Odjig's portrait by Patricia Logie
1978 serigraph -- Spirit Drum Singers

Daphne Odjig (Beavon), born 1928 on the Wikwemikong Reserve, Manitoulin Island, Ontario, Canada. She moved to British Columbia in 1968, but returned to the reserve to teach at the Manitou Arts summer workshops in the early 1970's. In the late 1960's, she founded a Native artists group that included Norval Morrisseau, who has been influential on all the Woodland painters. Received the Order of Canada, 1987, an award conferred by the governor-general on a small number of Canadians to recognize exemplary merit and achievement. Many Honorary degrees. Many solo exhibits in France, Israel and Japan. Daphne's family name. Odjig, means fisher in Anishinaabemowin. This is a dark brown animal related to martens and weasels, nearly extinct because of its valuable pelt. Her father and grandfather were artists. A short bio note by McMichael Gallery inexplicably makes her 10 years older.

Plea for help from Ottawa Photographers: Daphne Odjig's cultural masterpiece is a mural in the National Arts Centre foyer in Ottawa. See description of mural and its importance

In the school year 1979-80, someone -- perhaps Odjig herself, perhaps somone else -- donated 3 Odjig silkscreens to Red School House, the St. Paul AIM Survival School.
Indian Day School
Tribute to Courage

The 3 were "Sacred Drum Singers" (above), "Indian Day School" (left) and "A Tribute to Courage" (right). I admired them greatly and tried to learn as much as I could about the artist. Luckily (as it turned out) I had a Polaroid camera with me and photographed each.

The young people were very interested in these pictures. Sacred Drum Singers had no title; they gave it that one. Years later I used that when I made a 3" button to give as achievement awards to the Minneapolis Heart of the Earth AIM Survival School in 1994. I gave those buttons to members of the drum and dance group, and to the cheerleaders (most of those girls also belonged to the dance group). As some may have noticed, I use it for the icon of the First Nations Canadian section. The image -- which has never left my mind's eye, since I stood transfixed for an hour or so looking at it -- has an important personal meaning that I can't put into words.

About the Indian Day School, we commented that the kids were heavily dressed, some even wearing woolen face masks, for walking to school in the very cold winter. But that's not really adults in the background, surely that is winter spirits of some kind protecting the kids.

The third silkscreen, at the right here, stirred the most interest. Young people -- many of whom had just returned from a summer spent walking to Washington, D.C. on the AIM-organized Longest Walk to support treaties and sovereignty -- commented that the picture honored AIM. They pointed out that the initials A - I - M are shaped by the faces and colored areas at the bottom, and I think they clearly are. Some thought that the groupings above also spelled AIM, but that one I can't see. There was a great deal of marveling and delight about this, preople brought their relatives to see it, showed it to little kids, talked about it. As for me, I was fascinated by the style and tried to learn all I could about the artist.

Tthe pictures were taped to the wall in the main hall -- we had no money or frames. Young people took virtually everyone to see the "AIM honor" picture by a Native Canadian artist. That didn't last long, though, and that's why I'm glad I photographed them not long after they arrived.

The second week, the two spiritual pictures were found one morning cut up and scrawled with crayons. The scrawling looked as if little kids had done it, but not the cutting. The tribute picture that said AIM was gone. It is my belief that the FBI destroyed the two spiritual ones, and took the political one. Today no doubt, crumpled and ruined, it reposes in an old file box kept by that government agency. That's what the kids thought too. No one believed little kids had ruined the two or stolen the one; our kids were proud of our school, and of those beautiful pictures. All the kids recognized the difference between fine art and posters.

Of course multiuples -- serigraphs, lithographs -- though they are original works of art, not prints, do exist in more than one copy. These 3 existed in an edition or run of under 100, so somewhere in the world, those pictures still exist. Maybe someday the kids who were so happy that an artist had thought to do this will see the AIM one somewhere. Most likely not, though.

Why would they do such a thing? Well, all sorts of vandalism constitutes disruption. But we on the staff had noted that thse limited edition serigraphs were probably rather valuable, and Odjig's reputation was at a consideraable high just then -- her huge mural had just been dedicatd at the Ottawa Canadian National Arts Centre, she had recived a long-term commission to design a series of travel posters for El Al Airline, she had received considerable press notice as one of the few Nativ artists who had a growing reputation not only in the spcializd genre of Native painting.. Perhaps the government feared she might donate other works that AIM could use for fundraising. Or perhaps they just wanted to make us feel bad -- which they certainly did. I have always wondered if Odjig was herself investigated or harassed after this, either by the U.S. FBI or by the Canadian intellgenc agencies that work with those of the U.S. government.




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CREDITS: Portrait of Odjig was painted by Patricia Logie, as part of a large project where she painted portraits of many wll-known contemporary Canadian Native people -- leaders in various endeavors. For 13 years, she travelled to reserves with these paintings speaking to school children there about these leaders and their achivements -- fostering self-pride. Now retired, Logie is selling her entire collection of contemporary Native portraits.

Text and graphics copyright 1995, 1996.

Last Updated: Saturday, August 03, 1996 - 4:02:55 AM