Hands-On Canadian History: First Nations Inspired Art

31 Days of Hands-On Canadian History Book

Pre-European Canada was full of cultural groups of varying native communities. Peoples like the Iroquois, Inuit, Algonquin, Blackfoot, and Haida, amongst many others, were this nations first peoples. Today these people are still proud of their heritage. Traditions and culture of the First Nations people are rich and vibrant, their stories are beautiful and wise, and the artwork is stunning.

Hands-On Canadian History: First Nations Art

There are many options for hands-on activities for studying the First Nations peoples of Canada before the Europeans arrived, but I decided to focus on the people who live on the West Coast – the Tlingit and Haida. The natives here are famous for their artwork and creativity of their totem poles – huge tree trunks carved into many animals and faces representing various spirits.

Make First Nations Inspired Art

West Coast art from the Haida and Tlingit peoples is bold and powerful, usually characterizing animals in a highly stylized form. Although it seems that most of their art in the past was in the carvings of the totem poles and other items, today you can find many beautiful pieces of flat art. Colours typically involve a dominating black, with various thick and thin lines, coupled with red and a teal-like blue, with white spaces showing. They use a lot of ovid shapes throughout the body of the art, creating a neat stacking blocks kind of effect.

Here are some examples of the artworks of the Tlingit. 

Materials Needed:

  • Canvas
  • Pencil
  • Paint brushes
  • Black, Red, Blue, and White paint
  • An inspirational image
  1. Pick an animal you would like to paint. Find an example of what it would look like and sketch your design onto your canvas lightly with pencil.
  2. Paint your design, using black as the main outline. I recommend waiting for each colour of paint to dry before adding the next colour. Touch up with white paint as needed.

Remember, the important thing to encourage is just to use the style as inspiration. There is no need to stress about perfection, or making an exact replica of the art of others. Just use it as a guideline for how you can craft something beautiful.

See all 31 Days of  Hands-on Canadian History.

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Lisa Marie Fletcher
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