Within the President’s Art Collection’s holdings are a small but significant collection of Indigenous artworks from across Canada, including work by artists identifying as Inuit, Anishinaabe, Metis, Cree, Lakota, Saulteaux, Ojibwa, Kwakwaka’wakw, Haida and more.
Paulassie Pootoogook‘s (1927-2006) monumental Legendary Figure of Taliilajuuq (c. 1971) was the first, and until 2017, only Inuit artwork in the President’s Collection, acquired in 1971. In 2017, Drs. Morris (1917-2004) and Jacqui Shumiatcher (b. 1923) generously donated, amongst other items, a number of Inuit works on paper (known as the Shumiatcher Donation). Kananginak Pootoogook‘s (1935-2010) print, Qinnuajuaq (Hawk) (37/50) (1976) was included in the donation. Brothers who came to live and make art in Cape Dorset (Kinngait), Paulassie and Kananginak’s work can both be viewed on the first floor of the Classroom Building.
The Shumiatchers’ Inuit works on paper collection began with the purchase of two prints from the first exploratory print collection published in Cape Dorset (Kinngait) in 1958. Inuit printmaking as we know it began at this time with a collaboration between a small group of artists (of which Eegyvudluk Pootoogook, Lukta Qiatsuk, Iyola Kingwatsiak are represented in the collection) and Northern Service Officer, James Houston. It was through their efforts that the fledgling West Baffin Eskimo Co-operative was able to produce artwork steeped with the artist’s dreams, memories, stories, animals, and poetry of life in the area. The works included in the Shumiatcher Donation continue the chronology of the early printmaking evolution, with key examples of work from the 1960 and 1961 annual Cape Dorset portfolios and include work by Parr, Kiakshuk and Pudlo Pudlat and Jessie Oonark, amongst many others. More information on the University’s Inuit collection can be found here.
During the same period Legendary Figure of Taliilajuuq was purchased, President’s Advisory Committee on Art committee member Nancy Dillow announced that Saskatchewan artists would “get first priority”. As a result, three Tah-hah-sheena tapestries were commissioned from the Sioux Handcraft Co-operative by Bernice Runns, Marjorie Yuzicappi and Martha Tawijaka which can still be viewed in the Dr. Archer Library. Located on Standing Buffalo, SK, the Co-operative began with twenty-three rug-hooking enthusiasts in 1968 in an effort to revive local traditional Sioux designs. Although the Co-operative was only active until 1972, the members were able to produce a number of rugs and were featured in an exhibition at the Dunlop Art Gallery, Ta-Hah-Sheena Sioux Rugs from Standing Buffalo Reserve in 1988.
Also on display within the Dr. John Archer Library are several important contemporary artworks, including Keith Bird‘s (b. 1955) monumental hide paintings, The Clans (2009) and Spotted Thunderbird Healer (2010). An accompanying work, Elk Whistle (2006), is displayed in the Aboriginal Student Centre in the Research and Innovation Centre. Bird’s works speak to the reclamation of traditional spiritual practices and teachings and are informed by his Cree and Saulteaux heritage.
North of the University and between Wascana Lake and the First Nations University of Canada campus is where the sculpture of Cree artist Lionel Peyachew is located. The Four Directions (2005) explores the sacred number referenced in its title. Located on Treaty 4 land, Peyachew also references the universe’s four quadrants, the four seasons, the four elements, the four kingdoms, the four medicines and the four parts of a person. Using the Medicine Wheel’s four directions, Peyachew honours the elders’ teachings and philosophies and reflects on the importance of education as a tool to thrive, embodying both universities’ philosophies of integrating traditional values with education.
Like Peyachew, Allen Sapp (1928-2015) was raised on Red Pheasant First Nation, Saskatchewan. Horses Drinking (c. 1983) and Threshing in the Old Days (date unknown) are typical of the warm and evocative scenes of Sapp’s oeuvre, in which his memories of life on the reserve were his primary subject matter. Horses Drinking was donated by the artist on the receipt of his honorary doctorate from the University of Regina in 1998. Sapp’s paintings can be viewed in the Administration Humanities Building on the first floor.
Part of the Shumiatcher Donation and one of the highlights of the President’s Art Collection is Norval Morrisseau‘s Graveyard Scavenger (c. 1966), on view in the Research and Innovation Centre (by appointment*). Morrisseau (Copper Thunderbird) (1931-2007) was born in Sand Point Reserve, Ontario. He was the founder of the Woodland School of Art and a prominent member of the Professional Native Indian Artists Inc. A Shaman, his paintings are often based on the symbolism and stories of the Anishinaabe First Nations of Northern Ontario. Graveyard Scavenger features a powerful creature bearing hallmarks of Mishipashoo, a feline water spirit known to the Ojibwe Anishinaabe. Mishipashoo appeared to Morrisseau in a dream, and he returned to the subject throughout the sixties and seventies. Although rooted in Anishinaabe traditions, his work innovatively used contemporary mediums—namely acrylics— to depict them. In developing this singular style, his work gained instant critical praise from the very first exhibition of his paintings in 1962.
Self-taught Anishinaabe artist Roy Thomas (1949-2004) grew up on the Longlac Reserve, Ontario. Influenced by the teachings of his grandparents and the ancient pictographs in Northwestern Ontario, he is known for his Ojibwa Woodland-style paintings, prints and etchings, and is one of many artists influenced by Norval Morrisseau. Thomas’ work can be viewed in the Dr. William Riddell Centre on both the first and second floors.
Intermedia artist Lita Fontaine (b. 1958) is a member of Long Plain First Nation, Manitoba. Fontaine grew up with a deep understanding of Dakota and Anishinaabe cultures which is evident in her art practice. Blood (Remnants of My Grandmothers) (2000) was completed during her Master of Fine Arts graduate studies at the University of Regina, and can be viewed in the MAP hallway on the 2nd floor of the Dr. William Riddell Centre. This work is reminiscent of a star blanket and honours Fontaine’s grandmother. It exposes the government legislation that affected the artist and her family: Treaty One, and Bill C-31. Due to the Indian Act’s misogynist legislation, Fontaine lost her Indian status. It was through Bill C-31 that she regained status and some validation of her identity and ancestry. Her work is often political and aims to reflect an honest definition of identity.
The University also holds several paintings by contemporary Métis artist David Garneau (b. 1962), Garneau is an Associate Professor in Visual Arts in the faculty of Media, Art, and Performance, and explores Métis material culture in the context of contemporary art. He describes his intent to “… explore the historical aspects of Métis identity and culture; to examine the Riel cult and to see Métis identity against the larger issues of Aboriginal, Settler and masculinity dynamics; and to explore the contemporary lived experience of Métis identity.” His practice includes painting, drawing, performance, critical writing and curating. Garneau’s artworks are located in La Cité and the Dr. William Riddell Centre.
It is also through the Shumiatcher Donation that the University has acquired its first artworks from the Northwest Coast. Master carver and senior artist Henry Hunt‘s (1923-1985) mask Chatterbox and Killer Whale (c. 1964) is carved in the Kwakwaka’wakw tradition. Hunt’s legacy and that of his mentor, Mungo Martin, remain highly significant in the dissemination of Kwakwaka’wakw culture.
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