Wednesday, January 30, 2013


Hacia el Sol
When doing my study of birds and saints I come across some wonderfully interesting art. This one is a local (Seattle) artist, whose colors and patterns I find fascinating. For me his work is very reminiscent of the Impressionists but has a lot of Expressionism thrown into the mix, esp. Gustave Klimt. Leaping salmon, birds and butterflies, and other images, are composed of dense dabs, dashes and dots of thin pigment.

ALFREDO ARREGUIN was in Mexico in 1935,  developed as an artist and consolidated his professional career in Seattle, Washington, where he has lived almost continuously since 1956.  His creative vision derives inspiration from sources that include art forms from Korea and Japan, where he served in the U.S. military. The memories of his country of birth, generate a distinctive character on his works, especially in his use of colors.

Mexico’s vibrant and ascetic culture, its colorful arts and crafts, its tumultuous and glorious history 
weave dreamlike patterns, blending with cool and serene are of the Northwest. His lush landscapes comprised of patterns are intricate geometrics that hide or reveal larger portraits of animals or people.

Read more here:
San Francisco

Having an MFA his work is found around the world. In 1994, the Smithsonian Institution acquired his triptych Sueño (Dream: Eve Before Adam) for inclusion in the collection of the National Museum of American Art. A year later, in 1995, Arreguín received the highest recognition (OHTLI Award) given by the Mexican government to the commitment of distinguished individuals who perform activities that contribute to promote Mexican culture abroad.

More recently, his success has been cemented by an invitation to show his work in the Framing Memory: Portraiture Now exhibition, at the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery. One of his paintings included in this show, The Return to Aztlán, will remain in the permanent collection of the gallery. Thus, Arreguín's work is now in the permanent collections of two Smithsonian Museums: The National Museum of American Art and the National Portrait Gallery.

Nuestra Senora de la Selva, 1988,
Describing Arreguin’s work, Jose Luis Alcubilla writes, “he constructs a double reality: the one we see everyday, and the perplexing one that he offers to us like a profoundly vital feast of the earth whose expansion touches everything. In his portraits, therefore, Arreguín recreates a memory with which he shows us that life is a flourishing face.”

Alfredo Arreguin: Patterns of Dreams and Nature
(The Jacob Lawrence Series on American Artists) Lauro Flores, Author, Alfredo Arreguin, Illustrator

Sunday, January 27, 2013


Bella- the day she came to  us

Koko the day he came to us- with Bella
We consider ourselves very fortunate to have two Porties in the monastery, thanks to the generosity of a dear friend, who raised the breed for over 25 years and was considered one of the best breeders in NA. When I taught workshops across the country in the field of animal assisted therapy for children, I was often given a dog for the sessions to demonstrate techniques. When I came to the NW I met Joanne Forsythe (Helm's Alee Kennel) and her amazing PWDs.  My favorite was a gentle wonderful female named Summertime.  Later when I moved to Shaw, Joanne offered her to us, but at that point we had too many dogs and did not feel that a valuable show dog belonged on our rough and tumble farm..  After we lost our Kerry Blue five years ago, Joanne said now you are getting a PWD, and that is how our beloved (ISLA)BELLA came into our lives to be followed 2 years later by the inimitable KOKOPELLI. Little did I know when I fell in love with Summer that I would one day own her niece.

Bella rode in "style" to her shows

Bella's last show
The PORTUGUESE WATER DOG originated centuries ago along Portugal's coast. A PWD (or Portie) is first described in 1297 in a monk’s account of a drowning sailor who was pulled from the sea by a dog with a "black coat, the hair long and rough, cut to the first rib and with a tail tuft". This seafaring breed was prized by fishermen for a spirited, yet obedient nature, and a robust, medium build that allowed for a full day's work in and out of the water where they were taught to herd fish into fishermen's nets, to retrieve lost tackle or broken nets, and to act as couriers from ship to ship, or ship to shore.  The Portuguese Water Dog is a swimmer and diver of exceptional ability and stamina.  They   are also spirited, self-willed and brave.
Isla Bella

Portuguese Water Dogs rode in bobbing fishing trawlers as they worked their way from the warm Atlantic waters of Portugal to the frigid fishing waters off the coast of Iceland where the fleets caught cod to bring home. Portuguese Water Dogs were often taken with sailors during the Portuguese discoveries.  It is little known that they were also used as herders. After the fishermen returned from the seas they would often go back to their family farm, where there was livestock, such as sheep and goats.

The couch-dog

The closest relatives of the PWD are widely thought to be the Kerry Blue Terrier, the Barbet of France and the Standard Poodle. Like Poodles and several other water dog breeds, PWDs are highly intelligent, can have curly coats, have webbed toes for swimming, and do not shed.

Another couch potato
Referred to as the Cao de Agua (dog of water) in its native Portugal, the breed started disappearing in the early 20th century when technology made his daily job somewhat obsolete, but Dr. Vasco Bensaude, a wealthy Portuguese shipping magnate and dog fancier, saved the breed.

Dr. António Cabral was the founder of the Avalade kennels in Portugal. He registered his first PWD in 1954, after Bensaude had pioneered the re-establishment of the breed in Portugal. Cabral worked with Carla Molinari, Deyanne Miller and others to establish PWDs in the US. The "Mark of Cabral" is a triangular shape of different color/textured hair, usually a few inches from the base of the tail. Both Bella and Koko have that triangle on their tails showing they go back to those early lines.

Koko's color his first year
Deyanne Miller is the single person most responsible for the rise of the PWD in America. In 1972, the Millers, along with 14 other people, formed the Portuguese Water Dog Club of America, Inc.  She worked with dogs from both the Cintron and Cabral lineages to establish a stable genetic pool of PWDs in the United States at her Farmion kennels in CT.

The Guard
PWDs are loyal companions and alert guards (at least our Koko is) and are highly intelligent. Portuguese Water dogs make excellent companions as they are loving, independent, and intelligent and are easily trained in obedience and agility skills. Once introduced, they are generally friendly to strangers, and enjoy being petted. They also make  good therapy dogs.

Because they are working dogs, PWDs are generally content in being at their master's side, awaiting directions, and, if they are trained, they are willing and able to follow complex commands. They learn very quickly, seem to enjoy the training, and have a long memory for the names of objects. These traits and their non-shedding coats mean they excel at the various Service Dog roles such as hearing dogs (assistance dogs for the deaf), mobility dogs, and seizure response dogs.

Bella with M Dilecta- on the farm
A PWD usually stays in proximity to its owners, indoors as well as outdoors. This is typical of the breed. Though very gregarious animals, these dogs will typically bond with one primary or alpha family member. Some speculate that this intense bonding arose in the breed because the dogs were selected to work in proximity to their masters on small fishing boats, unlike other working dogs such as herding dogs and water dogs that range out to perform tasks.

A true water dog
In any case, the modern PWD, whether employed on a boat or kept as a pet or a working dog, loves water, attention, and prefers to be engaged in activity within sight of a human partner. This is not a breed to be left alone for long periods of time, indoors or out.

While they are very good companions to people who understand what they need, the PWD is not for everyone. Because of their intelligence and working drive, they require regular intensive exercise as well as mental challenges. They are gentle and patient and according to the literature they are not "couch potatoes", (photos of our 2 show a different story) and boredom may cause them to become destructive.

Bella's sire is the famous  Bo'sun an American/Canadian Champion and two time Westminster Breed winner (2003/2004). Bo'sun was the number 10 PWD in the US (2003) and the number 1 PWD in Canada (2003). He also earned his Working Water Dog Title and his Courier Title. Bo'sun is Canine Good Citizen (CGC), and is a TDI therapy dog.

 Bo'sun was bred by Joanne and shown under Agua Dulce Kennel in Olympia (where Bella was born). We decided to show her at  6 mo. just for the fun of it, since I had been showing sheep and llamas for years and loved the competition. Bella showed in 6 shows (sometimes as large as 1300 dogs, tho few PWD's.)  As a puppy her competition was sparse and she let me know early on that the ring was not for her- she longed for her farm life!

Ever the clown
Koko also comes from a line of show dogs (he was born in New Mexico out of stock from Joanne) and like Bella, loves the farm. He is also a more"typical" PDW. He loves water and would be in a thimble size pool if he would fit!  Bella hates baths, goes only up to her knees at the beach and generally avoids water except to drink.

 Their temperaments cannot be more different.  From the time we got her at 8 weeks of age, Bella has been almost "the perfect" dog.  Joanne would daily send me tidbits of information to watch for this or that re. Bella, but she just never fit the book. (Animals don't read the same books we do!)  Those who have known her from the beginning marvel at her kind, gentle manner.  We never heard her bark until Koko showed on the scene and even now it is rare- usually at a raccoon on the porch.

Koko truly fits the bill for this breed. He  has been a "hand-full" but finally having turned three, gets the picture! He is more openly affectionate to all in the Community, than the quieter Bella, but can be leery of strangers, especially men and he thinks he has to guard us. He is great with the 4H kids who come and like Bella loves to travel in the car, esp when birding.

They are not groomed like PWDs in the world as they live on a farm, which is sometimes muddy and yours truly is the groomer- so they sometimes look like breeds of another ilk. Those in the know can tell the breed by their tail, and its flag cut.

Koko's color today
Both dogs, along with their "big sister" Shanley (Chocolate Lab) bring
daily joy to the monastic Community and guests.

Isla Bella

Shanley- sunning in the vegetable garden

Saturday, January 26, 2013


Joe Ciardello

My community teases me about my "obsession" with birding. I like to call it one of my many passions. One has only to see the very funny movie: THE BIG YEAR to get the point. (The book is even better).  A wonderful read is LIFE LIST: A Woman's Quest for the World's Most Amazing Birds by Olivia Gentile. One does not have to be a birder, or even like birds, to follow the travels of this amazing, yet perhaps tragic, woman.

The Big Year- Steve Martin, Owen Wilson, Jack Black
After her four kids were nearly grown and she was about to turn 50, PHOEBE SNETSINGER
was told she had less than a year to live. A St. Louis housewife and avid backyard birder, she decided to spend that year traveling the world in search of birds. As it turned out, her doctors were wrong, but Phoebe's passion had been lit and she spent the next eighteen years crisscrossing the globe in search of new birds. She contracted malaria in Zambia, nearly fell to her death in Zaire, and was kidnapped and attacked on the outskirts of Port Moresby. Yet none of this curbed her enthusiasm. By the time she died in a bus accident while birding in Madagascar in 1999, Phoebe was world renowned and had seen more species, 8,500 of the roughly 10,000, than anyone in history.

To give you some perspective on just what an fantastic accomplishment seeing 8,000 birds is, consider this:
Only 300 or so people have ever hit the 5,000 mark. Only 100 people have made it to 6,000 and only 12 or so have seen more than 7,000. In addition to money, serious birding requires time and strict adherence to the rules. There are birders who've been blacklisted for cheating and others that have fought over what actually constitutes a sighting (some birders say if you "hear" a bird, you've seen it.) Experts say that such numbers today are almost impossible, given the difficulty of fast travel after 9/11.

As an amateur ornithologist, Phoebe took copious field notes, especially regarding distinctive subspecies, many of which have since been reclassified as full species. For her, the birds were the goal, to be savored and appreciated; not the number on a list. Through exhaustive study, she knew the birds before she left on a trip and she cataloged everything. Experienced guides would say of her that when she was along, it was like having an extra leader. Unlike some of those who boast of high bird lists, she was absolutely scrupulous as to her identifications. She would not count the bird unless she was certain.  She was also generous to a fault, sharing her knowledge with anyone she encountered on her many trips.

"Except for one thing, this book would rate as a great adventure novel and fictional psychological portrait, about a woman's obsession with bird-watching, its effect on her relationships with her husband and her four children, and the horrifying mishaps that she survived on each continent--until the last mishap. But the book isn't that great novel, because instead it's a great true story: the biography of Phoebe Snetsinger, who set the world record for bird species seen, after growing up in an era when American women weren't supposed to be competitive or have careers. Whether or not you pretend that it's a novel, you'll enjoy this powerful, moving story."—Jared Diamond, Pulitzer-Prize-winning author

I was envious of Phoebe's adventures and the many birds she saw (my life list is almost to 1300), but at times I found myself thinking this is one of the saddest stories I have ever read. Like Phoebe, I am passionate about birds and I like to do my "homework" before I hit  new  fields, and love sharing my finds, but unlike her, birding is not an obsession which consumes me.

Phoebe also wrote a book  which was published after she died: Birding on Borrowed Time.


Thursday, January 24, 2013


Considered to have been the most beautiful princess in Europe, ELIZABETH of HESSE and by Rhine, or ‘Ella’ as she was known, was a  granddaughter of Queen Victoria and the daughter of Princess Alice of Great Britain and Grand Duke Louis of Hesse. Born in 1864, her privileged, happy  childhood was touched by tragedy by the death of her young mother. Close to Queen Victoria, Ella spent some of her happiest times in Britain.

Queen Victoria with Victoria, Ella & Alix

At 20, much against the wishes of her  grandmother, who despised everything Russian, Ella became engaged to Grand Duke Serge Alexandrovich, the authoritarian younger brother of Tsar Alexander III. It was at their wedding that her younger sister, Alix, formed a love match with the future Tsar Nicholas II; an event which not only  sealed the fate of both sisters, but that of the Imperial House of Romanov. But for these two marriages, the history of Russia might have been very different.

With the assassination of her husband, Ella renounced society and, against considerable opposition, founded the first religious Order of its kind in Russia, working for the poor and destitute of Moscow. Though loved for her charitable works and pioneering achievements, Ella, like Nicholas, Alexandra, and fourteen members of their family, met a brutal death at the hands of the Bolsheviks.

 In 1909, she sold off her magnificent collection of jewels and other luxurious possessions; even her wedding ring was not spared. With the proceeds she founded her order. She soon opened a hospital, a chapel, a pharmacy and an orphanage on its grounds. Elizabeth and her nuns worked tirelessly among the poor and the sick of Moscow. She often visited Moscow’s worst slums and did all she could to help alleviate the suffering of the poor.

She could have fled and saved herself on many occasions, but rather chose to live her life serving the people. At the height of the Russian Revolution ( 1918), she was taken captive to Siberia where, having been clubbed with rifle butts, she was hurled alive into a disused mineshaft and left to die of her injuries with another nun. Later retrieved, her incorrupt body was eventually laid to rest on the Mount of Olives. She was subsequently canonized by the Russian Orthodox Church as the Holy Imperial Martyr Saint Elisabeth Romanova.

John Roberts- Westminster Abbey
If you're a true history buff  then I would recommend Christopher Warwick's Ella: Princess, Saint and Martyr. Not for the faint of heart, as it is full of specific details and accounts of events often taken directly from the family's personal letters at the time. It paints a vivid picture of what life was like in the family of Queen Victoria and of her children and her grandchildren, and the life of Elisabeth (Ella) in Russia before and just after the Bolshevik Revolution. Much has been written about the frivolous and aloof  Russian royalty, but in Ella's case, nothing could have been farther from the truth.

My only problem with the book was its slow beginning as I tried to figure out who was who. Queen Victoria's children and grandchildren married into every royal house in the western world.  A chart detailing the family relationships would have helped in identifying some of the  family members mentioned.

She is one of the ten 20th-century martyrs from across the world who are depicted in statues above the Great West Door of  Westminster Abbey, London, England.

Monday, January 21, 2013


Martyrs of Uganda- Joseph Kalinda
In the past few years our chaplains at the monastery have been from Africa. The first from Tanzania and the second from the Dem. Republic of the Congo. On this day of the 2nd inauguration of our first Black President and Dr. Martin King Day, I think this saint is fitting to present.

Most Catholics are familiar with the Martyrs of Uganda as their feast on June 3 is now celebrated as a memorial.

St. Charles  Lwanga and his companions were a group of Christians (both Roman Catholics and Anglicans) who were murdered by Mwanga II, the Kabaka (King) of Buganda, between 1885 and 1887.  Some martyrs were young boys. They were slain with horrible cruelty. All were converts of the White Fathers founded by Charles Cardinal Lavigerie in 1868.

"The African martyrs add another page to the Church’s roll of honor – an occasion both of mourning and of joy. These African martyrs herald the dawn of a new age. If only the mind of man might be directed not toward persecutions and religious conflicts but toward a rebirth of Christianity and civilization! Africa has been washed by the blood of these latest martyrs, and first of this new age (and, God willing, let them be the last, although such a holocaust is precious indeed). Africa is reborn free and independent."  - from the homily at the canonization of Saint Charles Lwanga and companions by Pope Paul VI

The 20th century, which has been the most violent in recorded history, has created a roll of Christian martyrs far exceeding that of any previous period. I recently came across a recent young martyr from South Africa.

Icon- Mark Dukes

MANCHE MASEMOLA, born in 1910, at  age 18 joined a class to prepare for baptism in her native Sekhukhuneland (Africa). She attended classes with her cousin Lucia, against the wishes of her parents. When she came home she would be beaten by her parents. Manche found herself saying that she would be baptized in her own blood. Her parents took her to a spirit priest, claiming that she had been bewitched. She was prescribed a traditional remedy, which her parents made her consume by beating her. She died shortly after without having been baptized. Manche's mother denied this but 40 years later was herself baptized.

  Manche was declared a martyr by the Church of the Province of Southern Africa (now the Anglican Church of Southern Africa) in less than ten years.

She is one of the ten 20th-century martyrs from across the world who are depicted in statues above the Great West Door of Westminster Abbey, London. Interestingly enough Dr. Martin King Jr. is another of the ten.

John Roberts- Westminster Abbey
John Roberts

Saturday, January 19, 2013


Arturo Olivas- Queen of Angels

My artist friend Arturo Francisco Olivas (Blog 7/26/12)) just got a reprieve from a "death sentence" 16 months ago from stage 4 lung cancer. This week his oncologist told him that MRI’s indicate there are no new metastases, and his tumors are shrinking. The doctor wants to see Arturo less frequently and said his current treatment has been so effective that his cancer could remain in abeyance for another 2-3 years. He hopes that by that time there will be new advances in cancer treatment that Arturo will be eligible for.

"Arturo has a good life, and he really enjoys his life. This comes not from the pursuit of pleasures and self-gratification, but through having a sense of purpose and from being of service to others. He continues... with a joy of living, sense of purposefulness, and continued compassion towards the misfortunes of others. Last Sunday, he took a dozen knit caps downtown to distribute among the homeless."
(Br. Christopher)

A. Olivas- Trinity
Now we pray for one our Oblates, Dave, who also in undergoing treatment for stage 3 inoperable lung cancer. Dave and his wife, Carole,  were among the local pilgrims who traveled to Rome for the canonization of St. Kateri in October.  That trip was very grace-filled for both and has been a source of strength in this new journey.

"We had a great conversation about our prayers, and the way we feel about faith.  Both of us independently had come to the point of accepting God's will, trusting Him, and not railing against reality.  We received an encouraging note from our good friend, Mother Dilecta of Our Lady of the Rock, that contained that very same message:   There is great comfort in--"Be it done unto me according to thy will." During Advent we read from a book by Richard John Neuhaus every evening, and the reading focused on the same thing in a beautiful way.  The combination of those three messages was very powerful, and comforting, to us. We are not giving up; we are just accepting and moving forward with hope and love." (Carole)

Dave (middle) & Carole (right) with Oblates & OLR Community
"Thanks so much to everybody for all the prayers and good wishes and phone calls and love.  It is really helping me.  I think it's important that you know where I'm coming from.  I don't want to make too fine a point of this, but for over 20 years I've been working to develop my spiritual life to be able to accept the Lord's will in matters like this.  I don't think I've reached the pinnacle, but I know I'm a heck of a lot better about that than I was 20 years ago.  Accepting the Lord's will does not mean giving up, and rest assured my docs and I are working and planning and implementing the most creative and aggressive regimen for what I have.  As the old joke goes, as I stand on the roof in the flood, I am prepared to take the boat or the helicopter that the Lord sends, and I do hope he sends one, but when it's all said and done, I know the Lord has what's best for me in his plans."

While Arturo ministers to his 3rd Order Franciscan Community, cares for the poor, and provides us with more of his amazing art, and Dave and Carole are active in their parish as well as Oblates to us, we can only be inspired by their faith and hope and love.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013


Sue Coleman- Vancouver Island, Canada

In several blogs last year I told you about the Shaw 4-H Birding Club's project on crows. This year they are doing their project on the Steller's Jay.  The kids built a blind where they can observe the jays at feeding time.

The Blind

Each child is assigned certain behaviors to watch for, such as aggressiveness with other birds, their vocalizations, and what  they eat. And of course they record the weather, time of day, and other variables. This study helps the children in observation, preparing them for other aspects in their lives. I am grateful to a grandmother and a father who taught me at a young age to observe interactions in nature.

But what of this colorful, striking, noisy bird?  In the northwest we have a species different from other areas of the west. It is in the corvid family, the same as our friends the crows and ravens.

Aidan in blind

This jay is named after the German naturalist Georg Wilhelm Steller,  first discovered on a Russian boat in Alaska in 1741. In 1788 a scientist named the bird after Steller. He also named two other animals after him: the Steller’s Sea Lion (which lives locally in our cold seas) and the Steller’s Sea Eagle.

This striking bird has a long, prominent, shaggy crest on its head and a long tail. The top of its body is black which extends midway down its back with the rest of the body and wings an iridescent blue.

Photo- W. Ammann

Steller Jays love the coniferous and mixed forest wilderness spending much of their time exploring the forest canopy, flying slowly as if they float.  They can often be seen sitting quietly in treetops, surveying the surroundings. When the children first come to the blind, small birds immediately come for the food which we put out, but the jays hang back watching high in the tree tops.  After as long as five minutes, and  no movement in the blind, they soar down to the feeding area, landing amidst the smaller birds (sparrows, towhees, juncos).

The Steller's Jay feeds on insects, other birds' eggs and nestlings, nuts, seeds, bread, acorns, and berries.  They are also frequent visitors of campground picnic sites. They hoard food, such as acorns, seeds and nuts in caches around their territory for the dark winter days.

I have warned the children not to always believe what they read but to study more than one source of information for their studies. For example, many sites say that the Steller's Jays are found in the western portion of North America, at elevations of 3,000-10,000 feet. Well, we happen to be 50 ft. above sea level!
These jays have complex social hierarchies and dominance patterns. They are very social birds, traveling in groups, sometimes playing with or chasing each other, or joining mixed-species flocks, often instigating the mobbing of predators and other possibly dangerous intruders. We think we have two local families, the one at our feeder area comprises eight. Interestingly, some of the islands near us do not have any jays and the birders there are very jealous of ours!.

The Steller's Jay has been described as bold, inquisitive, intelligent and noisy. They have many vocalizations and can imitate the eagle, red-tailed hawk, even dogs, roosters, and certain mechanics, such as a lawn mower. They scold (when food is not put out on time), squawk, scream, whistle, and make other noises which would scare anyone walking in the woods who did not know this sound was from a bird.

Northwest Native Americans have made many totem poles with the Steller's Jay as a little look out bird perched right on top. There are stories specifically about the Steller's Jay in mythology. “He is the message of hope in disrepair and the will to live. The jay is willing to teach you fearlessness, adaptability and survival but you must be willing to follow its lead.”  For the NW Natives the jay reflects lessons in how to use personal power correctly and efficiently. They remind us to pay attention and not allow ourselves to be placed in a position in which power is misused against us. Those with jay as a totem need to heed this warning.

The Makahs tell a story about how the Steller's Jay (Kwish-kwishee) got its crest. The mink ( Kwahtie) tried to shoot a jay with an arrow but missed so the crest is ruffled to this day.

Duane Pasco- Poulsbo, WA
We will keep you updated on the project. At present the children are most interested in the way our local jays get along with other smaller birds- again going against most literature on the species.

Duane Pasco

Friday, January 11, 2013


Virgin Mary with Christ & John
When we are clothed  with the monastic habit in the monastery we also are given a new name. The Abbess or Prioress has had several years to "live with us" getting to know all sides of our personality- knowledge our parents do not possess when we are born- and tries to give us a name which we can "grow" into.

I have always been struck by the Native American tradition of renaming and in my search for saints with birds found this amazing artist, whom I present here. His struggles and sufferings in life certainly influenced his art as he strove to live out his name, just as we in the monastery strive to live out the new name given to us as novices.

NORVAL MORRISSEAU (b.1932) also known as COPPER THUNDERBIRD, was an Aboriginal Canadian artist. Known as the "Picasso of the North", Morrisseau created works depicting the legends of his people, the cultural and political tensions between native Canadian and European traditions, his existential struggles, and his deep spirituality and mysticism.

In accordance with Anishnaabe tradition, he was raised by his maternal grandparents. His grandfather, Moses Potan Nanakonagos, a shaman, taught him the traditions and legends of his people. His grandmother, Grace Theresa , was a devout Catholic and from her he learned the tenets of Christianity. The contrast between these two religious traditions became an important factor in his intellectual and artistic development.
The Virgin Mary

At the age of six, he was sent to a Catholic residential school, where students were educated in the European tradition, native culture was repressed, and the use of native language was forbidden. After two years he returned home and started attending a local community school.

St. Rose Herself-my Spiritual Wife

In his late teens he became very sick. Fearing for his life, his mother called a medicine-woman who performed a renaming ceremony: She gave him the new name Copper Thunderbird.  According to Anishnaabe tradition, giving a powerful name to a dying person can give them new energy and save their lives. Morrisseau recovered after the ceremony and from then on always signed his works with his new name.

St. Joseph with Christ & John

In 1972, he was caught in a hotel fire in Vancouver and suffered serious burns on three-quarters of his body. In that occasion he had a vision of Jesus encouraging him to be a role model through his art. He converted to the apostolic faith and started introducing Christian themes in his art. A year later he was arrested for drunk and disorderly behavior and was incarcerated for his own protection. He was assigned an extra cell as studio and was allowed to attend a nearby church where he was struck by the beauty of the images on stained-glass windows. Some of his paintings, like the Indian Jesus Christ, imitate that style and represent characters from the Bible with native features.

He founded the Woodlands School of Canadian art and was a prominent member of the “Indian Group of Seven”.

As Morrisseau's health began to decline as a result of Parkinson's disease and a stroke in 1994, he was cared for by his adopted family Gabe and Michelle Vadas.

In the final months of his life, he used a wheelchair and lived in a residence in Nanaimo, British Columbia (as the eagle flies not far from our island). He was unable to paint due to his poor health and died of complications arising from Parkinson's disease. He was buried  in Northern Ontario next to the grave of his former wife, Harriet  ( with whom he had seven children), on Anishinaabe land.

Lily of the Mohawk (St. Kateri)
"I have always been attracted to religious paintings, but only the ones that had that mystical or supernatural quality in them, especially St Teresa by Bernini. Just looking at St Teresa I get some kind of vibrations from it. I can close my eyes and feel them. That's great art....But the Christ figure was always the one that was dominant for me.
Indian Jesus Christ

That's why I say that Christ to me is still the greatest shaman, and that is why some religious visions are so complex, and so very hard to explain to people. So whenever you are looking at my pictures, you are looking at my visions, whatever they may be." (N.M.)