Collection Count + Care with Norval Morrisseau

Collection Count + Care seeks relationships within and conversations across the collection. What stories does the collection tell?

Prise en compte, prise à cœur cherche à tisser des liens et des dialogues entre les œuvres de la collection. Quelles histoires la collection raconte-t-elle?


Norval Morrisseau is considered the Mishomis (grandfather) for Indigenous contemporary art in Canada. His work represents the origins of Woodlands School style and offers insight into Indigenous-led experiences.

Many of Morrisseau’s traditional teachings came from Moses Potan Nanakonagos, an Ojibwe shaman and Morrisseau’s beloved grandfather. In the passing of intergenerational knowledge, Nanakonagos filled Morrisseau’s heart with prophecies of love, value, community, and reciprocity, the same teachings as the Seven Sacred Grandfathers and the four-directional Medicine Circle. At age six, he attended St. Joseph’s Indian Residential School in Fort William, Ontario, which disturbed his personal development as he experienced sexual and psychological abuse. Later, when Morrisseau became highly ill, a medicine woman named Agnes found healing within his unconscious, where she encountered the Thunderbird people. Having never seen such light and power, she informed Morrisseau that he will go through many hardships but accomplish many great things for his people. Morrisseau then received the name Miskwaabik Animikii (Copper Thunderbird). 

Morrisseau approached art to tell a story. He drew from his Anishinaabe roots, from Christianity and from his later-formed spirituality Eckankar, in conceptualizing vision quests, spirit-beings, shamanism and traditional teachings. Morrisseau states, “We can learn how to heal people with colour.… My art reminds a lot of people of what they are.… Many times people tell me that I’ve cured them of something, whatever’s ailing them.… It was the colour of the painting that did that.”

Until 2018, Agnes did not have any Morrisseaus in the collection, and now there are sixteen, opening possibilities for engagement with his work and that of other Woodlands School artists.

Curated by Carleigh Candice Mignonne Milburn

Installation view of Collection Count + Care with Norval Morrisseau.

Installation view of Collection Count + Care with Norval Morrisseau.

Installation view of Collection Count + Care with Norval Morrisseau.

Installation view of Collection Count + Care with Norval Morrisseau.


Norval Morrisseau, Sacred Medicine Bear, 1974, acrylic on canvas. Gift of Guardian Capital Group Limited, 2020

Norval Morrisseau, Untitled, before 1980, acrylic on canvas. Gift of Nicholas and Barbara Diamant, 2018

Norval Morrisseau, Composition with Loons, Shaman and Apprentice, Shaman Conjuring Speech, The Dawn, Young Gulls Watching, 1979, serigraph on paper, 320/350, The Art of Norval Morrisseau portfolio (Methuen Publications, 1979). Gift of Guardian Capital Group Limited, 2020


Johnson, Johnston and Macrae Investment Group, part of CIBC Private Wealth Wood Gundy is the sponsor for Collection Count + Care and its related programs.

Collection Count + Care videos are available on Digital Agnes, Vimeo and YouTube. Funded by the Museums Assistance Program, Digital Access to Heritage grant.
Image Credits

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