National Aboriginal Day today, in Canada, for one last time. This morning Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced that from here on in, the name will change to National Indigenous Peoples Day. Either way (on any day), Jim Logan’s work deserves your attention. If you’re in Ottawa or Gatineau any time this summer, his powerful 1991 suite of seven “National Pastimes” paintings are on display as part of the Canadian Museum of History’s “Hockey” exhibition. The largest of the canvasses (above) depicts an ostensibly serene and all-Canadian winter scene in an interior British Columbia reserve town while the six smaller works that accompany it frame a series of close-ups. Attention to detail is worth paying: off the ice in the main canvas, away from the heedless joy of the afternoon’s shinny, it’s a panorama of pain and danger. A couple brawls in the snow. A suicide hangs from a swing-set. In “Father Image 1,” a stern-faced white priest makes his claim on a trio of grim, stoical boys. It’s also personal: in the window at the bottom of the (main) frame, a father and son watch TV together.
Logan, whose background is Cree, Sioux, and Scottish, was born in 1955 in New Westminster, B.C. In an essay for Indigena: Contemporary Native Perspectives (1992), he talked about the paintings and the role hockey has played in his own life as well as its significance as a symbol and metaphor in Indigenous culture. “I realized,” he wrote,
I had grown up watching a lot of hockey, and I realized the one I watched a lot of hockey with was my dad. However, my relationship with my dad was never as close as I wanted it to be. His rough upbringing, war nightmares, and alcoholism all contributed to the distance between us. However silent as our relationship may have been, we loved each other.
My dad’s interest in hockey naturally drew my interest and hockey became the dominant link between us. But our reasons for watching were so different. He dreamed of being somebody important, somebody respected. He wanted to be a winner, but fate wouldn’t allow it.
I watched hockey because it brought me closer to my dad. Hockey to me was togetherness. On Saturday night, for three whole periods, we were on the same side, cheering for the same team (Montreal) and the same players (Jean Béliveau and John Ferguson), and his past, and our reality didn’t threaten us. We were as close as we could ever get.
Today watching hockey or painting about it brings back those warm memories, but it also brings back the distant relationship my dad and I had. The paintings in this series are an extension of my personal experience. The social statement I am expressing here is that for many kids, Aboriginal or not, hockey is often more than just a sport, it’s an escape. In these paintings you will find evidence of the tragic realities of life that are temporarily forgotten by those involved with the game that has been titled Our National Pastime.
For more of Jim Logan’s work, visit his website. The Canadian Museum of History’s “Hockey” exhibition continues until October 9. After that — from November 24 through to April 29, 2018 — it will be at Montreal’s Pointe-à-Callière Museum.
(Images courtesy of Jim Logan. Used with permission.)
Photojournalist Rosemary Gilliat Eaton travelled to Canada’s eastern Arctic in 1960, stopping that August in what was then Frobisher Bay, N.W.T. — today’s Iqaluit, Nunavut. Someone she met there was an Inuk boy named Mosha (her notes also refer to him as Moosa, Moshah, and Mosher), seen here in Toronto blue, preparing polar bear meat for a stew. As Paul Seesequasis has noted, the northern Leafs enthusiast grew up to be filmmaker Mosha Michael.
British-born in 1919, Eaton settled in Canada, in Ottawa; later she went to Nova Scotia, making her home in a community that may not then have been much on the national hockey map but is now: Cole Harbour. She died in 2004. The archive of her life’s work runs to 100,000 images, most of which are divided between Library and Archives Canada in Ottawa and the Cole Harbour Heritage Farm Museum.
(Photo: Rosemary Gilliat Eaton / Library and Archives Canada / e010799968)
Tootootown: Visitors to Rankin Inlet, Nunavut, high up on the western coast of Hudson’s Bay, pass this monument on the way into town from the airport. Born in nearby Churchill, Manitoba, Tootoo, who’s 33, now spends most of his off-ice hours in Kelowna, British Columbia. According to Mark Lazerus of The Chicago Sun-Times, that’s where neighbours (and Hawks defencemen) Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook helped to convince him to sign a one-year contract in early July to play for Chicago. “First and foremost he’s a good teammate,” Keith volunteered. “He’s a good guy to have in the locker room, and the energy that he brings — I know playing against him, I don’t like going back for pucks when he’s on the ice. You always have to be aware when he’s on the ice because he’s going to finish every hit.”
“Every team needs a little sparkplug,” is what Tootoo said. “I’ve been around the game a lot of years now, and I just want to add that little piece.”