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Contemporary Indigenous Art in Canada

Contemporary Indigenous art is that which has been produced by Indigenous peoples between around 1945 to the present. Since that time, two major schools of Indigenous art have dominated the contemporary scene in Canada:  Northwest Coast Indigenous Art and the Woodlands school of Legend Painters. As well, a more widely scattered group of artists work independently in the context of mainstream Western artand may be described as internationalist in scope and intent.

Contemporary Inuit art has evolved in parallel with contemporary Indigenous art, producing celebrated artists like Zacharias Kunuk and Annie Pootoogook.

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Pauline Johnson (Tekahionwake)

Emily Pauline Johnson (a.k.a. Tekahionwake, “double wampum”) poet, writer, artist, performer (born 10 March 1861 on the Six Nations Reserve, Canada West; died 7 March 1913 in VancouverBC). Pauline Johnson was one of North America’s most notable entertainers of the late 19th century. A mixed-race woman of Mohawk and European descent, she was a gifted writer and poised orator. She toured extensively, captivating audiences with her flare for the dramatic arts. Johnson made important contributions to Indigenous and Canadian oral and written culture. She is listed as a Person of National Historic Significance and her childhood home is a National Historic Site and museum. A monument in Vancouver’s Stanley Park commemorates her work and legacy. In 2016, she was one of 12 Canadian women in consideration to appear on a banknote. (See Women on Canadian Banknotes.)

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Native People's Caravan

The Native People’s Caravan was a cross-country mobile protest that took place in 1974. Its main purpose was to raise awareness about the poor living conditions and discrimination experienced by Indigenous peoples in Canada. It travelled from Vancouver to Ottawa, where the subsequent occupation of a vacant warehouse on Victoria Island, near Parliament Hill, extended into 1975. The caravan brought various Indigenous groups together in protest of broken treaties, as well as a lack of government-supported education, housing and health care. As a result, meetings between Cabinet ministers and Indigenous leaders became more frequent. The protest is remembered as an important turning point in Indigenous activism in Canada.

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Nobel Prizes and Canada

The Nobel Prizes are awarded annually for achievements that have significantly benefitted humankind. The prizes are among the highest international honours and are awarded in six categories: physics, chemistry, physiology or medicine, literature, peace, and economics. They are administered by the Nobel Foundation and awarded by institutions in Sweden and Norway. Eighteen Canadians have won Nobel Prizes, excluding Canadian-born individuals who gave up their citizenship and members of organizations that have won the peace prize.

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Nearly Half of Indigenous Children Live in Poverty, Study Finds

A study conducted by the Assembly of First Nations (AFN) and the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives found that 47 per cent of Indigenous children across Canada, both on and off reserve, live in poverty — more than two and a half times the national average. When considering only on-reserve children, the number rises to 53 per cent — four times the rate for White children. AFN National Chief Perry Bellegarde said, “Canada is not tracking First Nations poverty on-reserve, so we did. Our children face the worst social and economic conditions in the country. They deserve an opportunity to succeed.”

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Carl Ray

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.

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Métis Settlements

Métis Settlements located across the northern part of Alberta are comprised of the Paddle Prairie, Peavine, Gift Lake, East Prairie, Buffalo Lake, Kikino, Elizabeth and Fishing Lake settlements. These eight settlements form a constitutionally protected Métis land base in Canada.

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Jackson Beardy

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.

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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.

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Reserves in Saskatchewan

Saskatchewan is home to at least 70 First Nations and various Métis communities. It contains 782 reserves, settlements and villages, many of which are located in the southern half of the province. Reserves in Saskatchewan were created between 1874 and 1906 by Treaties 2, 4, 5, 6, 8 and 10. As of 2016, 47.5 per cent of the province’s 114,570 self-identified First Nations peoples live on reserves, a percentage comparable to the province of Manitoba. Most of the remaining 47 per cent who reside off-reserve in Saskatchewan live in the cities of Saskatoon, Regina and Prince Albert.

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Jody Wilson-Raybould

Jody Wilson-Raybould (“Puglaas” or “woman born of noble people” or “woman with integrity” in Kwak’wala), politician, lawyer (born 23 March 1971 in Vancouver, BC). Jody Wilson-Raybould is the independent MP for Vancouver Granville. She was federal minister of justice, attorney general and minister of veterans affairs in the government of Liberal Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. Prior to her career in federal politics, she was a BC crown prosecutor, regional chief of the Assembly of First Nations, and member of the BC Treaty Commission. As Canada’s first Indigenous justice minister, Wilson-Raybould introduced groundbreaking legislation, including Bill C-14 on medically assisted dying, C-16 on gender identity and human rights, and C-45, The Cannabis Act. She has helped to build bridges between First Nations communities and the Canadian government and is committed to helping Indigenous peoples seek self-government and gain equality in education, health care and legal rights.

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Iglulingmuit

 In recent years settlement, social and logistic factors have eliminated the nomadic lifestyle in favour of aggregation into permanent settlements which have concentrated around Repulse Bay, Mittimatalik [Pond Inlet], Hall Beach, Arctic Bay and Iglulik, which were formerly centres of trade.

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Inuinnait (Copper Inuit)

Social organization was based on kinship and on various types of formal partnership, and affiliation between individuals tended to be more a matter of personal choice than is usually found among other Inuit groups.

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Jean-Louis Riel

Jean-Louis Riel (also known as Louis Riel Sr.), Métis leader, farmer, miller (born in 1817 in Île-à-la-Crosse, Saskatchewan; died in 1864 in Saint-Boniface, Manitoba). Riel rallied hundreds of Métis people in support of Métis defendants against the Hudson’s Bay Company in the 1849 Sayer trial. A landmark case in the history of the Canadian West, the Sayer verdict re-established free fur trade in the Red River Colony. By the 1850s, Jean-Louis Riel had become a leader of the French-Canadian community in the Red River. His role in having the French language used in the Assiniboia courts, and in gaining representation for the Métis on the Council of Assiniboia, helped to cement this status. Riel’s outspoken stance on Métis rights and autonomy significantly influenced his son, Louis Riel, who went on to become arguably the most significant historical Métis leader.