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7: Professional Native Indian Artists Inc.

September 21, 2013 - January 12, 2014

Opening Celebration 

Friday, September 20, 2013 at 7:30 pm | Free Admission | Cash Bar

Visit the exhibition 7: Professional Native Indian Artists Inc. with special guests artists Alex Janvier and Joseph Sanchez, along with the exhibition curator Michelle LaVallee.

19-year-old Jackson Beardy III, grandson of the late Jackson Beardy, will also be performing a hoop dance and drum performance. Reception will follow.


A Conversation with Alex Janvier and Joseph Sanchez

Saturday, September 21, 2013 at 2:00 pm | Free Admission 

Join us for a discussion with artists Alex Janvier and Joseph Sanchez, along with the exhibition curator, Michelle LaVallee.


7 offers diverse audiences from the many nations across Canada an unparalleled opportunity to appreciate and engage with the work by one of Canada’s most important early artist alliances—the Professional Native Indian Artists Incorporated (PNIAI).

This Group of Seven was a ground-breaking cultural and political entity that self-organized to demand recognition as professional, contemporary artists, to challenge old constructs, and to stimulate a new way of thinking about contemporary First Nations people, their lives and art. Gathering informally at first in the early 1970s, Jackson Beardy (1944-1984), Eddy Cobiness (1933-1996), Alex Janvier (b. 1935), Norval Morrisseau (1932-2007), Daphne Odjig (b. 1919), Carl Ray (1942-1978) and Joseph Sanchez (b. 1948) formed this influential and historical group. Since their formation, the PNIAI have often been wryly referred to as the “Indian Group of Seven.”

Drawing on both private and public collections the exhibition brings together 120 works including those featured in formative exhibitions of the Group along with a number of recently uncovered masterworks of the period that have not been publicly accessible for quite some time. Significant works by each member are showcased demonstrating their distinctive styles and experimentations. The selection serves to challenge the myth that PNIAI members participated in a unified “Woodland style,” as well, to substantiate the avant-gardism of the Group. The exhibition seeks to honour their efforts and recognize the contributions of these seven artists to the history of First Nations aesthetic production and to the history of art on Turtle Island.

Narratives collected from members of the group and their contemporaries will further inform the exhibition through didactic materials, catalogue text and audiovisual materials. While the exhibit both records and celebrates this history, the exhibition will also investigate this rich legacy and demonstrate how their impact continues to resonate in relation to Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal contemporary art practices.

7: Professional Native Indian Artists Inc., installation at the MacKenzie Art Gallery, 2013. Photo: Don Hall.

About the Professional Native Indian Artists Incorporated

Officially incorporated on April 1, 1975, the seven artists of the PNIAI came together in order to collectively fight for the inclusion of their work within the Canadian mainstream and the contemporary art canon. Situated within a contentious political context, including the Liberal government’s controversial Indian policy of 1969, the PNIAI were resistant to colonial discourses and broke with identity definitions and boundaries imposed on First Nations. The PNIAI were pivotal in bringing political issues to the forefront of contemporary art practices and theory. Their work directly addressed issues of colonization, and the exclusion, marginalization and denial of historical and contemporary realities that First Nations people encounter daily. Their efforts, in addition to the strength of each individual’s work, influenced individual practices and collective strategies nationally. By fearlessly portraying the reality of Canada from an Indigenous perspective, they expanded the vocabulary of contemporary visual art practice and set a new standard for the artists who followed in their wake. Disenchanted with the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development’s marketing and promotion strategies, they fought against exclusionary practices that often forced First Nations artists into artistic avenues that were restrictive and marginalizing. These artists were among the first to fight to establish a long-overdue forum for the voices and perspectives of First Nations artists. In many ways, the forward thinking of these pivotal artists led to the development and acceptance of an Indigenous art discourse and the recognition of First Nations artists as a vital part of Canada’s past, present and future identity.

7: Professional Native Indian Artists Inc
. is organized by the MacKenzie Art Gallery. This project has been made possible through a contribution from the Museums Assistance Program, Department of Canadian Heritage. The MacKenzie receives ongoing support from the Canada Council for the Arts, the Saskatchewan Arts Board, SaskCulture, the City of Regina, and the University of Regina.

  • PNIAI - Catalogue

7: Professional Native Indian Artists Inc. catalogue wins three awards at the Saskatchewan Book Awards

Regina, SK  – The MacKenzie Art Gallery is pleased to announce that 7: Professional Native Indian Artists Inc. received three awards for publishing at the Saskatchewan Book Awards on April 25, 2015, including the University of Regina Faculty of Education and Campion College Award for Publishing in Education, the First Nations University of Canada Aboriginal Peoples’ Publishing Award, and the Ministry of Park, Culture and Sport Publishing Award. Read more...

Out of Print!

The award-winning catalogue 7: PNIAI is officially out of print.

Tour dates for this exhibition:

Winnipeg Art Gallery                      Winnipeg, MB         May 9 to August 31, 2014

Kelowna Art Gallery                        Kelowna, BC          October 11, 2014 to January 4, 2015

McMichael Canadian Art Collection     Kleinburg, ON         May 10 to September 7, 2015

Art Gallery of Windsor                    Windsor, ON            October 2, 2015 – January 17, 2016



 Jackson Beardy (1944–1984) was born on the Garden Hill Reserve (Island Lake, Manitoba) and was of Cree ancestry. Beardy studied commercial art at the Winnipeg Vocational School (1963–64) and later took art classes at the University of Manitoba. Throughout his career, Beardy served as a member of numerous arts organizations, including: National Indian Art Council, Ottawa; Prison Arts Foundation, Ottawa; Manitoba Arts Council, Winnipeg; and Canadian Artists Representation / le Front des artistes canadiens (CARFAC). He also served as the president of the Canadian Indian Artists Association and was founder and president of Ningik Arts (1972). He is the recipient of the Canadian Centennial Medal (1967), the Junior Achievement Award (1974), and the Outstanding Young Manitoban Award (1982).

     Beardy has acted as art adviser and cultural consultant to the Manitoba Museum of Man and Nature (1971), the Department of Native Studies at Brandon University (1972), and the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development (now Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada) (1981). While at DIAND, he authored Indian Fine Arts: A Policy and Programme to guide the programming and collecting of the department. A noted book illustrator, he was also contracted by the department to record and illustrate the “legends of the people” while travelling throughout the North. His illustrations have been published in John Morgan’s book, When the Morning Stars Sang Together (1974). Beardy also designed the cover art for two books: Leonard Peterson’s Almighty Voice (1976), and Basil Johnston’s Ojibway Heritage (1976).

Image: Jackson Beardy, 1975
National Gallery of Canada Library and Archives, Dominion Gallery Fonds



 Eddy Cobiness (1933–1996) was born in Warroad, Minnesota and raised on Buffalo Point Reserve, Manitoba. Between 1954 and 1957, Cobiness served in the United States Army, where he became a Golden Gloves boxer and continued to draw and sketch during his leisure time. In 1980, he served as chairman of the First Annual Great Peoples PowWow in Sprague, Manitoba. He has also published his illustrations in two books: Alphonse Has an Accident (1974) and Tuktoyaktuk 2-3 (1975).

     An Ojibway artist, Cobiness participated in several exhibitions as a member of PNIAI throughout the 1970s, including: Canadian Indian Art ’74, Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto (1974); Indian Art ’75, Woodland Cultural Centre, Brantford (1975); and Colours of Pride: Paintings by Seven Professional Native Artists / Fierté sur Toile, Dominion Gallery, Montreal (1975). His works have also been included in two recent group exhibitions: Frontrunners, co-organized by Winnipeg’s Plug In Institute of Contemporary Art and Urban Shaman Contemporary Art Gallery and Artist-Run Centre, Winnipeg (2011); and My Winnipeg: There’s No Place Like Home, Plug In Institute of Contemporary Art, Winnipeg (2012). His work is held in many prominent private collections worldwide including those of former Prime Minister Jean Chrétien, Queen Elizabeth II, and former Manitoba Premier Edward Schreyer. His work is found in several public collections, including: Canadian Museum of Civilization (QC); Department of Indian and Northern Affairs (ON); McMichael Canadian Art Collection (ON); Royal Ontario Museum (ON); and Woodland Cultural Centre (ON). 

Image: Eddy Cobiness, 1975
National Gallery of Canada Library and Archives, Dominion Gallery Fonds



Alex Janvier  (b. 1935) was born at Cold Lake First Nations, Alberta, and is of Dene Suline and Saulteaux heritage. In 1960, Janvier received his Fine Arts Diploma with Honours from the Alberta College of Art in Calgary, after which he worked as an art instructor at the University of Alberta (1961). Janvier was later hired as a cultural adviser to the Department of Indian and Northern Affairs (now Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada) and helped to establish cultural policy for the Cultural Affairs Program (1965). He was also appointed to the Aboriginal Advisory Committee for the Indians of Canada pavilion at Expo 67 in Montreal, where he painted a nine-foot circular mural titled Beaver Crossing Indian Colours.

     Janvier has been the recipient of several honours over the years. These honours include Lifetime Achievement awards from the Tribal Chiefs Institute, Cold Lake First Nations (2001), and the National Aboriginal Achievement Foundation (2002); the Centennial Medal for outstanding service to the people and province of Alberta (2005); the Order of Canada (2007); the Governor General’s Award in Visual and Media Arts (2008); the Alberta Foundation for the Arts Marion Nicoll Visual Arts Award (2008); the Alberta Order of Excellence (2010); and the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal (2013). Janvier has also received honorary doctorates from the University of Alberta (2008), the University of Calgary (2008), and Blue Quills First Nations College (2012).

Image: Alex Janvier, 1975
National Gallery of Canada Library and Archives, Dominion Gallery Fonds



Norval Morrisseau (1932–2007) was raised on the Sand Point Reserve near Lake Nipigon and was of Ojibwa descent. Since his first solo exhibition at the Pollock Gallery, Toronto, in 1962, Morrisseau’s career has been marked by firsts. He was the only painter from Canada invited to exhibit in the Magiciens de la Terre / Magicians of the Earth exhibition at Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris (1989), and he was the first artist of First Nations descent to have a retrospective exhibition at the National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa (2006). A recipient of numerous awards and honours in his lifetime, Morrisseau received the Canadian Centennial Medal (1968), was elected to the Royal Canadian Academy of Art (1973), and was inducted into the Order of Canada (1978). In 1980, he was awarded an honorary doctorate by McMaster University. He was acknowledged as Grand Shaman of the Ojibway in Thunder Bay (1986) and honoured by the Assembly of First Nations Chiefs Conference in Ottawa (1995).

     Morrisseau was among the artists selected to participate in the Indians of Canada pavilion at Expo 67 in Montreal, Quebec, and was a founding member of the Professional Native Indian Artists Inc. In 1971, Norval Morrisseau and fellow PNIAI member Carl Ray toured reserves and communities of Northern Ontario as part of a federally sponsored Northern Art Tour (1971–72). He was also featured in the National Film Board of Canada’s documentary The Colours of Pride (1973) with Alex Janvier and Daphne Odjig. In 1974, a documentary titled The Paradox of Norval Morrisseau was released by the National Film Board of Canada. Morrisseau wrote and illustrated Legends of My People, The Great Ojibway (1965) and co-authored Norval Morrisseau: Travels to the House of Invention (1997).   

Image: Norval Morrisseau, 1975
National Gallery of Canada Library and Archives, Dominion Gallery Fonds



Daphne Odjig (b. 1919) was born on Wikwemikong (Manitoulin Island) and is of Potawatomi and Odawa heritage. Odjig was admitted to the British Columbia Federation of Artists in 1963, and in 1970 she established Odjig Indian Prints of Canada Limited in Winnipeg. She served as a member of the board and instructor for the Manitou Arts Foundation on Schreiber Island, Ontario (1971). In 1973, Odjig received a Swedish Brucebo Foundation Scholarship and travelled as a resident artist to Sweden. Odjig has been the recipient of several awards and honours, including: the Canadian Silver Jubilee Medal (1977); an Eagle Feather on behalf of the Wikwemikong Reserve in recognition of her artistic accomplishment, an honour previously reserved for men (1978); the Order of Canada (1986); the National Aboriginal Achievement Award (1998); the Commemorative Golden Jubilee Medal (2002); the Order of British Columbia (2007); and the Governor General’s Award in Visual and Media Arts (2007). She has been awarded honorary doctorates by Laurentian University, Sudbury (1982), University of Toronto (1985), Nipissing University, North Bay (1996), Okanagan University College, Kelowna (2002), Thompson Rivers University, Kamloops (2007), Ontario College of Art and Design, Toronto (2008), University of Western Ontario, London, Ontario (2008), and Algoma University, Sault Ste. Marie (2011). Odjig has been an honorary board member of the Canadian Heritage Foundation (1988–93) and is an elected member of the Royal Canadian Academy of Art (1989).

     In 1971, Odjig opened a small craft store in Winnipeg. This craft store was expanded in 1974 to create the New Warehouse Gallery, the first gallery owned and operated by a person of Aboriginal heritage in Canada. Two feature documentaries have been produced about Odjig’s life and work: Colours of Pride (1973) and The Life and Work of Daphne Odjig (2008). Odjig has written and illustrated a series of school readers, Nanabush Tales (1971), which are still included as part of the curriculum in elementary schools on Manitoulin Island.

Image: Daphne Odjig, 1975
National Gallery of Canada Library and Archives, Dominion Gallery Fonds



Carl Ray (1943–1978) was born on the Sandy Lake Reserve, Ontario, and was of Cree heritage. Ray completed commissioned work (alongside Norval Morrisseau) for the Indians of Canada pavilion at Expo 67, later receiving grants from the Canada Council (1969) and the Department of Health and Welfare, Indian Affairs Branch (1971). In 1971, Ray was an instructor at the Manitou Arts Foundation’s summer art camps at Schreiber Island (ON) and editor of the Kitiwin newspaper in Sandy Lake (ON). The Government of Ontario and the Department of Indian and Northern Affairs (now Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada) sponsored the Northern Art Tour (1971–72), in which Ray and Norval Morrisseau toured through reserves and communities of Northern Ontario. Ray illustrated James Stevens’ book, Sacred Legends of the Sandy Lake Cree (1971), and also illustrated the cover of Tom Marshall’s book The White City (1976).

      Ray has had solo exhibitions at Brandon University, Manitoba (1969); Confederation College, Thunder Bay (1970); Aggregation Gallery, Toronto (1972–77); Galerie Fore, Winnipeg (1972); and the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis (1972). His work has also been displayed in a number of group exhibitions with other PNIAI members, including two exhibitions at the Thunder Bay Art Gallery: The Art of the Anishnabe (1993) and Water, Earth and Air (1997). Other group exhibitions include: Canadian Indian Art ’74, Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto (1974); Indian Art ’75, Woodland Indian Cultural Education Centre, Brantford (1975); Colours of Pride: Paintings by Seven Professional Native Artists / Fierté sur Toile, Dominion Gallery, Montreal (1975); Contemporary Native Art of Canada — The Woodland Indians, Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto (1976); Contemporary Indian Art — The Trail from the Past to the Future, Trent University, Peterborough (1977); and Contemporary Indian Art at Rideau Hall, Department of Indian and North Affairs, Ottawa (1983). His work is held in numerous public and private collections, including: Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada (ON); Art Gallery of Ontario (ON); Canadian Museum of Civilization (QC); McMichael Canadian Art Collection (ON); National Gallery of Canada (ON); Government of Ontario Art Collection (ON); and Winnipeg Art Gallery (MB). Major commissions include murals for the Sandy Lake Primary School, Ontario (1971) and the Sioux Lookout Fellowship and Communication Centre, Ontario (1973).

Image: Carl Ray, 1975
National Gallery of Canada Library and Archives, Dominion Gallery Fonds



 Joseph Sanchez (b. 1948) was born in Trinidad, Colorado. He is an artist and curator of Spanish, German, and Pueblo descent currently residing in Santa Fe, New Mexico. From 1982–84 he served as a board member of the National Association of Artist Organizations. In 2010, Sanchez retired as Deputy Director and Chief Curator of the Museum of Contemporary Native Arts (formerly the Institute of American Indian Arts Museum), where he had worked since 2002. In 2011, Sanchez was the Contemporary Curator of the exhibition Native American Art at Dartmouth: Highlights from the Hood Museum of Art, Dartmouth University, Hanover, New Hampshire. Sanchez was the recipient of the Allan Houser Memorial Award for outstanding artistic achievement and community service in 2006 and was a curatorial partner for the 7th International Biennial at Site Santa Fe in 2008.

     The only non-Canadian artist of the Professional Native Indian Artists Inc., Sanchez served in the United States Marine Corps before moving to Canada. He met Daphne Odjig in 1971 while living outside of Winnipeg in Richer, Manitoba, and was instrumental in the formation of the Professional Native Indian Artists Inc. In 1975, Sanchez was repatriated under the Gerald Ford Presidential Amnesty and moved to Arizona, where he was involved with the formation of the artist groups MARS (Movimiento Artistico del Rio Salado) and Ariztlan in 1978. In 1983 Sanchez founded ARTS, a service to design exhibitions, provide curatorial services, administer collections, and provide consulting for individuals, artists, and museums. 

Image: Joseph Sanchez, 1975
National Gallery of Canada Library and Archives, Dominion Gallery Fonds