Indian Group of Seven By Smith, Matthew Ryan
The Indian Group of Seven is an ironic title given by a reporter from the Winnipeg Free Press to a collective of Indigenous artists from Canada, including 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). Their name is a direct reference to the Group of Seven, a collective of Canadian artists who used the Canadian landscape as their primary subject matter in the 1920s and 1930s. The Indian Group of Seven emerged soon after Montreal’s 1967 International and Universal Exposition, and the 1969 release of the Statement of the Government of Canada on Indian policy—events that were heavily criticized for supporting colonial legacies and supressing Indigenous rights. The Group’s artwork reacted against such politics. They sought to break cultural and political stereotypes by demanding recognition as professional artists, by challenging established meanings of contemporary Indigenous art, and reconsidering social relationships to Indigenous peoples. The Indian Group of Seven helped to change the preconceived notion that Indigenous artists were preoccupied with traditional craftwork such as weaving, pottery, and carving.