GTMS Life > Blog November 28, 2022

A Flock of Thunderbirds

November was all about shapes, thunderbirds, and indigenous artist, Copper Thunderbird, originally Norval Morriseau.  Norval Morrisseau, also known as Copper Thunderbird, was born on March 14, 1932. Norval was part of the Anishinaabe tribe in Canada. In accordance with the Anishinaabe traditions, Norval was raised by his grandparents on his mother’s side of the family. […]

November was all about shapes, thunderbirds, and indigenous artist, Copper Thunderbird, originally Norval Morriseau. 

Norval Morrisseau, also known as Copper Thunderbird, was born on March 14, 1932. Norval was part of the Anishinaabe tribe in Canada. In accordance with the Anishinaabe traditions, Norval was raised by his grandparents on his mother’s side of the family. He learned the stories and traditions of his tribe from his grandfather, while his grandmother also taught him about Christianity. When he was six years old, Norval was sent to live at a Catholic Residential School. Here, Norval was only taught European customs, and could only speak English. He was forced to forget all of his indigenous upbringing. After two years at the Residential School, Norval went back to live with his family. When he was 19 years old, Norval became very sick. His mother called a medicine woman to come help him get better. According to Anishinaabe traditions, the medicine woman gave Norval a new name to help him heal. His new name was Copper Thunderbird and this is the name he used to sign all of his artwork. Copper Thunderbird started to teach himself how to draw and paint, and developed his own unique style. More and more artists began to take notice of his work, and named his specific technique Legend or Medicine painting . Copper Thunderbird passed away in 2007, but to this day he is known as the grandfather of modern Canadian indigenous art.

After learning about Copper Thunderbird, each classroom was given a work for their art shelves based on his work. The children chose a tree, and then glued leaves on the open shapes of the tree layering brightly colored shapes on top of each other. Each tree was so unique and brought some color to the fall season!

The kindergarteners learned more about the two categories of shapes; geometric and organic. We talked about how geometric shapes are shapes that can be easily named and are made by a person or machine, like squares, triangles, and circles. Organic shapes are usually naturally formed, like lakes, leaves, and clouds. We also discussed how one of Copper Thunderbird’s favorite things to paint was a thunderbird, and how in his art he used both geometric and organic shapes. They constructed a bird out of black paper first, then cut out both kinds of shapes to bring their birds to life. Then, they used paint markers to add fine lines and patterns. All of their hard work resulted in a colorful flock of thunderbirds!

All of the classrooms worked together to create a tree for our lobby mural. This tree was inspired by the many trees that Copper Thunderbird painted. Much like the work I provided, each child made a leaf to add to the tree. They layered three shapes of different colors and sizes and glued it to a tree branch. Once our tree was up in the lobby, we added the kindergartener’s thunderbirds in the sky to create a beautiful fall scene that celebrates Native American Heritage Month!

Check back next month for more art updates!

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