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Dec. 5, 2007

On behalf of the Government of Canada, we would like to express our sadness on the passing of Ojibwa artist, Norval Morrisseau. Mr.Morrisseau was unquestionably one of the greatest artists of his generation. He was a courageous Aboriginal painter who, through perseverance and faith in his gift, was able to break through enormous cultural and racial barriers to bring his art not just to Canada, but to the world.

Born on Sandy Lake Reserve in northwestern Ontario in 1931, Mr. Morrisseau began painting in 1959 and was discovered the very next year. He went on to become one of Canada's best known artists and was considered the founder of the "Woodland Art Movement". He drew strength from his powerful Ojibway name, "Copper Thunderbird," and signed all his work in Cree syllabics under that name.

Mr. Morrisseau was dubbed the "Picasso of the North" by the French Press in 1969 and is considered one of the most innovative artists of the 20th Century.

Presented with the Order of Canada in 1978, and recipient of numerous honourary doctorates and awards, Mr. Morrisseau was much more than the sum of the accolades that surrounded him. An inspiration to a generation of young Aboriginal artists that followed him, his art provided a direct link to the rich ancestral heritage of First Nations people. Mr. Morrisseau's passing is a great loss to the Aboriginal community, the arts and cultural community and all Canadians.

The Honourable Chuck Strahl The Honourable Josee Verner
Minister of Indian and Northern Minister of Canadian Heritage,
Affairs Canada and Federal Status of Women and
Interlocutor for Metis and Non Official Languages
-Status Indians
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OTTAWA, Dec. 4, 2007

"It is with great sadness that I acknowledge the passing of Norval Morrisseau today after a lengthy battle with Parkinson's disease at the age of 75," said National Chief Phil Fontaine.

"Norval was probably best known for inventing the Woodlands style of art. His success did not come without a price. He faced many personal struggles over the years. We are very grateful for his contributions to First Nations, Canada and the world."

"Norval Morrisseau was the key figure at the centre of an Indigenous art movement in Canada in the 1960s that broke through stereotypes, racism and discrimination in that era. He struggled to have his art shown in fine art galleries," said National Chief Fontaine. "And he succeeded. His work has been on display in the most prestigious museums in Canada and around the world. It was a tremendous breakthrough when his art was featured prominently at Expo '67 in Montreal as part of the "Indian" pavilion."

Morrisseau received an honorary degree from the Royal Academy of Arts and was a member of The Order of Canada, the highest civilian honor in Canada. In 1989 he was the only Canadian painter to be invited to participate in the "Magicians of The Earth" exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in Paris, France. He also had numerous solo shows across Canada and the US. Most recently, Morrisseau travelled to Ottawa where he was honoured by parliamentarians upon receiving a 2008 Lifetime Achievement Award by the National Aboriginal Achievement Foundation.

"Norval Morrisseau's courageous and often controversial approach to his work was instrumental in encouraging First Nations people to know their spirituality, history and culture in order to better understand themselves. He taught us to be proud of who we are. He inspired countless other First Nations people to pursue a career in the arts. His legacy will remain with us and continue to inspire all Canadians for many generations to come," added National Chief Phil Fontaine.

"On behalf of the Assembly of First Nations, we offer our condolences to the family and friends of Norval Morrisseau."

The Assembly of First Nations is the national organization representing First Nations citizens in Canada.
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Dec. 5, 2007

Canada has lost an internationally renowned master artist who captivated the world with his unique paintings of dreams and visions emerging from his rich Ojibway heritage.

Norval Henry Morrisseau, Shaman Artist, passed away yesterday, continuing his spirit journey while leaving the world enriched by his artistic legacy defined by bold striking colour that will echo for generations to come. Countless Native artists have been influenced by Mr. Morrisseau's unique and innovative style, known internationally as the Woodland or Anishnabe School of Art.

Less than a month ago, Mr. Morrisseau was honoured in Ottawa by the House of Commons upon the announcement of his selection as the recipient of the 2008 Lifetime Achievement Award, the highest honour bestowed on Aboriginal people in Canada by the National Aboriginal Achievement Foundation. He was accompanied by his longtime and beloved friend Gabor Vadas.

Roberta Jamieson, President of the National Aboriginal Achievement Foundation, offered deep condolences to Mr. Morrisseau's family, friends, and community. "In establishing a new and profound style of art as his gift to Canada and the world, Norval broke new ground and old barriers, really becoming the first Native artist to be accepted and recognized in Canada" Ms. Jamieson said.

Norval Morrisseau's Lifetime Achievement Award will be presented by the Foundation posthumously as part of a moving honouring ceremony on March 7th, 2008 at the Sony Centre in Toronto, the venue of the 15th annual gala event.

"We at the National Aboriginal Achievement Foundation feel blessed and honoured to have had the opportunity to witness the standing tribute of the House of Commons for Norval's enduring legacy" Ms. Jamieson said. "This esteemed recognition was timely and personal".

Norval Morrisseau now continues his journey to the spiritual world he so vividly expressed in his work. In his own words, "I go to the inner places, I go to the source, I go to the house of invention".

National Aboriginal Achievement Foundation
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TORONTO, Dec. 5, 2007

I was saddened to learn of the death on December 4th of First Nations artist, shaman, and storyteller, Norval Morrisseau.

His paintings exploded onto the Canadian art scene in the early 1960s, blazing a trail for other indigenous artists and sculptors. Although he was self-taught, his blending of Ojibwa and European influences that became known as the Woodland School of native art, placed him among the first rank of artists. He later repudiated Woodland as a media construct, and formed his own Thunderbird School of Shamanistic Arts, developing the exuberant, neon-like brilliance of colour that was to become his hallmark.

Throughout his life, Mr. Morrisseau fought and conquered many demons, and became a role model for young aboriginal people. His courageous struggle
against Parkinson's Disease in latter years was an inspiring testimony to the
ability of the human spirit.

I join all Ontarians in mourning the passing of a Canadian icon.

For further information: Nanda Casucci-Byrne, Office of the Lieutenant
Governor, (416) 325-7780,
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