Indian Group of Seven

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The Professional Native Indian Artists Incorporation, better known as the Indian Group of Seven, was a group of professional First Nations artists from Canada, founded in November 1973. The name is an allusion to the Group of Seven who were Canadian artists painting in the Western tradition.

The group consisted of Daphne Odjig, Alex Janvier, Jackson Beardy, Eddy Cobiness, Norval Morrisseau, Carl Ray and Joseph Sanchez.


In 1972, there was a joint exhibition in Winnipeg of Jackson Beardy, Alex Janvier and Daphne Odjig named "Treaty Numbers 23, 287 and 1171" referring to the Numbered Treaties of their respective bands. It was an exhibition where indigenous modern art was brought in front to the Canadian audience, for artistic recognition.

The successful exhibition was the precursor of the founding of the "Professional Native Indian Artists Association" in November 1973, in which Daphne Odjig was the driving force. At her home in Winnipeg, she invited Alex Janvier, Jackson Beardy, Eddy Cobiness, Norval Morrisseau, Carl Ray and Joseph Sanchez to discuss their mutual concerns about art.

These meetings provided a sense of community among the artists and a forum for criticism of each other's work. In November 1973 they proposed to formalise their movement as the "Professional Native Indian Artists Incorporation" (PNIAI), to be funded by the Department of Indian Affairs. PNIAI was incorporated in February 1974 by all seven members. Haida artist Bill Reid, although not formally signing on at the time, was considered the eighth member and participated in some of the group's shows.[1]

The group was better known as the "Indian Group of Seven". The informal name was given to them by Winnipeg Free Press reporter Gary Scherbain, referring to the highly esteemed "Group of Seven" of the 1920s who painted Canadian landscapes in an impressionistic style.

The "Indian Group of Seven" had many joint exhibitions in Canada. The last in which all participated was in Montreal in 1975. The group disbanded that year.

Political and social ideals[edit]

Beside combined forces to promote Aboriginal art into the Western art world, they had strong Ideals to a change the way the world looked at their art. They wanted a shift from an emphasis on "Indigenous (Native)" to "artistic" value and recognition. Their objectives were:

  • to develop a fund to enable artists to paint;
  • to develop a marketing strategy involving prestigious commercial galleries in order to enable exhibit their work;
  • to travel to aboriginal communities to stimulate young artists;
  • to establish a trust fund, using a portion of the sales of artworks, for scholarship programme for emerging artists.

These were high ideals in a time where Aboriginal peoples had only recently been given voting rights and in which they politically fought for civil rights. With these ideals, they were part of a movement which also included the "Triple K Co-operative Incorporated", a Native-run silk-screen organisation which was established around the same time.

Although the group as a whole was together briefly, their organizing was a crucial step in the development of the concept of Indigenous Native art as part of the Canadian cultural art world. The group has paved the way for younger generations to have their art professionally recognized.


  1. ^ Joseph Sanchez, "The Indian Group of Seven - The Formation of Professional Native Artists, Inc.", Witness: A Symposium on the Woodland School, Sudbury, 2007.

External links[edit]

General references[edit]

  • Bailey, Jan and Morgan Wood. Daphne Odjig: Four Decades of Prints. Kamloop Art Gallery, Kamloops, British Columbia, Canada, 2005. ISBN 1-895497-61-2
  • Martin, Lee-Ann and Robert Houle. The Art of Alex Janvier: His First Thirty Years, 1960-1990. Thunder Bay Art Gallery, Ontario, Canada, 1993. ISBN 0-920539-41-6
  • Native Art In Canada website, 2007
  • Hughes, Kenneth. The Life and Art of Jackson Beardy. Winnipeg: Canadian Dimension Publishers; Toronto: J. Lorimer, 1979. ISBN 0-88862-278-3