THE LATE NORVAL MORRISSEAU, C. M.
Hon. Francis William Mahovlich speaks...
Honourable senators, I rise today to pay tribute to a man sometimes referred to as ‘‘the Picasso of the North,’’ Mr. Norval Morrisseau. Mr. Morrisseau, also known as ‘‘Copper Thunderbird,’’ passed away after a lengthy battle with Parkinson’s disease at the age of 75 on December 4, 2007.
He was a self-taught artist, who combined elements from his Ojibwa heritage as well as contemporary influences to create his own distinctive style now known as woodland Indian art.
Despite his great talents, Mr. Morrisseau did not have an easy life, struggling with poverty and addiction for many years. He was, however, a survivor — some have called him indestructible — and overcame the obstacles that he faced in life.
During his career, he was a pioneer for Aboriginal artists. He was the first First Nations artist to succeed in the Canadian art scene, and was the first Aboriginal to have a solo exhibit at the National Art Gallery, which took place in Ottawa early last year. He was also the only Canadian artist to be shown in 1989 at Paris’s Georges Pompidou Centre as part of the French celebration of the bicentennial of the French Revolution.
Norval Morrisseau has been honoured numerous times for his achievements. He was made a member of the Order of Canada in 1978; awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award by the National Aboriginal Achievement Foundation; and received the Eagle Feather, which is the highest honour awarded by the Assembly of First Nations.
Mr. Morrisseau will be fondly remembered by his large and extended family, as well as his many fans across the country.
Hon. Francis William (Frank) Mahovlich
On the floor of the Canadian Senate
December 13, 2007