil by the artist.
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* The acrylic painting on paper in this post: "Untitled", 1-7, 15"x12", © 1974 Norval Morrisseau /Private Collection/

Paper sets of Norval Morrisseau (Part III) 2-7

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- Norval Morrisseau's Prime Period [1970's]--
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"Untitled" (2-7), 15"x12", © 1974 Norval Morrisseau
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"I was told by some relatives not to do this - that I should not be tampering with these forms, 'because the Indians will ostracize you'. Or the elders would not care for it, just like the Jesuits.
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Nevertheless I was determined to do it, for it is my destiny..."
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Norval Morrisseau
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Note: Each painting from the set had been individulay numbered and signed on the front /bottom/ with pencil by the artist.
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* The acrylic painting on paper in this post: "Untitled", 2-7, 15"x12", © 1974 Norval Morrisseau /Private Collection/

Paper sets of Norval Morrisseau (Part III) 3-7

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- Norval Morrisseau's Prime Period [1970's]--
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"Untitled" (3-7), 15"x12", © 1974 Norval Morrisseau
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"I’ve been looking for books all my life – books about American Indians. Anything that I could find that was civil and worthwhile besides what my Grandfather was telling me about the Iroquois and others. There isn’t very much written about Natives in the art and history books we read today. The only thing that was written was about the Iroquois slaughtering the Jesuits somewhere and Sitting Bull and his followers being chased out of Canada."
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Norval Morrisseau
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Note: Each painting from the set had been individulay numbered and signed on the front /bottom/ with pencil by the artist.
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* The acrylic painting on paper in this post: "Untitled", 3-7, 15"x12", © 1974 Norval Morrisseau /Private Collection/

Paper sets of Norval Morrisseau (Part III) 4-7

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- Norval Morrisseau's Prime Period [1970's]--
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"Untitled" (4-7), 15"x12", © 1974 Norval Morrisseau
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"I want my work to be cornerstone for Indian art, to provide something that will last."
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Norval Morrisseau
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Note: Each painting from the set had been individulay numbered and signed on the front /bottom/ with pencil by the artist.
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* The acrylic painting on paper in this post: "Untitled", 4-7, 15"x12", © 1974 Norval Morrisseau /Private Collection/

Paper sets of Norval Morrisseau (Part III) 5-7

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- Norval Morrisseau's Prime Period [1970's]--
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"Untitled" (5-7), 15"x12", © 1974 Norval Morrisseau
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"It is our Ojibwa tradition to recall our history or obtain our history in an oral manner. It is important for our children and others to benefit through the process of continuing to recall and make history."
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Norval Morrisseau
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Note: Each painting from the set had been individulay numbered and signed on the front /bottom/ with pencil by the artist.
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* The acrylic painting on paper in this post: "Untitled", 5-7, 15"x12", © 1974 Norval Morrisseau /Private Collection/

Paper sets of Norval Morrisseau (Part III) 6-7

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- Norval Morrisseau's Prime Period [1970's]--
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"Untitled" (6-7), 15"x12", © 1974 Norval Morrisseau
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"My Grandfather told me once that nobody, no matter how hard they tried, could he remember all of the legends, otherwise, the whole of Northwestern Ontario would be covered in Pictographs."
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Norval Morrisseau
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Note: Each painting from the set had been individulay numbered and signed on the front /bottom/ with pencil by the artist.
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* The acrylic painting on paper in this post: "Untitled", 6-7, 15"x12", © 1974 Norval Morrisseau /Private Collection/