Purchase - 1999.2
© The artist

4 McMaster, Gerald and Lee-Ann Martin, eds. Indigena: Contemporary Native Perspectives in Canadian Art (Hull Canadian Museum of Civilization 1992).

5 Glenbow Museum, Calgary, Canada

Today, more and more Indians are becoming successful warriors and healers, storytellers and teachers in mainstream society, applying historical values to contemporary situations, proud and certain of their identity, successfully maintaining their culture as adapted to their new situation, and relying on the same spiritual resources that guided their ancestors. 4

Jane Ash Poitras comments: "you can take your art and create something good, and that becomes your bow and arrow." The theme of First Nations' identity explored through personal and historical links forms the basis of her art. Poitras' work incorporates historical and contemporary references, photographic images, newspaper clippings, and other elements. Her art seeks to reveal knowledge that helps to liberate and spiritually strengthen the community. The artist states, "Only through spiritual renewal can we find out who we really are and acquire the wisdom to eliminate the influences that bring tragedy upon us and destroy us."

In the latter half of the twentieth century, First Nations artists in Canada have become an increasingly visible part of the Canadian cultural presence. This was brought about by an increase in social actions taken by the First Nations people themselves. The ongoing efforts of committed individuals, within the First Nations art community, which were directed at the public art museum and gallery system finally resulted in a shift in attitude. By the 1980s First Nations art was being exhibited in public art galleries, finally separating it from the stigma of being considered merely as ethnological artifacts.

One significant breakthrough that helped to mark this reappraisal of First Nations art was the 1986 purchase by the National Gallery of Canada of Carl Beam's painting The North American Iceberg. An Ojibway First Nations' artist, Beam was born in West Bay, Manitoulin Island, Ontario in 1943. 5

Read about the life of Jane Ash Poitras