Aboriginal Art and culture help us to understand the worldview, values, and traditions of the Canadian people, their past, and the present. Aboriginal culture reflects the long-term colonization of Canada, during which Aboriginal people “have used art-making as a strategy for survival” (Trépanier and Creighton-Kelly 18).
Aboriginal Arts show themselves in everything, from galleries and books to mass media and the Internet. One of the most outstanding “keepers” of Aboriginal Art is the Canadian Museum of History.
This museum is a masterpiece in itself: Designed by Canadian architect Douglas Cardinal, it became a “Canadian landmark,” appreciated both for “originality and for the beauty of its architectural design and for the major collection of Aboriginal art and culture that is housed within its walls” (Hassan and Jordan 152).
Aboriginal Culture reflects the worldview of the original Canadians, marked by high spirituality and great symbolism in their folklore, and handicrafts that show a deep understanding of and connection with the land.
Although the Aboriginal worldview was passed down through generations in oral form, nowadays, some writers are developing this tradition in print and internet sources. These “Aboriginal knowledge keepers” include Tom Hill, Cheryl L’Hirondelle, Jeannette Armstrong, and Tomson Highway (Trépanier and Creighton-Kelly 21).
The latter was greatly interested in Aboriginal folklore, especially in the Trickster figure, whom he tried to explain as a character “who stands at the very center of the universe” (Trépanier and Creighton-Kelly 71). Another study contributor who maintained the Aboriginal culture was Bill Reign, the Native Canadian artist.
He belonged to the Haida people, and according to their worldview, people are born to be Ravens or Eagles. Bill Reign was a Raven, which “entitled him to wear certain crests and names” connected with Haida culture (“Who Was Bill Reid? Bill Reid’s Journey” par. 9). He maintained the Aboriginal traditions in his lifestyle and Art.
Aboriginal Art reveals the knowledge of the original Canadian peoples. Inukshuk, for example, “a figure constructed from unworked stones or boulders,” was used by the Inuit tribes as a means of communication, serving as a “hunting and navigational aid, coordination point, and messaging center” (Yee 413).
Various Inuit carvings are objects portraying knowledge of “how one should live,” thus Jaco Ishulutaq’s Father and Son Forgive Each Other With a Hug shows the necessity of forgiveness in human life (Rathwell and Armitage 5).
Aboriginal artists not only share the worldview and knowledge of the original Canadians but also express their attitude toward present issues.
For example, Lawrence Paul Yuxweluptun’s paintings Scorched Earth, Clear Cut Logging on Native Sovereign Lands, Shaman Coming to Fix, and Usufruct speaks of his anxiety over the present-day “environmental terrorism and destruction” (Pacini-Ketchabaw and Clark 105). Thus, Aboriginal Art helps to express not only the history of Canada but also the current public mood.
The study of Aboriginal Art and culture allows a look into the minds of Canadians, as it reflects their worldview, and helps in understanding modern Canada.
Hassan, Jamelie, and Miriam Jordan. “Parallel Histories.” Cultivating Canada: Reconciliation through the lens of cultural diversity. Ed. Ashok Mathur, Jonathan Dewar, and Mike DeGagne. Ottawa: Aboriginal Healing Foundation, 2011. 135-163. Print.
Pacini-Ketchabaw, Veronica, and Vanessa Clark. “Following watery relations in early childhood pedagogies.” Journal of Early Childhood Research 14.1 (2014): 98-111. Print.
Rathwell, Kaitlyn, and Derek Armitage. “Art and artistic processes bridge knowledge systems about social-ecological change: An empirical examination with Inuit artists from Nunavut, Canada.” Ecology and Society 21.2 (2016): 1-14. Print.
Trépanier, France, and Chris Creighton-Kelly. Understanding aboriginal arts in Canada today: A knowledge and literature review. Ottawa: Canada Council for the Arts, 2011. Print.
Who Was Bill Reid? Bill Reid’s Journey. N.d. Web. 2016.
Yee, Jerry. “Vascular Access: Inukshuk.” Advances in chronic kidney disease 22.6 (2015): 413-417. Print.