Symbolism and Expression Additional Reading

First Nations Art

In traditional First Nations, Métis and Inuit communities, art was a holistic part of everyday life, which means it was so much a part of day-to-day living that it could not be separated as a distinct activity. Everyone expressed themselves through song, dance, and the tasks of everyday life.  There were, of course, individuals with certain gifts – a good ivory carver, for example – but every individual was an artist of one kind or another.

Art was important because it recorded past events and visions of the future.  It helped transmit culture and knowledge from one to the next. On the Plains, for example, buffalo hides were often painted to relay the story of the great battle, hunt or act of heroism.  Such paintings served as support for the oral tradition – acting as memory aids for those who know the oral history.