On June 21st, Canada celebrates National Indigenous Peoples Day. We celebrate the beauty of Indigenous culture by observing their customs, viewing their art, hearing their stories and recognizing all they have contributed to our Canadian identity . To mark this important day, we have compiled a list of some gifted Indigenous artists whose talent, vision and dedication to their craft have made some of the most interesting and significant art Canada has to offer.
Graham Greene – Actor
As one of the most respected and successful First Nations actors, Graham Greene has an impressive resume both on-stage and on-screen. Raised in Hamilton, Ontario, he worked several different jobs before falling in love with the theatre. Graham has appeared in many popular Canadian series including The Red Green Show and North of 60. His awards include a Gemini Award in 1998 and the Earle Grey Award for Lifetime Achievement by the Academy of Canadian Film and Television. He also has several nominations for his impressive performances in supporting roles. Graham’s career has spanned many years and his list of film, television and stage appearances continue to grow.
Kenojuak Ashevak -Artist
Born in Ikerrasak camp, South Baffin Island, in the Northwest Territories, Kenojuak Ashevak was a renowned Inuit artist. Her most recognized piece, the Enchanted Owl, has been featured in hundreds of galleries, private collections and even on Canadian postage stamps. Constantly evolving, Kenojuak used many different styles and mediums with her art including pencil, paint, beadwork and soapstone. She won several awards including the Order of Canada and the Governor General’s Award in Visual and Media Arts in 2008. Her imaginative style and use of bold colours in her prints has made Kenojuak’s art a favourite amongst Canadians. To view some of her pieces, check out Dorset Fine Arts.
Buffy Sainte-Marie – Singer, Songwriter
An iconic figure in the Canadian and national music scene, Buffy Sainte-Marie is known for her insightful lyrics and her fighting spirit. Both an artist and an activist, Buffy has released love songs and social/political anthems. Her best known song, “Universal Soldier”, was inducted into the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2005. Her other achievements include a Golden Globe, a BAFTA , an Academy Award and several Juno Awards and Canadian Aboriginal Music awards. She was instrumental in addressing social and political issues related to Indigenous peoples, including residential schools, stereotyping in media and education. Buffy Sainte-Marie still thrives as a musician, a teacher and a mentor to new artists.
Richard Wagamese- Writer
Enduring a difficult childhood, Richard Wagamese took the pain of foster care, abuse and abandonment and channeled it into his writing. His parents were survivors of the residential school system and Wagamese himself was part of the “Sixties Scoop” government program. When reflecting on his time in foster care, Wagamese wrote “ There had been moments when the pain and the confusion were so intense I felt as though my skin was peeling off,” an excerpt from his book One Story, One Song. At 16 years old, Richard was homeless and struggling with drug and alcohol abuse. Richard would read for hours in libraries and taught himself to become an accomplished writer. He would go on to write poems, novels, and anthologies that led to numerous awards and praise from critics and readers alike. His 2012 novel, Indian Horse, about a residential school survivor with a gift for playing hockey, won the People’s Choice award on CBC’s Canada Reads and was recently made into an award-winning film, produced in part by Clint Eastwood. Its’ portrayal of survival and bravery is not far from the story of Richard Wagamese himself.