Norval Morrisseau, Animal Unity, 1978 | source: Joyner Canadian Fine Art
Within Indigenous arts, activism, and communities there is no doubt that power lies both within the intergenerational passing down of knowledge and our blood memory. Here is a list of inspirational families who demonstrate familial bonds of creativity, knowledge sharing, and resiliency from generation to generation.
Painter Bewabon Shilling of Rama First Nation is the eldest son of the late iconic artist Arthur Shilling. Travis Shilling is the second of two artist sons. All three Shilling men, Arthur, Bewabon and Travis carry an incredible talent to capture the spirit of story, person or environment through expressive brush strokes and opulent colours.
2. Da.axiigang (Charles Edenshaw) and Kwii.aang (Isabella Edenshaw)
Great Haida woodcarver Charles Edenshaw, born 1839 and artist Isabella Edenshaw, born 1858 are both of Haida Gwaii, B.C. and are the parents and great grandparents of some of the most prolific Haida artists in Canada. Their daughter Florence Edenshaw Davidson was a traditional crafts person, author and grandmother to brothers Reg and Robert Davidson whose contemporary artwork span from wood carving, sculpture and painting.
3. Kahn-Tineta Horn, Waneek Horn Miller and Kaniehtiio Horn
Political activist, Kahn-Tineta (Kahentinetha) Horn was born in New York City and is a member of the Mohawk Bear Clan of Kahnawake. Activist and successful model, Kahn-Tineta is the mother of both former Olympic water polo athlete, advocate and WIOT television host Waneek Horn Miller and actress Kaniehtiio Horn known for her role in the Netflix series Hemlock Grove and the Comedy Network’s Letterkenny.
4. Leland Bell and Jay Bell Redbird
Artist Leland Bell is Anishinaabe from Wikwemikong Unceded First Nation and was one of the young men mentored by members of the Indian Group of Seven at the Manitou Arts Foundation. His influence carried on to his late sister, Elaine Bell’s son, Jay Bell Redbird. Jay Bell Redbird and his uncle Leland Bell are Woodland style artists and carry the ability to illustrate a deep connection with the Anishinaabek Peoples and all of creation.
5. Monique Mojica and Bear Witness
Monique Mojica is a playwright, director, and actor based out of Toronto. Mojica was born in New York City, and is a founding member of Native Earth Performing Arts and Spider Woman Theatre founded by her mother the great theatre actor and director Muriel Miguel. Mojica began training in acting and theatre at the age of three and follows many of the traditions of storytelling and theatre creating. Monique Mojica is the mother of Bear Witness; Bear Witness has reached international acclaim for his role in the electric pow-wow music group, A Tribe Called Red. Bear’s father Jeffery Thomas is a notable Haudenosaunee photographer and curator. A young Bear witness can be seen in Jeffery Thomas’ photography here.
6. Norval Morriseau, David Morrisseau and Christian Morriseau
Norval’s Anishinaabe Noziwin (Spirit Name) is Copper Thunderbird and he rose to fame in the 1960s with his ability to translate powerful and spiritual imagery through his art. The late Norval Morrisseau is a Member of the Order of Canada and father of artist sons David Morrisseau and Christian Morrisseau. This style of art is traditionally passed down; Norval learned from his grandfather Potan, a well-known and respected Shaman. Dave Morriseau’s uncle Joshim Kagegamic, also a talented painter, taught Dave about highlights and encouraged him to work in bright colours.
7. Simon Paul-Dene and Sage Paul
Simon Paul-Dene is a Navajo artist and storyteller who has written and illustrated Navajo stories for children throughout North America. Simon Paul-Dene has designed murals and logos for Indigenous organizations across the Greater Toronto Area. Sage Paul is the daughter of Simon Paul-Dene and mother, Shawn Grey, a textile artist. Sage Paul is of the Caribou Clan and co-founded Setsuné Indigenous Fashion Incubator, a community-based project that offers urban Indigenous women access to traditional art and craft practices.
8. Tantoo Cardinal and Cliff Cardinal
Tantoo Cardinal is a film, stage and television actor who is played in notable films and shows including North of 60, Smoke Signals, and Dances with Wolves. Tantoo Cardinal is a member of the order of Canada and represented in the Aboriginal Walk of Honour in Edmonton for her contributions to Canadian arts. Tantoo Cardinal is also the mother of playwright, Cliff Cardinal. Cliff Cardinal was awarded the Dora Mavor Moore Award for Outstanding New Play and Outstanding Performance by a Male for his creation of Huff, a deeply intense play that portrays the life of a man addicted to sniffing gas.