George Clutesi

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George Clutesi
Born 1905
Port Alberni, British Columbia
Died 27 February 1988 (aged 83)
Victoria, British Columbia
Occupation Artist, Actor & Writer

George Clutesi, CM (1905 - 27 February 1988), was a Tseshaht artist, actor and writer, as well as an expert on and spokesman for Native Canadian culture.

Biography[edit]

Clutesi was born in Port Alberni, British Columbia in 1905. He was raised in his mother's home village after her death when he was four. His father and aunts recognized his ability at an early age and encouraged him to develop his talent. He sought refuge in his art from the pressures brought to bear on him at the Alberni Residential School. At the school, the children were driven to forget their heritage and culture in an effort to force them to assimilate into white culture.[1]

As an adult, he worked as a fisherman and as a pile driver in order to support his wife and five children. With the encouragement of friends, he began to paint in oils and to exhibit his work during the 1940s and 1950s. Emily Carr was so impressed with his work that in her will she left him her brushes, oils and unused canvases. In 1947, he began to contribute essays to the Native Canadian newspaper, The Native Voice. While recovering from an on the job injury, he met the chief of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation in the Vancouver area, Ira Dilworth. With Dilworth's encouragement, he told stories from his heritage on CBC radio. He then wrote a play about the culture of the First Nation's peoples, They were a Happy Singing People.[2] In 1961, he addressed the British Columbia Historical Association on Northwest Coast Native American art urging the preservation of Native American culture.[3]

In 1959, he received the British Columbia Centennial Award and the Canadian Centennial Medal in 1967.[4] Clutesi was commissioned to paint a mural for Expo 67. The University of Victoria granted him an Honorary Doctorate in Law in 1971.[5] He was made a Member of the Order of Canada in 1973.[6]

Clutesi became one of British Columbia's first Native writers to gain recognition. His Son of Raven, Son of Deer (1967) was one of the first books written about First Nation culture by a Native American.[citation needed] It was followed by Potlatch (1969), which portrayed the Native American ritual. In the late 1970s, Clutesi appeared in four movies: Prophecy, Dreamspeaker, Nightwing, and Spirit of the Wind.[7] He won a Canadian Film Award for his portrayal of a Native shaman in Dreamspeaker. [8] Clutesi also appeared in a number television programs.[9]

He died in Victoria in 1988, not long after his final television appearance on the CBC's first nations TV series Spirit Bay, in which he played an elder who helps the local children deal with questions about their native culture.[10]

Filmography[edit]

  • Dreamspeaker (1976)
  • Prophecy (1979)
  • Nightwing (1979)
  • Spirit of the Wind (1979)
  • Kelly (1981)
  • Gentle Sinners (1983)
  • Running Brave (1983)
  • Isaac Littlefeathers 1984
  • Toby McTeague 1986

TV series[edit]

References[edit]