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Duncan Campbell Scott
Duncan Campbell Scott, poet, writer, civil servant (born 2 August 1862 in Ottawa, ON; died 19 December 1947 in Ottawa, ON). Scott’s complicated legacy encompasses both his work as an acclaimed poet and his role as a controversial public servant. Considered one of the “poets of the Confederation” — a group of English-language poets whose work laid the foundations for a tradition of Canadian poetry — his intense works made use of precise imagery and transitioned smoothly between traditional and modern styles. However, his literary work has arguably been overshadowed by his role as the deputy superintendent of the Department of Indian Affairs. He enforced and expanded residential schools, failed to respond to a tuberculosis epidemic and oversaw a treaty process that many claim robbed Indigenous peoples of land and rights. His oft-quoted goal to “get rid of the Indian problem” became, for many, characteristic of the federal government’s treatment of Indigenous peoples.
Georgina Lightning, actor, director, producer (b at Hobbema, Alta 1964). Georgina Lightning was born into the Samson Cree Nation. Educated in Canada, she moved to Los Angeles in 1990 to pursue an acting career and enrolled in the American Academy of Dramatic Arts.
Rita Joe (née Rita Bernard), PC, CM, Mi’kmaq poet (born 15 March 1932 in Whycocomagh, NS; died 20 March 2007 in Sydney, NS). Often referred to as the poet laureate of the Mi’kmaq people, Rita Joe wrote powerful poetry that spoke about Indigenous identity and the legacy of residential schools in Canada. Her works continue to influence Indigenous and non-Indigenous writers and artists alike.
Indigenous Language Revitalization in Canada
Before European settlement in Canada, Indigenous peoples spoke a wide variety of languages. As a means of assimilating Indigenous peoples, colonial policies like the Indian Act and residential schools forbid the speaking of Indigenous languages. These restrictions have led to the ongoing endangerment of Indigenous languages in Canada. In 2016, Statistics Canada reported that for about 40 Indigenous languages in Canada, there are only about 500 speakers or less. Indigenous communities and various educational institutions have taken measures to prevent more language loss and to preserve Indigenous languages.
In May 1983 Shilling was one of 7 Canadian artists invited by Governor General Edward Schreyer to show at Rideau Hall, Ottawa. His paintings are in many corporate and private collections throughout North America. His life is documented in the film The Beauty of My People (NFB, 1978).
Lawrence Paul Yuxweluptun
Lawrence Paul Yuxweluptun, Coast Salish and Okanagan (see Interior Salish) artist and activist (born in 1957 at Kamloops, British Columbia). Yuxweluptun trained at the Emily Carr College of Art (now the Emily Carr University of Art and Design) in the late 1970s and early 1980s, focusing on historical European art. His paintings employ both traditional Northwest Coast imagery (see Northwest Coast Indigenous Art) and surrealist visual language to critique colonialism, racism against Indigenous peoples, capitalism, and environmental destruction, among other issues. In addition to paintings, Yuxweluptun has produced multimedia artworks, videos and performances that are political in nature. In 2013, Yuxweluptun was awarded a Fellowship at the Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art in Indianapolis, USA. Yuxweluptun’s art is featured in the permanent collections of many prominent galleries and museums in North America.
Basil H. Johnston
Basil H. Johnston, Anishinaabe (Ojibwa) author, linguist, and teacher (born 13 July 1929 on Wasauksing First Nation, ON; died 8 September 2015 in Wiarton, ON).
Piita Irniq (formerly known as Peter Irniq and Peter Ernerk), cultural proponent, artist, public servant, commissioner of Nunavut (born 1947 at Lyon Inlet, NT [now Nunavut]). Irniq represented the Keewatin region in the Council of the Northwest Territories from 1975 to 1979. From 2000 to 2005, he served as the second commissioner of Nunavut . Irniq has worked to preserve and promote Inuit culture and languages.
Gordon Tootoosis, CM, actor, activist, band chief (born 25 October 1941 at Poundmaker Reserve near Cutknife, SK; died 5 July 2011 in Saskatoon, SK).
Margo Gwendolyn Kane
Margo Gwendolyn Kane, actor, singer, dancer (b at Edmonton, Alta, 21 Aug 1951). Kane, who is of mixed Cree/Salteaux/Blackfoot ancestry, trained in acting, singing and dance at Grant McEwan College in Edmonton, the BANFF CENTRE, and Circle in the Square Theatre, New York City.
Tomson Highway, OC, playwright, novelist, pianist and songwriter (born 6 December 1951 in northwestern Manitoba). Highway is one of the most prominent and influential Indigenous writers in Canada. His works discuss and explore important issues affecting First Nations people, including residential schools, reserve life, Indigenous identity and more. Highway is an Officer of the Order of Canada and in 1998 was named one of the 100 most important people in Canadian history by Maclean’s. Tomson received the Award for Lifetime Artistic Achievement at the Governor General's Performing Arts Awards in 2022. (See also Influential Indigenous Writers in Canada.)
George Lester Tuccaro
Tuccaro began his career as a broadcaster in 1971. As an Announcer-Operator with CBC North Radio in Yellowknife, NWT, Tuccaro was an integral part of reporting life in the north to a broader Canadian audience.
Joseph Boyden, CM, author (born 31 October 1966 in Toronto, ON). Joseph Boyden's work focuses on the historical and contemporary experience of First Nations peoples of Northern Ontario. He became widely known in Canada following the publication of his debut novel, Three Day Road (2005), which won numerous awards and was nominated for a Governor General’s Award. His second novel, Through Black Spruce, won the 2008 Scotiabank Giller Prize. He was made a Member of the Order of Canada in 2015. Born in Toronto to Blanche and Raymond Wilfrid Boyden, a highly decorated medical officer who served in the Second World War, Boyden has claimed Indigenous heritage through both his father’s and mother’s ancestry. However, he has been accused of misrepresenting himself by those who say his claims cannot be documented or confirmed.
Sylvia D. Hamilton, filmmaker, writer, educator (born in Beechville, NS). Sylvia Hamilton specializes in re-evaluating Canadian history and focusing on the perspectives of Black Canadians, particularly Black Canadian women. Her films include Black Mother Black Daughter (1989); the Gemini Award winner Speak It! From the Heart of Black Nova Scotia (1993); the biographical documentary Portia White: Think On Me (2000); and The Little Black School House (2007). She has received many honours and awards, including the Nova Scotia Portia White Prize, the Pierre Berton Award from the Governor General’s History Awards for Popular Media, and the Luminary Award from the Documentary Organization of Canada (DOC).
Shingoose (also Curtis Jonnie), Ojibwe singer-songwriter, guitarist, folk musician, Indigenous activist (born on 26 October 1946 in Winnipeg, MB; died on 12 January 2021 in Winnipeg, MB). Shingoose rose to popularity in Canada and the US in the late 1960s. A well-respected musician, Shingoose was also a strong advocate of Indigenous issues and strove to highlight Indigenous culture on the world stage. (See also Music of Indigenous Peoples in Canada.)
Eden Robinson, Haisla writer (born 19 January 1968 in Kitimaat, BC). A well-known Indigenous writer, Eden Robinson has won national and international acclaim for her dark, gothic fiction. Robinson counts Stephen King and Edgar Allan Poe among her literary influences.
Maisie Hurley, née Maisie Amy Campbell-Johnston, Vancouver-area political activist, Indigenous ally (see Indigenous Peoples in Canada), newspaper founder and art collector (born 27 November 1887 in Swansea, Wales; died 3 October 1964 in North Vancouver, British Columbia). Although Hurley had no formal legal training or law degree (see Legal Education), she worked on several legal cases and advocated for Indigenous peoples’ basic human rights as well as for changes to the Indian Act. In 1946, Hurley started a newspaper called The Native Voice that aimed to bring attention to important issues concerning Indigenous communities across Canada (see Rights of Indigenous Peoples in Canada). In 2011, Hurley’s collection of Indigenous art was displayed at the North Vancouver Museum.
Berythe (Margaret Wallace) Birse (b Ross). Choir conductor, teacher, b Rossburn, north of Brandon, Man, 25 Jul 1904; BA (Manitoba) 1924. After teaching music in public and private Winnipeg schools for over 20 years, she was music supervisor 1944-8 for suburban Winnipeg schools.
Pauline Johnson (Tekahionwake)
Emily Pauline Johnson (a.k.a. Tekahionwake, “double wampum”) poet, writer, artist, performer (born 10 March 1861 on the Six Nations Reserve, Canada West; died 7 March 1913 in Vancouver, BC). Pauline Johnson was one of North America’s most notable entertainers of the late 19th century. A mixed-race woman of Mohawk and European descent, she was a gifted writer and poised orator. She toured extensively, captivating audiences with her flair for the dramatic arts. Johnson made important contributions to Indigenous and Canadian oral and written culture. She is listed as a Person of National Historic Significance and her childhood home is a National Historic Site and museum. A monument in Vancouver’s Stanley Park commemorates her work and legacy. In 2016, she was one of 12 Canadian women in consideration to appear on a banknote. (See Women on Canadian Banknotes.)