The Next Chapter

How painter Norval Morrisseau got his spirit name

Norval Morrisseau became known as the "Picasso of the North" because of his vibrant paintings, inspired by traditional Anishinaabe spirituality and legends. He signed all of his works with his spirit name, Copper Thunderbird. But where did that name come from?
Left: Norval Morrisseau's painting "Man Changing into Thunderbird". Right: From the cover of Armand Garnet Ruffo's anthology "The Thunderbird Poems", poetry inspired by the life and work of Norval Morrisseau.
Armand Garnet Ruffo tells Shelagh how the renowned Anishinaabe painter Norval Morrisseau got his spirit name, Copper Thunderbird. 1:59
Armand Garnet Ruffo and Shelagh Rogers in studio at the CBC Broadcasting Centre in Toronto

Norval Morrisseau became known as the "Picasso of the North" because of his vibrant paintings, inspired by traditional Anishnaabe spirituality and legends. He signed all of his work with his spirit name, Copper Thunderbird, a name that was given to him at a pivotal moment in his life.

In this clip, Armand Garnet Ruffo tells Shelagh Rogers the story behind how the renowned artist came to be called Copper Thunderbird.  Their full conversation airs on the June 8, 2015 episode of The Next Chapter.

Armand Garnet Ruffo is a member of the Sagamok Ojibway and Chapleau Cree Fox Lake First Nations. He is a poet, biographer, and a professor in the English department at Queen's University. In the biography Norval Morrisseau: Man Changing Into Thunderbird and the poetry collection The Thunderbird Poems, Armand Ruffo takes on the gigantic life and charismatic personality of Norval Morrisseau.

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