Indigenous Artists and Cultural Identity in Canada


Indigenous art has played a significant role in shaping the cultural identity of Canada. It is a reflection of the rich history, traditions, and beliefs of Indigenous communities that have been passed down from generation to generation. One such artist who has made a name for herself in the world of Indigenous art is Shawna Boulette Grapentine. Born in Winnipeg, Canada, Shawna is a Cree-Ojibway artist known for her fine detail and vibrant colors in her paintings. Her Keep On The Sunny Side Art Card is part of our Indigenous Collection and represents her unique perspective on life. Each painting contains a piece of her heart and soul, childhood memories, and silent prayers for guidance and strength in making a difference in the world. Through her art, she hopes to inspire others to learn more about Indigenous culture and embrace its beauty. In this blog post, we will explore the significance of Indigenous artists like Shawna Boulette Grapentine in shaping cultural identity in Canada and how their art has evolved over time.

The Significance of Indigenous Artists and Cultural Identity

Indigenous art is a crucial aspect of cultural identity for Indigenous artists in Canada. It reflects their history, traditions, and beliefs through the use of symbols, colors, and patterns. This art form has been passed down from generation to generation as a means of preserving their heritage and culture. Indigenous art is not just an expression of creativity but also a way of life that has been practiced for thousands of years.

Indigenous artists use their artwork to tell stories about their ancestors, the land they inhabit, and their spiritual connections with nature. For example, Shawna Boulette Grapentine's Keep On The Sunny Side Art Card depicts a bright sun shining over the mountains with flowers blooming in the foreground. This painting represents her love for nature and how it plays an integral role in her life. Boulette Grapentine's Cree-Ojibway background influences her art style by incorporating traditional symbols such as dreamcatchers and medicine wheels into her work.

Indigenous art is not only significant for Indigenous artists but also for non-Indigenous people who want to learn about Indigenous culture. It provides insight into the history and traditions of Indigenous communities while also breaking down stereotypes and misconceptions. Through their artwork, Indigenous artists share their unique perspectives on life while also educating others about their culture.

Furthermore, Indigenous art has played a vital role in shaping Canadian cultural identity. It has become an integral part of Canadian society by showcasing the diversity and richness of Indigenous cultures across the country. Indigenous art festivals such as the Talking Stick Festival in Vancouver or the Manitoulin Island Pow Wow in Ontario have become popular events that celebrate Indigenous culture through music, dance, and visual arts.

The Evolution of Indigenous Art

The evolution of Indigenous art in Canada has been shaped by a long and complex history. Traditional Indigenous art is deeply rooted in the cultural practices and beliefs of Indigenous communities. It often features intricate designs, patterns, and symbols that reflect the natural world and spiritual beliefs. For example, Inuit carvings often depict animals such as polar bears, seals, and walruses, while Haida carvings feature bold lines and shapes inspired by the natural environment.

Contemporary Indigenous art has evolved to incorporate new techniques and materials while still maintaining a connection to traditional practices. Many contemporary Indigenous artists draw inspiration from their cultural heritage but also explore issues related to identity, colonization, and reconciliation. One example is Shawna Boulette Grapentine's Keep On The Sunny Side Art Card, which incorporates vibrant colors and fine details into a piece that reflects her Cree-Ojibway heritage.

Supporting Indigenous Artists and Communities

Indigenous art plays a significant role in preserving and promoting Indigenous culture. By supporting Indigenous artists and communities, we can help ensure that this cultural heritage is preserved for future generations. There are several ways to support Indigenous artists and communities, including buying Indigenous art and supporting Indigenous art organizations.

Buying Indigenous Art

Buying Indigenous art is an excellent way to support Indigenous artists directly. When you purchase art directly from an artist or an authorized dealer, you are supporting the artist's livelihood and helping them continue their work. However, it is essential to be mindful of ethical considerations when purchasing Indigenous art.

Firstly, it is crucial to ensure that the artist or dealer has the legal right to sell the artwork. Some unscrupulous dealers may attempt to pass off counterfeit or stolen artwork as authentic pieces made by Indigenous artists. To avoid this problem, it is best to purchase from reputable sources such as established galleries or online marketplaces that specialize in selling authentic Indigenous art.

Secondly, it is vital to respect the cultural significance of the artwork. Some pieces may be considered sacred or have special meaning within a particular community. It is essential to understand the context of the artwork before purchasing it and respect any restrictions on its use or display.

Finally, it is important to pay a fair price for the artwork. Many Indigenous artists face economic challenges due to systemic discrimination and lack of access to resources. Paying a fair price for their work helps support their livelihoods and ensures that they can continue creating beautiful pieces that promote their culture.

Supporting Indigenous Art Organizations

In addition to buying individual pieces of art, there are several ways to support larger organizations that promote and support indigenous artists and communities.

One example of such an organization is The Aboriginal Curatorial Collective (ACC). The ACC supports First Nations, Inuit, and Métis curators through professional development opportunities such as workshops and mentorship programs. They also organize exhibitions featuring contemporary indigenous artists across Canada.

Another organization worth mentioning is Indspire. Indspire supports indigenous students across Canada through scholarships and bursaries aimed at increasing access to post-secondary education. They also provide educational resources focused on promoting understanding of indigenous history, culture, and contemporary issues.

The Indian Residential School Survivors Society (IRSSS) provides support services for residential school survivors across Canada who have been affected by intergenerational trauma caused by residential schools' legacy. Their programs include counseling services, health supports, cultural healing programs aimed at rebuilding cultural identity after decades of forced assimilation into Western society.

By supporting these organizations financially or volunteering your time towards their initiatives can help make a positive impact on indigenous communities in Canada while promoting cultural awareness among non-indigenous people.


In conclusion, Indigenous art plays a crucial role in shaping cultural identity in Canada. It reflects the unique perspectives, histories, and traditions of Indigenous peoples and serves as a powerful tool for self-expression and storytelling. Through their art, Indigenous artists like Shawna Boulette Grapentine are able to share their experiences and connect with audiences in meaningful ways. As consumers, we can support Indigenous artists and communities by purchasing their work, attending cultural events, and learning about their histories and traditions. By doing so, we can help preserve Indigenous cultures and promote greater understanding and respect for these communities. It is our responsibility to recognize the value of Indigenous art and ensure that it continues to thrive for generations to come. Let us celebrate the beauty of Indigenous art and honor the contributions of these talented artists who have enriched our lives with their creativity and vision. Keep on the sunny side!