Densely detailed painting with stylized plants, flowers, birds, insects, and animals in bright colours on a black background.
Figure 2.1 Christi Belcourt, My Heart is Beautiful, 2014. Acrylic on canvas, approx. 2.74 x 3.65 m. Collection of the Gabriel Dumont Institute, Saskatoon. Courtesy Christi Belcourt. This artwork cannot be altered to radically change any aspect of it that would result in a distortion of the work that would no longer be recognizable from the original.

In her book Braiding Sweetgrass, Dr. Robin Wall Kimmerer, “a mother, scientist, decorated professor, and enrolled member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation,” uses the sacred plant sweetgrass as a metaphor to explain the origins of plant, animal, and human life, their intertwined respectful and reciprocal relationships, the loss of this reciprocity, and the hope of ecological restoration to return the balance that once was to Mother Earth. She points out that in Western epistemology (the theory of knowledge), there has been a historic recognition of a hierarchy of beings with humans at the top, the pinnacle of evolution, the darling of Creation, and plants at the very bottom. In Indigenous ways of knowing, however, humans “are often referred to as ‘the younger brothers of Creation.’” In other words, Indigenous peoples see human beings as having the least experience in understanding how to live, and thus the most to learn from other species for guidance.

Christi Belcourt is a Michif (Métis) visual artist as well as a community-based artist, environmentalist and advocate for the lands, waters, and Indigenous peoples. Through her paintings, which are made with minute intricate detail in order to resemble floral beadwork designs of Métis women from the early 1800s, Belcourt addresses the relationship between human life and the natural world through the concept of interconnectedness. The flora and fauna detailed in her paintings not only convey the interconnectedness of ecological life, but also the ways in which humans are a part of a delicate balance— learning, receiving, contributing, and depending on the interconnected relationships of all living things. Belcourt’s works also acknowledge the ways these relationships are transmitted across time. Her work draws knowledge gained through thousands of years of human relationships with the ecologies around them. Belcourt’s adaptation of traditional beadwork into painting interconnects knowledge and practice with contemporary indigenous art.

Christi Belcourt remarks on her practice:

All my medicine-picking places are in my head on a map that only I will ever know. I sit in these places, taking them in. The earth is my government. It’s my church and place of worship. I watch the way the sun dances on the leaves. And try to memorize the smell of the earth and the feeling of my knees getting wet, as I kneel digging for roots with my hands.

As I breathe in and out, so too does the earth. My chest heaving as the tides, ebbing and flowing, giving and taking. The water that runs into and through my body has existed on this planet since the beginning of time. The water that runs through our veins in our blood ran through our ancestors’ veins, and has existed on this planet since the beginning of time. Water has no flag. It has no allegiance. It holds life in its embrace as a baby floats in a woman, and through it we are connected, all of us, to each other and to everything in this universe. Water is medicine.

This earth is alive. She breathes. She moves. She changes. She is constantly renewing herself (Belcourt 2020, 15).

Like the paintings themselves, Belcourt shares her deep connectedness to the world around her through her activist work, such as Walking With Our Sisters, a community-driven project that honours murdered or missing Indigenous women and Giniigaaniimenaaning (Looking Ahead) that commemorates residential school survivors, as well as in publication such as her 2007 book Medicines to Help Us. Watch this video of Belcourt discussing her painting My Heart is Beautiful (2010), in which she not only describes the interconnectedness of the elements of the painting, but their connection to history, human life, and the artist herself:


Go outside, on your street or in your backyard if you have one, or even look around your own home. How many plants can you name? If you don’t really recognize many or any plants, consider what this tells you about your relationship to the natural world and your environment. Think about how you have or might obtain knowledge about a particular plant: By asking someone? Who? By looking in a book or online? Which one? By looking at what surrounds the plant? By describing it or drawing it? Take a moment to go through and write down your own knowledge process in learning about something from the environment and ecology in which you are interconnected.

By the end of this module you will be able to:

  • explain differences between Indigenous and Western epistemologies and their relationship to art history
  • describe how knowledge identifies, categorizes, and creates relationships
  • analyze the form, content, and context of key artworks
  • articulate the role that art history as a discipline, and the institution of the museum, have played in producing knowledge
  • become familiar with the terminology around Indigenous peoples.

It should take you:

My Heart Is Beautiful Text 7 min, Video 11 min
Outcomes and contents Text 5 min
Visualizing knowledge Text 90 min
“There is no word for art in my language” Text 70 min, Video 3 min
The erasure of knowledge, revival and resistance Text 90 min, Video 130 min
Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit Text 30 min
Learning journals 8 x 20 = 160 min
Total: approximately 8.5 hours

Key works:

  • Fig. 2.1 Christi Belcourt, My Heart Is Beautiful (2014)
  • Fig. 2.2 Cartier’s Map (1534)
  • Fig. 2.3 Champlain’s Map (1632)
  • Fig. 2.4 Anonymous, La France Apportant la foi aux Hurons de la Nouvelle-France (c. 1670)
  • Louis Nicolas, Codex Canadensis (c. 1700)
  • Fig. 2.5 Benjamin F. Baltzly, Cascade on the Garnet River, North Thompson River, BC (1871)
  • Fig. 2.6 The Exhibition of Northwest Coast: Native and Modern (1927)
  • Fig. 2.7 Frederick Alexcee, A Fight Between the Haida and the Tsimshian, Port Simpson (c.1896)
  • The Spirit Sings (1988) 
  • Fig. 2.8 Joane Cardinal-Schubert, The Lesson (1989)
  • Trevor Mack and Tailor Blais, Clouds of Autumn (2015)
  • Carey Newman, The Witness Blanket (2015)
  • Fig. 2.9 Adrian Stimson, Sick and Tired (2004)
  • Fig. 2.10 Annie Pootoogook, Pitseolak Drawing with Two Girls on the Bed (2006)
  • Fig. 2.11 David Ruben Piqtoukun, Division of Meat (1996)

Visualizing knowledge

Indigenous peoples have learned and shared their knowledge of land and place—knowledge addressed in Belcourt’s paintings—over the thousands of years of Indigenous presence in the land now known as Canada. When the first European settlers arrived on this land they relied on Indigenous knowledge, as well as Christian doctrine and philosophy, and European modes of knowledge-creation such as mapping, numbering, and inventorying, to produce a sense of the place.

If you climb the mountain in the middle of the city of Montreal today you may come across a plaque that reads: “On October 2nd, 1535, Jacques Cartier, discoverer of Canada, climbed this mountain under the guidance of the Iroquois of Hochelaga, and, impressed with the beauty of the landscape before his eyes, gave it the name of Mount Royal, from which the city of Montreal took its name.”

Even in this short inscription we see several assumptions implicit in European knowledge: that Cartier is the discoverer, which implies that knowledge of the land begins with European arrival; that the land’s beauty is what ascribes value to place above other characteristics; and that geopolitically the land was to be known as claimed and territorialized for France and its leader King Francis I.

These aspects of knowledge were visually manifested in maps. Cartier was the first European to describe and map the Gulf of Saint Lawrence and the shores of the Saint Lawrence River. European emphasis on the accumulation and recording of knowledge through text and visual description over other forms of knowledge-keeping, such as oral histories, means that there are a significant number of European objects that survive from Cartier’s time onward. This is quite different from the way histories were reproduced and sustained in Indigenous cultures. Throughout history, Indigenous societies in North America relied on the oral transmission of stories, histories, and lessons to maintain a historical record and preserve their identities and cultures. In contrast, until recent reevaluations of knowledge preservation, Western epistemology prioritized the written word as the dominant form of record-keeping. European settlers generally considered oral societies to be peoples without history because they did not record it in written form. Indigenous peoples have fought hard to challenge this idea and we know this not to be true.

A black and white engraving of a village laid out in a birds-eye view grid, with a three-dimensional drawing of surrounding palisade under construction bracketing the top and bottom of the village. A legend on the right; Indigenous and European people depicted below; forests and fields on the left, labelled “MONTE REAL.”
Figure 2.2 Jacques Cartier, La terra de Hochelaga nella Nova Francia, 1534. map from A Memoir of Jacques Cartier, Sieur de Limoilou – His Voyages to the St. Lawrence. A bibliography and a facsimile of the manuscript of 1534, with annotations (1906). Robarts Library, University of Toronto.

Have a look at Cartier’s map of the Iroquois village of Hochelaga from 1565, which may have been located atop what is now Mount Royal in Montreal, though no archeological evidence has been found of such a village. The woodcut engraving was published by Giovanni Battista Ramusio of Venice and was the first printed map of a settlement in North America. Here we see European visual sensibilities trying to make sense of the village, which in its mapping looks more like a utopian Renaissance city than what archeological findings suggest Iroquois villages of this time looked like. However, while this image is nothing like the maps you might be used to, it is in its own way descriptive.

Seventy years after Cartier’s arrival in 1611, Samuel de Champlain sailed from France across the Atlantic Ocean and along the Saint Lawrence River with the hope of establishing a fur-trading post on the Island of Montreal. His plan was to establish a trading post at the most westerly point he could reach, to ensure that any fur trading would occur at his post first. He also sought relationships with people of the Wyandot (also known as the Huron, part of the Iroquois), as a way to obtain crucial knowledge about the land and to foster economic relationships. Indigenous knowledge was understood by the French, including Champlain, as being inferior, but fundamentally equipped to deal with the climate of this “new” land. The French were eager to learn Indigenous knowledge of flora and fauna, canoes, hunting, and dress because it was advantageous to do so, a question of survival. In return, Champlain shared European knowledge and technology, namely weaponry, that would provide an advantage in the ongoing Iroquois Wars.

A black and white hand-drawn map of the eastern half of Canada, from James Bay to Greenland, and south to modern-day Maine, with a detailed shoreline and stylized inland. Marine life and ships are depicted in the water.
Figure 2.3 Samuel Champlin (cartographer), Richard H. Pease (lithographer), Champlain’s Map of New France, 1632. 23 x 46 cm. The New York Public Library Digital Collections.

In addition to establishing a strong fur trade through economic and military alliances, Champlain, like Cartier before him, made maps. This map (Fig. 2.3) made in 1632 is a visual consolidation of what was known about New France at the time. The knowledge described on this map comes in part from Champlain’s own experience, but also relied heavily on information he was given by Indigenous traders. The result is a map that gave representation to European understandings of the land west of Montreal for the first time, but which was not necessarily visited by Champlain himself.


What are Cartier’s and Champlain’s maps trying to describe and represent? Consider the visual tools they use: scale (are things the size they are supposed to be, and how large are they in relation to one another?); perspective (from above, from eye level); symbols (indicators of direction or cues that indicate a particular feature); details, designs, labels. How is it different from a map that you might use today? How is it the same? What do your observations this tell you about map-making in this particular historical moment and context?

In 1615, Champlain returned to North America and brought with him ambitions beyond economic trade and business. He was accompanied by Jesuit missionaries. While these missionaries’ purpose was to convert Indigenous people to the Christian religion, their arrival also marked the beginning of an enduring process of deliberate colonial erasure of Indigenous knowledge and worldviews.

Many of the priests and missionaries were trained in various skills, including painting, in addition to their religious training. Painting, specifically religious painting, thus marked a new form of European visual output in Canada. In addition to maps, with the arrival of religious missionaries there was a proliferation of paintings with religious subject matter, executed in European styles such as French Baroque. These religious artworks borrowed from European styles to interpret new places, people, and circumstances.

The painter of La France apportant la foi aux Hurons de la Nouvelle-France is anonymous, though the work is usually attributed to a painter named Frère Luc who was a member of the Récollets, a branch of the Franciscan religious missionaries. Frère Luc, whose name is a nod to the Patron Saint of Painters, was trained in Europe and a colleague of painters such as the famed French artist, Nicolas Poussin. He is credited for this work because he was really the only painter in New France at this time who had this degree of skill.

From the perspective of looking out from woods to shore, timbered dwellings with crosses are on the left and a wooden ship is on the right. In the centre in a clearing a man kneels before a crowned woman holding a framed painting; six divine figures and several cherubim sit in clouds above them.
Figure 2.4 Anonymous (attributed to Frère Luc), La France apportant la foi aux Hurons de la Nouvelle-France, c. 1670. Oil on canvas, 229.5 x 229.5 cm. Collection of the Monastère des Ursulines de Québec, Quebec City. Centre de conservation Québec.

While one might think that this work was commissioned by settlers, or the religious community of the Jesuit Chapel in Quebec City in which it was originally installed, art historian Dennis Reid has suggested that was the Hurons who donated the painting to the Jesuits, in 1666, on the occasion of the feast of the Holy Trinity. He writes,

Surviving records document the desire of the Huron of Quebec in 1666 to commission a painting for the Jesuit church in order to commemorate their conversion to Christianity, a process that had begun with the Jesuit Jean de Brébeuf’s first trip to Huronia in 1629, the year that de Bruc’s ships first began to arrive at Quebec with goods to trade for furs (Reid 2021, 4).

The painting brings together religious, colonial, and Indigenous subjects for what was likely the purpose of commemorating a particular event: the Hurons’ conversion to Christianity. But it does much more than this. The visual components are all carefully planned, arranged, and invested with literal or symbolic meaning. Together, they tell a much larger story about the role of religious conversion in the colonial context. This is a story about the ways in which Indigenous worldviews and ways of knowing were fundamentally changed in the colonial process. The visual work itself is also a form of knowledge, in that it can be read in the same way one would read a text.


La France Apportant la foi aux Hurons de la Nouvelle-France tells the story of an exchange of knowledge, but is is also a form of knowledge-keeping of this historical event. Let’s read it for ourselves by matching the letters on the artwork with the numbered descriptions below of what is happening. This process of understanding an artwork through its visual elements is called visual analysis.

A. The fleur-de-lis French flag is flying high in the sky, almost as high as the heavens themselves.

B. Queen Anne of Austria, mother of Louis XIV of France, symbolising France’s right to rule. She has one hand on the painting, and one hand pointing pointing to the heavens, signifying authority.

C. France appears to be teaching Christianity with the help of a painting of the holy family, thus colonizing New France and converting the Huron.

D. The ship links exploration, colonial settlement, and commerce with colonization.

E. A Huron man kneeling on the left represents the colonial concept of the “noble savage” or “other” who has not been “corrupted” by civilization, and therefore symbolises humanity’s innate goodness; by kneeling, he is also submitting to God.

F. The buildings are Huron houses, which situate the painting’s location in New France. The crosses on the houses signify Huron religious conversion.

G. In the clouds at the top are the Christian figures of God, Jesus, and the Holy Family. God is handing the world to Jesus, who in turn hands it to France, suggesting France has the right to colonize.

H. The image is geographically situated along the St. Lawrence River.

Are there any other symbols that you see that might add to the narrative in the painting?


Pictorial representations from New France in the 1600s are extremely rare as many have been lost or destroyed. One of the few visual works to survive from this period was produced by a Jesuit missionary named Louis Nicolas who traveled extensively throughout New France. It takes the form of a 79-page book entitled the Codex Canadensis, which includes 53 plates with a myriad of descriptive drawings, including 18 of plants, 67 of mammals, 56 of birds, 33 of fish, and about ten images of reptiles, batrachians, and insects done in either pen and ink or watercolour. In addition, a large number of sketches and drawings in the book depict objects made by Indigenous people that Louis Nicolas encountered.

In 2011, art historian François-Marc Gagnon published a volume that reproduced the pages of the Codex along with translations of Nicolas’s writings from Latin into French and English, making a fragile archival document widely available. The Codex provides historians, art historians, and scientists with a significant resource about the ecology of the 17th century through visual description. This type of scientific recording came to be known as naturalist study, a pursuit of both amateurs and professionals that encouraged knowing through seeing, recording, and organizing, and it remains a prominent method of recording in environmental, botanical, and biological fieldwork today. In his discussion on science and visual representation and Louis Nicholas’s Codex Canadensis, Gagnon explains:

Who, then, was Louis Nicolas? The least we can say is that he was not your ordinary Jesuit. For instance, we learn from folio 73 of the “Histoire naturelle” that he succeeded in taming two bears and having them perform circus tricks on the ground of the Sillery residence of the Jesuits near Quebec. We are also told that his colleagues complained about it—which seems understandable! (Gagnon 2011, 10)

…The seventeenth century saw a major transformation in natural history as a literary genre. Until then, the principal interest of ancient naturalists had been to find similarities between things, in the hope that these similarities would reveal their true utility to man. But in the seventeenth century this utilitarian approach began to be criticized. The usefulness of nature was of much less interest to the cognoscenti, who now strove for a more objective view of the world around them, in the hope that it could be presented in a “tableau” where each thing could find its place, revealing the order to be found in nature. As a consequence, looking for similarities was less crucial and new treatises on natural history attempted to discourage the earlier mode of knowledge by analogy, mocking the authors who were still attached to it (Gagnon 2011, 30).

…The material that Nicolas had to present was abundant, even unruly, and he needed to organize it one way or another. As we shall see, his classification system is not based on any preconceived idea of the order of nature that taxonomy ought to reflect. On the contrary, he starts from analogies and thinks that one has to group similar things together (Gagnon 2011, 54)

Gagnon is thinking about the ways in which Nicholas was classifying, categorizing, and arranging the world he encountered, and the ways that knowledge was being created and organized by Europeans in the 17th century. Nicolas’ approach fits with the religious and anthropocentric view of nature that was prevalent during his lifetime in which every creature was made by God as a resource for humanity. For instance, the glands of the beaver (the castoreum) were seen as producing a substance that is useful to people rather than for marking the animal’s territory (Gagnon 2011, 359). As we look at the Codex, we need to be aware of the biases and limitations with which it was created, but it can also be an extraordinary entry point into learning about the historical moment in which it was created.


The Codex exists in the collection of the Thomas Gilcrease Institute of American History and Art in Tulsa, Oklahoma, United States. The Gilcrease Institute has digitized the document. Spend some time moving through the pages. What plants and animals do you recognize? Would you say the Codex is a work of art? A document? Or both?

The idea of knowing through visual representation that we see in the Codex Canadensis played an important role in the colonial processes that took place across what is now Canada throughout the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries. As plants, animals, land, and even people were recorded through settler initiatives such as topographical and geological surveys, mapping, and census taking, the information gathered was understood as a form of possession: to see is to know, and to know is to control. Art and visual culture were central components to the early colonization of Canada, stretching over hundreds of years since Europeans first set foot on North American soil. Colonization refers to the process of assuming control of someone else’s territory and applying one’s own systems of knowledge, law, government, and religion. Settlement and colonization was scattered and largely confined to the eastern parts of Canada up until the 19th century, when European expansion to the West, the discovery of gold (which overtook the fur trade which was in decline by the 1850s), and the increasing resource extraction including mining, forestry, and fishing that emerged in this period led to the establishment of new colonial centres and processes. As settlers’ increasing encroachment on the land, resources, and ways of life of Indigenous peoples had devastating effects, the effects of this colonial expansion—growing populations, increased economic development, and the need for transportation infrastructure and resource management—eventually led to Canadian Confederation in 1867.

With Confederation, people were trying to come to terms with what Canada was, and visual representation came to play an important role in the formation of the emerging Canadian nation-state. The land was a central focus for settlers’ coming to terms with their new place, and an utterly vital aspect of life, identity, and culture for Indigenous peoples for millennia prior to colonial encounter. The features of the land—the Rocky Mountains, the sprawling prairies, the Canadian shield, the Laurentian mountains, and the Fundy waterways and inlets—came to be a powerful representation of Canada, intimately linked to a sense of Canadian identity. In the very same historical moment, the emergence of photography in 1839 provided an unparalleled way of visually representing the land. Photography was quickly absorbed into the same professional and amateur naturalist pursuits that we see in the Codex Canadensis, produced as documentation on government surveys and collected into photographic albums. Photographs were also used as source material for painters and included in art exhibitions in their own right. Lastly, photography became a commodity. Newly established photographic studios were eager to capitalize on the popular desire of citizens to see the faraway landscapes and fascinating vistas of their new nation.

A stepped cliff dominates the black and white photograph, with a waterfall rushing from the top left, spreading out as it moves downwards until it flows swiftly in a rocky stream towards the viewer.
Figure 2.5 Benjamin F. Baltzly, Cascade on the Garnet River, North Thompson River, BC, 1871. Silver salts on glass, wet collodion process, 25 x 20 cm. McCord Museum, Montreal.

Consider the photographs produced by photographer Benjamin Baltzly on his 1871 expedition with the Geological Survey of Canada through the Rocky Mountains. The resulting body of photographs he produced were used by geologist Alfred R. C. Selwyn in documentation of the expedition, but they were also widely distributed to the public through the famous and prolific photographic studio of William Notman, where Baltzly was employed, and have found their way into a range of private family photographic albums as they were purchased and circulated form the studio.

In her description of Baltzly’s journal writing, Elizabeth Cavaliere describes the tensions between art and documentation in the use of photography in the geological survey:

In 1871 the Colony of British Columbia entered into Canadian Confederation on the condition that a transcontinental railroad be built to connect the extremes of a then nascent and developing Canada. The construction of the railroad was hailed from the beginning as a practical necessity, bringing resources from British Columbia to the east and moving settlers westward. The railroad was also considered to be a hallmark of Canadian expansion and progress; the enormous endeavour of constructing the railroad was the foremost feat and a source of national pride. The first official use of photography in Canadian survey work had taken place just a little over a decade earlier during the 1858 Assiniboine and Saskatchewan Exploring Expedition. The photographs taken by Humphrey Lloyd Hime during this expedition set a precedent for Canadian interest in photography as a documentary tool. For engineers, scientists and politicians, photographs had the capacity to show a detailed rendering of the Canadian land as it was in the second half of the nineteenth century. Natural passageways and obstacles could be captured truthfully and scientifically through the apparatus of the camera. This unrivaled ability made the camera an indispensable and indisputable tool in the record-making survey process. But, while the earliest photographs were produced as documentary aids serving only to supplement official government reports, they also became the subject of a growing public interest, providing the first exciting glimpses into the unknown vistas of Canada’s most inaccessible places.

Because photography could be both an accurate documentary tool and a means by which to showcase the landscape of a newly unified country to its inhabitants, it could also be understood in terms of mutual benefit. The dual desire for plain description and impressive vistas must have been an important factor in the decision to appoint photographer Benjamin Franklin Baltzly to the 1871 Geological Survey expedition.

The expedition took Baltzly and the GSC party across the continent to San Francisco, California, and then north by boat to Victoria, British Columbia. Between June 28 and December 26, 1871, the party traveled northeast, from Victoria to Yale to Kamloops at the mouth of the North Thompson River, and ultimately along the river to Yellowhead Pass and Tête Jaune Cache. Unfortunately, the team fell short of its goal to reach Jasper House before the winter snowfall with the journey quickly taking a turn for the worse when it encountered impenetrable forests and underbrush, a lack of cut trails, insurmountable mountains, misguided guides, weakening horses, and the onset of winter ice and cold. A detailed account of the route and the deteriorating circumstances of the expedition party’s journey, along with details of his own personal reflections of the journey and his photographic work, were recorded by Baltzly in his writings.

With photographs intended to serve both Selwyn and Notman, Baltzly was left in the unenviable position of being a servant to two masters, an obligation of which he was keenly aware throughout the expedition. In addition to concerns about pleasing his superiors, Baltzly also writes about his own motivations and thoughts in producing his photographs. Take, for example, his journal entry for September 28, 1871, in which he describes the Garnet River Cascade with a deep understanding of composition: a sense of proportion and angle in his commentary on the course of the water; a sensitivity to light and dark in his description of the rocks; and an understanding of the overall relationship of the elements he is seeing – water, foliage, rock.

The connections between Baltzly’s appreciation for the landscape and his experiences working under the conditions of the survey are revealed when text and image are placed alongside each other. The writings in the journal, read together with the photographs produced during the expedition, provide insight into Baltzly’s photographic practice as an intersection of science, nature, and religion (Cavaliere 2014, 16-129).

“There is no word for art in my language”: How disciplines and institutions produce knowledge

Before we explore the role of art history and museums in producing knowledge about art and visual culture, it is important to familiarize yourself with appropriate terminology for writing and talking about Indigenous peoples and cultures as a demonstration of respect.

Watch the following CBC News video titled “How to talk about Indigenous people”

You may also want to read over this terminology resource from Queen’s University which outlines why certain terms are not longer in use. Please note that in this module you may find authors using outdated terminology like “Indian” and “Native”; these terms reflect the language in use when the authors were writing, but you should be aware of current language usage from the resources above.

In the following section you will look at the role that art history as a discipline and the institution of the art museum have played in producing knowledge.

“In the language of the Dineh, there is no word for art. When I learned this, I laughed. I was so relieved. This word, and all that it drags with it, was not necessary.”

–Navajo artist Leatrice Mikkelsen (Mithlo 2012, 113)

As a discipline, art history has historically treated art as if it is universal, found in societies and cultures across the globe; however, there is no globally acceptable definition of art. The word “art,” meaning something visual that is valued for its aesthetic qualities, was not used in this modern sense until the 18th century—so to call the visual and material objects and artifacts of non-Western cultures “art” is problematic. As Carolyn Dean argues:

In locating art where it was not found prior to our naming it, we risk re-creating societies in the image of the modern West, or rather, in the image of the modern West but just different enough to render them lesser or insufficient, or more primitive. We also risk suggesting that cultures that did not possess the concept of art ought to have and that they somehow benefit in having the concept introduced to (and for) them (Dean 2006, 26).

Dean has also pointed out that a great deal of what we call art today was not actually made as art. This is the case with early European objects and artifacts. Think of the famous Ghent Altarpiece for example, which was not created as a work of fine art for an art gallery but intended as church decoration. In addition, much of the visual and material culture produced by peoples outside of the West, where the concept of art traditionally did not exist, has now come to be seen as art. Dean writes in the same essay, “Not infrequently (although less frequently than in the past), many of the objects from outside the West that were not made as art are grouped together and called ‘primitive art’” (25).

READ about primitivism and its relationship to art and art history in this essay by Dr. Charles Grant and Dr. Kim Grant on Smarthistory.
Black and white photograph of a room in a gallery. A series of four paintings—two of totem poles on beaches; two of stylized animal figures—hang from the walls. Above them hangs a painted wooden carving. A display case of smaller pieces is on the left, and two pieces—a mask and a sculpture—sit atop pedestals at the center and the right.
Figure 2.6 Installation view of Exhibition of Canadian West Coast Art: Native and Modern at the National Gallery of Canada, 1927. Carr’s Yan, Q.C.I., 1912, is pictured at centre. Reproduced by Art Canada Institute.

The Exhibition of Canadian West Coast Art, Native and Modern was mounted at the National Gallery of Canada in 1927 and was the first exhibition in Canada to combine the work of Pacific Coast Indigenous peoples with paintings and sculptures by prominent Euro-Canadian settler artists including Emily Carr, Edwin Holgate, Anne Savage, and Pegi Nicol MacLeod.

Read the following excerpt from the exhibition catalogue for the Exhibition of Canadian West Coast Art, Native and Modern. Consider the words used by then-Director of the National Gallery of Canada, Eric Brown. For example, what is implied by the words “more sophisticated” in relation to the art by the Euro-Canadian settler artists, versus the Indigenous visual culture on display?

The purpose of the Trustees of the National Gallery in arranging this exhibition of West Coast Indian Art combined with the work of a number of Canadian artists who, from the days of Paul Kane to the present day, have recorded their impressions of that region, is to mingle for the first time the art work of the Canadian West Coast tribes with that of our more sophisticated artists in an endeavour to analyse their relationships to one another, if such exist, and particularly to enable this primitive and interesting art to take a definite place as one of the most valuable of Canada’s artistic productions (NGC 1927, 3).

At the centre of the painting, a hill rises behind a beach and fort. The viewpoint is from a slightly higher elevation behind a building across the bay. Dark shades are used for figures and boats; beach and outbuildings are in gray tones. The fort is white with a red flag flying against the green hill and a blue sky.
Figure 2.7 Frederick Alexcee, A Fight Between the Haida and the Tsimshian, Port Simpson, c.1896. Oil on cloth, 83.8 x 129.5 cm. Canadian Museum of History, Gatineau.

The painting above by Tsimshian artist Frederick Alexcee, as well as another watercolour painting by Alexcee, Indian Village of Port Simpson, were the only two paintings by a contemporary Indigenous artist working in a Western visual tradition—oil and watercolour paint—to be included in the 1927 exhibition.

Read this excerpt from the catalogue describing Alexcee’s work:

The two paintings by Fred Alexcee…might be placed among the primitives of Canadian art here exhibited. In European countries primitive paintings have been prized for their naivete, their charm, and the historical perspective which they confer upon the development of art. In Canada this category has so far eluded search, if we except Indian art pure and simple. Alexcee’s work possesses something of the quality which we should expect from such primitive painting, and he himself is an old Tsimsian half-breed of Port Simpson, BC…His sense of colour is limited; his composition is as a rule excellent; and the movement is spontaneous and spirited (NGC 1927, 3).

Read art historian Leslie Dawn’s response to this description:

In support, the paragraph supplies an evolutionary and hierarchicized model in which artistic and cultural production progresses from the naïve/primitive to the knowing, or, one might say, from incompetence to mastery. Coming from an earlier stage in this development, which had Western art at its apex, Alexcee’s works are “limited” and lacking, especially in their “sense of colour,”…By employing “primitive” to mean both “naive” and Native, the catalogue strategically extended the term so that it referred not only to Native work that did not display a full grasp of the conventions that constitute Western art, but also to Native art in general…(Dawn 2009, 253).

Read curator Kaitlin McCormick’s assessment of correspondence about the exhibition:

Eric Brown…wrote that the ‘picture [is] interesting—[with] great spirit & feeling & remarkable for someone without training or opportunity of seeing art.’ Brown was wrong: Alexcee had seen European art in a range of sources—in catalogs, probably in newspapers, and at the HBC store at Port Simpson. Though [Government agent John] Flewin commissioned A Fight between the Haida and Tsimshian to commemorate Fort Simpson’s early days, I suggest that Alexcee’s version reveals his personal perspective, informed by a Tsimshian worldview. Alexcee’s conversations with Garfield in the 1930s (documented in her field notes) suggest that he felt nostalgic for the days before colonialism took root in Lax Kw’alaams.

Though the painting has been described as “flat,” I would argue that the composition shows depth in the way Alexcee executed its fore-, middle, and backgrounds. The viewer gazes on the scene as if from behind the protection of the plank house (its roof is painted with raised smoke slats) and pole in the foreground, while the drama, said to represent an epic battle between the Haida and Tsimshian in 1855, unfolds with the land of (presumably) Haida canoes and a skirmish on the beach. In this painting, Fort Simpson is depicted as the backdrop to an episode of Indigenous conflict that may have begun before the fort was established. Alexcee’s depiction of this event would have been informed by his knowledge of the site and his community’s oral histories. The painting is a panoramic rendering of a notable episode in Tsimshian and Haida history and not only illustrates the early fort for its buyer but portrays a specific moment in time from Alexcee’s perspective. (McCormick 2018, 251)

According to McCormick, Alexcee’s painting reversed the colonial gaze. The inclusion of Indigenous visual culture in the 1927 Exhibition of Canadian West Coast Art, Native and Modern was important: the curators were acknowledging that Indigenous material production was worthy of aesthetic consideration. However, as we can see in Dawn and McCormick’s texts, the discourses which informed the view of Indigenous visual culture were deeply problematic. From the mid-19th century onward, with the emergence of anthropology as a discipline, Indigenous objects began to be viewed as specimens that could be studied scientifically. Museums of ethnology and natural history began to amass large collections of Indigenous material and produced and reified a view that humans developed progressively, viewing Indigenous cultures and peoples as “primitive” and Europeans as more advanced and “civilized.” As Janet Berlo and Ruth Phillips argue, “Such evolutionist studies were used to support laws and policies designed by the American and Canadian governments to assimilate Indigenous peoples into settler societies and erase their languages and cultures” (Berlo and Phillips, 8).

Read the following excerpts from Steven Loft’s essay “Reflections on 20 Years of Aboriginal Art,” which discuss another important and very controversial exhibition, The Spirit Sings at the Glenbow Museum in Calgary in 1988.

Twenty-one years after the Indians of Canada pavilion, another exhibition of Aboriginal art would also incur much discussion and controversy. The Spirit Sings, organized by the Glenbow Museum [in Calgary] and supported by Shell Oil Corporation, was the most expensive exhibition ever produced in Canada, with a budget of $2.6 million (almost half of it from Shell) (Phillips, 2006, 129).

The exhibition borrowed huge amounts of cultural property—what we would refer to as our art history—from museums all over North America, chosen and curated by non-Aboriginals with no consultation with Aboriginal communities. The curators’ intent was to foster an appreciation of pre-contact Indigenous society and culture, all by borrowing looted objects from colonial institutions, while paying for it from money provided by a company that was actively fighting an Aboriginal land claim (the Lubicon Nation) and extracting resources from the disputed territory. A recipe for disaster? Most certainly! Although reasonably well attended, and of course supported by government and corporate interests, the exhibition has gone down as one of the lowest points in the museal history of Indigenous art in this country.

Rebecca Belmore’s protest performance in support of the Lubicon and their call for a boycott was a telling and powerful response. She staged her performance in front of the museum without the museum’s consent, holding a sign signifying her as artifact #671b. A museum code? Or a Liquor Control Board number for a cheap bottle of wine? She was intentionally ambiguous about this. Belmore was not only metaphorically codifying herself, she was constraining her body to a history of abuse and commodification perpetrated against Aboriginal people, including by museums. But as a site of resistance and subversion, she rose above the museological taxonomies epitomized in The Spirit Sings and emerged as strong, unbowed, and in complete control.

I would not become aware of the impact of The Spirit Sings for several years, but as I became more immersed in Indigenous art years later, The Spirit Sings debacle would come up often. As a result of the exhibition, the protests, and the long history of misrepresentation in museums and galleries, a Task Force on Museums and First Peoples formed to make recommendations to government and the arts community on the exhibition and dissemination of works of historical and contemporary art by Aboriginal people. The ensuing report had a much more positive effect than The Spirit Sings (Loft 2012).

Steven Loft’s assertion about the importance of The Spirit Sings is underscored by Ruth Phillips, who writes, “virtually all Canadian writers on museums and Indigenous peoples have positioned The Spirit Sings: Artistic Traditions of Canada’s First Peoples as the point of departure for the postcolonial project of museum reform that has been underway during the past two decades” (Phillips 2011, 48). Another incredibly important moment for Indigenous artists took place in 1986, when the National Gallery of Canada purchased the first artwork by a contemporary Indigenous artist, Carl Beam’s The North American Iceberg (1985).

READ the essay by Alison Ariss on Gina Grant, Helen Calbreath, Krista Point, Debra Sparrow and Robyn Sparrow’s Out of the Silence (1997) which examines four Salish blankets created by these five xʷməθkʷəy̓əm Musqueam artists. Consider what we can learn about the marginalization of Indigenous (women’s) visual culture, like weaving, and how this one artwork example reveals a complex history.


Imagine you are an art gallery curator. If you were curating an exhibition of Indigenous art and/or visual culture, what steps would you take to ensure that it represents the art or visual culture ethically and respectfully? Outline some of the things that you would have to consider in the process of putting the exhibition together.

The erasure of knowledge, revival, and resistance

In this section we will explore the history of residential schools in Canada. The artworks and readings here deal with issues which may cause trauma due to this difficult subject matter. Support is available for anyone affected by their experience at residential schools, and those who are triggered by this topic. A national Indian Residential School Crisis Line has been set up to provide support for former students and those affected. People can access emotional and crisis referral services by calling the 24-hour national crisis line: 1-866-925-4419.

WATCH the embedded videos on residential schools in Canada and read the accompanying Canadian Encyclopedia entry. While you may be familiar with some of this history, what did you learn from this entry that you did not already know?

In 2015, the Federal Government released the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) Calls to Action. We encourage you to read the 94 Calls to Action. It took more than 100 years for the Canadian government to recognize the consequences of the residential schools. Why did it take so long for the truth to be recognized? Considering your own position and background, how do you position yourself in relation to the TRC Calls to Action?

The purpose of the residential schools was to assimilate Indigenous children into Western culture, to eliminate all aspects of Indigenous culture and ways of knowing. In this module we will consider how this school system attempted to eradicate Indigenous knowledge, culture, and language by examining a few select artworks that address this difficult history.

A dark photograph of a room with black chalkboard walls. The seven spot-lit black chairs have one white book and a red apple on each seat; the chalkboards they face and to their right are covered in writing in block letters; on the left-hand wall is a black and white image of many people with a small church at the centre. White ropes are attached to the chairs’ legs; the chairs cast stark shadows on the floor.
Figure 2.8 Joane Cardinal-Schubert, The Lesson, 1989. Chairs, books, apples, rope, mirror, whistles and chalk, dimensions variable. Installation view photo by Dave Brown, LCR Photo Services, University of Calgary. Fair dealing copyright Canada.

Joane Cardinal-Schubert’s powerful installation and performance The Lesson was created before the last residential school in Canada closed in 1996. Although it is one of the first artworks to address this difficult topic, its message continues to reverberate.

Dr. Joane Cardinal-Schubert was born in Red Deer, Alberta. She was an award-winning Kainaiwa (Blood) artist, curator, lecturer, poet, and director. Her artworks and writing often address contemporary political issues, such as Indigenous sovereignty, cultural appropriation, and environmental concerns. She was a member of the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts and a recipient of: the Queen Elizabeth II Golden Jubilee Medal, the Commemorative Medal of Canada, and the National Aboriginal Achievement Award in Art.

Read Monique Westra writing about The Lesson, which was first realized by Cardinal-Schubert in 1989 at Articule Gallery in Montreal and has been exhibited many times since:

The setting of the schoolroom is significant because it vividly recalls the devastating residential school experience of Indigenous people in Canada, a wrenching issue Joane addressed in a compact but emotionally charged installation…called simply The Lesson. The Lesson depicts a claustrophobic classroom, with chairs tied together with ropes, their seats topped by apples pierced with screw hooks, and chalkboards covered with strident texts written by hand about many of the past and present injustices that took place in such classrooms. The Lesson was reconstructed in nearly twenty venues across Canada and the United States. In one venue at the Toronto International Powwow in 1999, installed ten years after it was first created, more than 2,500 people viewed the exhibition. One of the chalkboards, the “Memory Wall,” invited Indigenous people to write their names and thoughts on the board. Many of the visitors, Indigenous and non-Indigenous, left in tears (Sharman 2017, 41).


Consider your reaction to some of the elements in the installation, what do you make of the use of black paint, the ropes binding the chairs together, and the bright red apples screwed down into the chairs? “Apple” is a derogatory term used by First Nations toward other First Nations; it implies that one is “red on the outside, but white on the inside.” The work is also interactive, as Westra notes. Viewers can add their own experiences, thoughts, or memories to the blackboard with chalk that is left out for everyone. What would you write on the blackboard walls in The Lesson?

Clouds of Autumn (2015) is a film by Trevor Mack and Matthew Tailor Blais. Set on the Tsilhqot’in plateau in British Columbia  in the 1970s, Clouds of Autumn focuses on a young Indigenous boy named William and his older sister Shayl. The carefree childhood existence of an Indigenous brother and sister is torn apart when the older sister is forced to attend a residential school far from home. The film explores the impact residential schools had on the relationships of Indigenous people with themselves, their heritage, and nature. Watch the film here:

Carey Newman’s The Witness Blanket (2015) is an artwork in the form of a large-scale sculpture and a memorial. While we have looked at an art installation and a short film addressing residential schools, The Witness Blanket is quite different. Now part of the collection of the Canadian Museum of Human Rights in Winnipeg, it was inspired by a woven blanket but is in fact a large-scale art installation made out of hundreds of items reclaimed from residential schools, churches, government buildings, and traditional and cultural structures, including Friendship Centres, band offices, treatment centres, and universities from across Canada.

WATCH the documentary, Picking Up the Pieces: The Making of the Witness Blanket (2015) and read the accompanying text. The Witness Blanket is meant to be a national monument to honour the children who attended residential schools in Canada.


Write down some of your reactions to both Clouds of Autumn and Picking Up the Pieces. Choose one of the films and respond to the following:

  1. For Clouds of Autumn, what is the narrative as far as you understand the film? What really struck you about the film? What visual details resonated? What sounds? How does sound reinforce the relationship of the children to the land?
  2. For Picking Up the Pieces, what does it mean to be a witness? What is the significance of a blanket? Do some research on your own about the importance of blankets in many First Nations cultures. Describe your reaction to the artwork and documentary.
A photograph of a dark gray-walled room with three backlit images of a forest in sunshine hung equidistant on the left wall, as if they are views through windows; in the center of the photograph is a bare metal bedframe with a mummy-shaped bison hide on it; the spotlight above it throws a silhouette on the floor below the bedframe.
Figure 2.9 Adrian Stimson, Sick and Tired, 2004. Windows and infirmary bed from Old Sun Residential School, feathers, fluorescent lights, bison robe, dimensions variable. Collection of the MacKenzie Art Gallery, purchased with the assistance of Taylor Automotive Group in memory of Bobbie Taylor.

The last artwork we will examine to address residential schools is Adrian Stimson’s 2004 installation Sick and Tired. Adrian Stimson is an artist from Siksika (Blackfoot) Nation. Read Stimson’s description of Sick and Tired in the accompanying exhibition catalogue for the 2013 exhibition Witnesses: Art and Canada’s Residential Schools:

Sick and Tired is an installation that explores identity, history and transcendence through the reconfiguration of architectural and natural fragments. It is an homage to colonial history. Its elements are three Old Sun Residential School windows, filled with feathers and back lit, and an old infirmary bed from the same school with a bison robe folded into a human shape placed on its springs. The bed is illuminated from the top to create a shadow beneath similar to a stretched hide. This work references material culture and post-colonial issues in Aboriginal art. Sick and Tired is a continuation of my explorations into my Siksika (Blackfoot) identity and the reality of cultural genocide. Combined, these elements speak to fragmentation, re-signification and counter memory––ideas that are a part of colonial or post-colonial discourse.

Residential schools were instruments of genocide; they created isolation, disorientation, pain and death and ultimately broke many human spirits. I can imagine many children peering out of these windows, longing to be home with their families. Their reality, however, was confinement similar to being smothered by a pillow. Sickness and disease were and still are a reality for First Nations––a legacy of illness represented by the infirmary bed. How many people lay sick, tired, dying or dead on this bed is not known, yet I feel the heaviness of its presence, a state that exhausts me physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. The bison robe configured like a mummy lies on the bedsprings; it is a cultural reference that speaks to another fragment, that of a historically decimated mammal analogous to the people and their culture. A light shines down illuminating robe and bed; the shadow beneath represents a stretched hide and speaks to the duality of life and death or the yet known. For me, creating this installation has been a way to exorcise and transcend the colonial project, a way to forgiveness, healing and obtaining a state of grace (Witnesses 2013, 55).


Read Leah Sandals’ conversation with Jonathan Dewar in Canadian Art magazine, “Art, Residential Schools & Reconciliation: Important Questions.” What is the purpose of art in the reconciliation process—or what has been called the reconciliation process? What are some of the problems with the government process of reconciliation? What are some of the considerations around exhibiting artworks about residential schools? Stimson sees his work as a form of activism. Consider the ways that Sick and Tired, The Lesson, and Clouds of Autumn support this idea of art as activism.

Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit

The following excerpt is from curator and art historian Heather Igloliorte’s essay, “Curating Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit: Inuit Knowledge in the Qallunaat Art Museum.”

Although there exists a vast literature on Inuit art in Canada—including hundreds of exhibition catalogues and scholarly texts, edited volumes, journal articles, and publications in the popular media—very little of it has been produced by Inuit. Despite the critical and commercial success of Inuit art, which has flourished since the beginning of the modern Inuit art movement in the mid-twentieth century into an internationally recognized art form and multimillion-dollar industry, the research, study, and dissemination of Inuit art has largely been the work of Qallunaat (non-Inuit) scholars, curators, critics, and museum staff. Few Inuit authors have ever been published in art-historical texts . . . The impact of this is that Inuit art—including everything from the earliest archeological findings to contemporary works—has been almost entirely interpreted by Qallunaat. Therefore, despite the rich literature, often written by those who have worked closely with Inuit artists over the last seven decades of the modern and contemporary arts industry (since 1948), the existing scholarship still represents a deep imbalance between who is being written about and who is writing. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the lack of Inuit scholars has meant that Inuit perspectives and knowledge have been conspicuously absent from much of the research and writing on Inuit art as well (Igloliorte 2017, 100-113).

Heather Igloliorte considers a new direction for interpreting Inuit art history using Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit (IQ). She writes, “While the Inuktitut phrase is often simply translated as “Inuit traditional knowledge,” it can be more accurately understood to encompass the complex matrix of Inuit environmental knowledge, societal values, cosmology, worldviews, and language” (102).

Igloliorte goes on to outline six basic principles of Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit (IQ), which guide Inuit ontologies and social relations for Arctic residents—people, animals, and hon-human entities:

  1. Pilimmasarniq: the concept that guides the way in which Inuit artists train and develop; it is the acquisition of knowledge. Most artists learn and develop their artistic skills by observing and learning from other Inuit artists.
  2. Angiqatgiinniq: emphasizes the importance of consensus-building and collective decision making, with a focus on benefiting the community before the individual. This tenet of IQ can also be seen in the art cooperatives, which have been in operation since the 1950s and 1960s.
  3. Pinasuqatigiinniq: refers to the principle of working together for the common good.
  4. Pijitsirarniq: the concept of serving the common good, which is crucial to the understanding of how success is measured in Inuit communities.
  5. Qanurtuuqatigiinniq: refers to being resourceful, to adapt, innovate, and be creative and inventive to solve problems.
  6. Avatimik kamatsianiq: the concept of environmental stewardship; emphasizes the responsibility of Inuit to be respectful of their limited resources and to protect the land and its inhabitants.
A drawing of a white-walled room with tiled floor and exposed electrical conduit running around the perimeter. The person in the pink bed is drawing a picture of people in Indigenous clothing. Facing them are two younger figures, one seated and one reclining on the end of the bed. A few personal items are to the left of the bed on a wooden table and hanging on the wall. Images are outlined in black and coloured in pastel colours.
Figure 2.10 Annie Pootoogook, Pitseolak Drawing with Two Girls on the Bed, detail, 2006. Colored pencil on paper, 50.8 x 66 cm. Private collection (artwork © Dorset Fine Arts; photograph provided by Dorset Fine Arts).
A smooth fish-shaped tapered stone, divided into four slices and two end pieces, is partially bisected in the left-hand segment by an ulu (crescent-shaped Inuit knife).
2.11 David Ruben Piqtoukun, Division of Meat, 1996. Brazilian soapstone, 19 x 14.5 x 51 cm. Art Gallery of Ontario, gift of Samuel and Esther Sarick, 2001/417 (artwork © David Ruben Piqtoukun; photograph provided by Art Gallery of Ontario) as in Igloliorte, Heather. “Curating Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit: Inuit Knowledge in the Qallunaat Art Museum.” Art Journal 76, no. 2 (2017): 100–113.


Look at the two artworks above by Inuit artists Annie Pootoogook and David Ruben Piqtoukun. To which principles of Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit do you think they connect? Explain how they connect to these principals, paying attention to visual and material details. How are the principles of Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit similar to ways you have come to know and understand things in your own experience? Are any of these principles new to you? In what ways might they enrich your own ways of knowing in the future, particularly when it comes to the intersections of visual artworks and histories?


  • Alison Ariss on Gina Grant, Helen Calbreath, Krista Point, Debra Sparrow and Robyn Sparrow, Out of the Silence (1997)
  • Carolyn Butler Palmer, with Carmen Thompson, on Art Thompson, Dididat The Legend of the Swans and Wolves (1995)


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Berlo, Janet Catherine, and Ruth B. Phillips. 2015. Native North American Art. 2nd ed. New York; Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Cavaliere, Elizabeth. 2014. “Benjamin Baltzly: A Photographer’s Expedition Journal.” Journal of Canadian Art History 35, no. 1 (Fall): 16-129.

Cramer, Charles, and Kim Grant. 2020. “Primitivism and Modern Art.” Smarthistory. Last modified March 7, 2020.

Dawn, Leslie. 2009. National Visions, National Blindness: Canadian Art and Identities in the 1920s. Vancouver: UBC Press.

Dean, Carolyn. 2006. “The Trouble with (the Term) Art.” Art Journal 65, no. 2 (Summer): 24-32.

Gagnon, François-Marc. 2011. The Codex Canadensis and the Writings of Louis Nicolas. Kingston; Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press.

Igloliorte, Heather. 2017. “Curating Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit: Inuit Knowledge in the Qallunaat Art Museum.” Art Journal 76 (2): 103-04.

Kimmerer, Robin. 2013. Braiding Sweetgrass. Minneapolis: Milkweed Editions.

Kimmerer, Robin. 2020. “About.” Robin Wall Kimmerer.

Loft, Steven. 2012. “Reflections on 20 Years of Aboriginal Art.” University of Victoria. Last modified February 8, 2012.

McCormick, Katilin. 2018. “Frederick Alexcee’s Entangled Gazes.” ab-Original 2 (2): 246-64.

Mithlo, Nancy Marie. 2012. “No Word for Art in Our Language? Old Questions, New Paradigms.” Wicazo Sa Review 27, no. 1, Special Issue: American Indian Curatorial Practice (Spring): 111-26.

National Gallery of Canada. 1927. Exhibition of Canadian West Coast Art: Native and Modern. Ottawa: National Gallery of Canada.

Phillips, Ruth B. 2011. Museum Pieces: Toward the Indigenization of Canadian Museums. Montreal and Kingston: McGill-Queen’s University Press.

Phillips, Ruth B. 2006. “Show Times: De-Celebrating the Canadian Nation, Decolonising the Canadian Museum.” In Rethinking Settler Colonialism, edited by Annie E. Coombes. Manchester, UK: Manchester University Press.

Reid, Dennis. 2012. A Concise History of Canadian Painting. 3rd ed. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Sandals, Leah. 2013. Conversation with Jonathan Dewar. “Art, Residential Schools & Reconciliation: Important Questions.” Canadian Art, November 14, 2013.

Sharman, Lindsey, ed. 2017. The Writing on the Wall: The Work of Joane Cardinal-Schubert. Calgary: University of Calgary Press.

Stimson, Adrian. 2013. Witnesses: Art and Canada’s Residential Schools. Vancouver: Morris and Helen Belkin Art Gallery.

Additional resources

Where are the children?

This interactive website provides extensive historical information about the residential school era. It contains pictures, audio recordings, and videos depicting the lives of those who were forcibly taken to the schools. For further information, please see the following websites:



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