Friday, January 18, 2013

Flags of the Nations - the Camp on Victoria Island (oil on canvas 5 x 7 in.) Sold

14 January finds me in Ottawa, painting a First Nations stockade on Victoria Island in the Ottawa River. Anyone is welcome to go inside, but I am captivated by the story that the flags tell, so I'm sitting on a slight rise some distance from the camp so that I can see the Ottawa River, a totem pole, the stockade complete with cookhouse and the flags of First Nations all across Canada. The top of the tipi of Chief Theresa Spence of Attawapiskat is visible above
the palings of the stockade, as are several towering White Spruce. Blueish wood smoke drifts up and off toward the Peace Tower of the federal Parliament buildings, which is also flying a flag.

The dialogue between First Nations and Canada's government has begun, with the Prime Minister Harper meeting with a number of chiefs in the Assembly of First Nations last week, but Chief Spence is determined to continue her hunger strike until the Prime Minister agrees to meet with herself and the Governor General to discuss the treaties between native peoples and the Crown. The Governor General, as representative of the Queen in Canada, doesn't actually have much decision making power, but it is important to revisit the roots of the relationship between nations. The historic treaties were made with the Crown - a relationship in perpetuity with Canada, and discussion of them should be impartial and free from party policy.

I believe that Canada should be free from party policy. How can the lands and the waters and the peoples - indeed all species - be represented by political parties whose members are subject to party policy in spite of their personal beliefs or those of their constituents? Perhaps this dialogue that the First Nations demand is the very beginning of a transition to fairness - toward a sustainable future. Now we must all be willing to lay aside our differences in favour of the greater good, which must be measured by health and diversity, not dollars and cents.

This scene is not far from the spot where I painted Rideau Falls, but looking in the opposite direction. I have taken liberties in the composition - two important elements are at the far edges of the painting. The totem pole is at the far left, and the clock tower and flag of the government of Canada is at the far right. This works in a symbolic way even though some may criticize it as compositionally awkward. The fact is, this is how it looks here! I very much want to include both vertical shapes as separate cultural statements.... but from the standpoint of this view of the stockade, the totem pole and the government building are very far apart! I hope it may not always be so....

I try to paint each tiny flag so that it may be recognized, even the one way up on the top of the Peace Tower. We are all here in one place, many nations. Let there be no hidden agendas. Twice this afternoon I've heard drums and singing, but everything is quiet now. As the evening steals my light away I pack up and approach the compound, entering on the side where I've seen people going in all afternoon.  As soon as I step inside the gate I'm in the glow of a campfire circled by a wide ring of benches where a few men sit and stand and talk. Beyond them the lights of Ottawa twinkle over the partly frozen river. Sheltered by a blue tarp in front of the huge tipi a group of women sit around another fire. These must be caregivers of Chief Spence. A man with a long whispy black beard greets me and I show him my painting. "It's good."



Dear patrons and supporters,

This painting is for sale by auction to support our work on the 30 Years Later project, as we revisit places we studied over the past three decades. If you would like to purchase it, please send your bid to me   Bidding is open for one week from posting date, ending on 25 January at 4:18 pm eastern daylight time. The starting price is $250.   



5 comments:

  1. I've sent this message to the Governor General and also to the Prime Minister:

    Dear Governor General:

    As you may realize, many modern innovations, undertaken to improve efficiency or as applications of scientific theories, have, after prolonged trials, proven to be misguided and have had to be rolled back and replaced by re-implementations of traditional practices or institutions. The divine right of kings, formula-feeding of infants, and industrial disposal of wastes by dilution are conspicuous among these failed reforms, and have been replaced by representative parliaments, socially supported breast feeding, and restrictions on the release of pollutants.

    It's now clear to most Canadians that the market-economy model of human occupation of the Earth, with the attendant commodification of land, waters, and nonhuman species, is one of these failed experiments. This means that it's time to revert to a synthesis of the aboriginal/scientific understanding of a reverent relationship to Canada's land, water, and species-hitherto-treated-as-resources.

    Having watched their their land overrun for three centuries by commercial exploitation and bureaucratic clumsiness, the First Nations have melded an aboriginal sacred relationship with their land with reflection on the activities of commercial governments and corporations into a movement for human respect for the land and nonhuman species, and of equitable respect between human groups, beginning with respect for treaties signed with the Crown.

    I urge you to take a first step in the movement towards reverence for Canada by accepting Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence's invitation for you and the Prime Minister to meet with her and discuss these matters. She's in Ottawa, so it won't involve a long trip.

    I remind you that James and Hudson Bay are central to Canadian geography, and, from my own research, that Eric Hoffman determined that Attawapiskat is the meeting place of Canada - the only site where both the eastern and western haplotypes of Leopard Frogs have been taken, but in a region where the species is rapidly disappearing, perhaps as the result of human-spread disease. This coming together of geography makes Attawapiskat an excellent place to begin reforms of the human relationship with Canada.

    Frederick W. Schueler, Ph.D
    Reserch Curator
    ------------------------------------------------
    p.s. the status of Leopard Frogs around James Bay is documented in: Jean-François Desroches, Isabelle Picard, Frederick W. Schueler, and Louis-Philippe Gagnon . 2010. A Herpetological survey of the James Bay area of Québec and Ontario. 2010 (2011). Canadian Field-Naturalist 124(4):299-315

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  2. many of your fellow canadians agree with and support your good intentions. thanks, fred and aleta, for speaking for so many of us.

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  3. that is a beautifully, created rendition of the scene and the atmosphere surrounding it. if it is for sale, let me know and i will buy it.

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  4. You can contact me at to discuss purchase of a painting. Each new painting is up for auction by e-mail for one week from the date it was posted. The starting bid is $250.

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