Google doodle honors Copper Thunderbird on Canada’s National Indigenous Peoples Day
Today on Canada’s National Indigenous Peoples Day, Google doodle on Norval Morrisseau, an indigenous Canadian artist to honor his paintings that beautifully captured the stories of Indigenous tradition. Today’s Doodle—illustrated by Anishinaabe guest artists Blake Angeconeb and Danielle Morrison.
Norval Morrisseau’s Ojibwa name is Copper Thunderbird. Morrisseau is widely considered the grandfather of contemporary Indigenous art in Canada, and his work paved the way for the emergence of Indigenous artwork in mainstream galleries. He is also known as the "Picasso of the North". Morrisseau is from the Bingwi Neyaashi Anishinaabek First Nation.
Morrisseau created works depicting the legends of his people, the cultural and political tensions between native Canadian and European traditions, his existential struggles, and his deep spirituality and mysticism.
Norval Morriseau was born on the Sand Point Ojibwa reserve in Ontario, Canada, on March 14, 1932. He was raised by his maternal grandparents, who helped instill his pride for Anishinaabe culture and traditions. At the age of six, Morriseau was forced to leave his home and attend residential school—a place where traditional Native ceremonies were banned and speaking traditional languages was forbidden.
Despite the trauma and hardships he experienced in his youth, Morrisseau was fueled by his desire to preserve his people’s traditions. His grandfather, a Shaman trained within the Midewiwin spiritual tradition, had introduced Morrisseau to shamanism and passed down the stories and legends of the Ojibwa people.
As Morrisseau entered adulthood, he began exploring ways to incorporate Anishinabek oral traditions and imagery through his artwork. In 1962, he hosted an exhibit at the Pollock Gallery in Toronto, marking his official debut in the art world and the first time an Indigenous artist was featured in a major contemporary art gallery in Canada. His art style became known as Woodland painting, combining rich colors, birch-bark scroll etchings and, oftentimes, skeletal animals and people.
Morrisseau’s work represented a unique intersection between traditional Indigenous imagery and modern art styles. His path to success has not been simple - Morrisseau’s artwork has unfortunately been the subject of ongoing art fraud and plagiarism cases, as many sought to capitalize on the value earned through his unique style.
Over his multi-decade career, Morrisseau’s artwork was featured in exhibits across Canada, Europe and the world. Some of his notable paintings include Moose Dream Legend (1962), Conquest of the Thunderbird (1982), Androgyny (1983), and Observations of the Astral World (1994). Morrisseau also leveraged his growing influence to advocate and support emerging First Nations artists, such as Daphne Odjig and Roy Thomas. He was an original member of the Indian Group of Seven—a group dedicated to uplifting the next generations of Indigenous artists. Morrisseau’s contributions led to his recognition as the grandfather of contemporary Indigenous art in North America.
Today, we can see Morrisseau’s legacy recognized on the global stage as a renowned artist, a revolutionary, and an Indigenous icon. His ability to shatter societal, sexual, and commonly held stereotypes exemplifies the perseverance and power that countless Indigenous peoples experience. On National Indigenous Peoples Day and every day, we look to celebrate these achievements and recognize the contributions that Indigenous peoples have had and continue to have on Turtle Island.
Thank you, Morrisseau for sharing the stories of your Indigenous culture through art with the world!