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Living Post-Oka Kind of Woman
aboriginal culture, aboriginal stories, aboriginal traditions, drawings, Oka Quebec, land claims, anger, printmaking and toxicity, artists as mothers, sites of resistance, Plains Cree, cultural friction, aboriginal burial sites,peaceful settlement of land claims, aboriginal claims, Oka Quebec, Oka crisis, peaceful resolution, government leaders in Canada, aboriginal land claims,, aboriginal culture, drawing, burial sites, aboriginal land claims, acts of resistance,
start quoteI realized looking back over my work that a lot of it has to do with identity and racism, which has basically been my life, trying to figure out who I am and things like that.end quote-- Ruth Cuthand

Cuthand has embraced her Aboriginal culture in her art, and many of her early works were paintings of dresses or shirts related to Aboriginal stories and traditions.  After completing that  seriesA number of things or events standing or succeeding in order, and connected by a like relation; sequence; order; course; a succession of things; as, a continuous series of calamitous events. (The Online Plain Text English Dictionary)  of work, she decided to take up the challenge of drawing. This particular  drawingDepiction of shapes and forms on a surface chiefly by means of lines. Colour and shading may be included. A major fine art technique in itself, drawing is the basis of all pictorial representation, and an early step in most art activities. Though an integral part of most painting, drawing is generally differentiated from painting by the dominance of line over mass. There are many sorts of drawing techniques, varying according to the effect the artist wants, and depending on whether the drawing is an end in itself — an independent and finished work of art -- or a preliminary to some other medium or form — although distinct from the final product, such drawings also have intrinsic artistic value. Preliminary drawings include various exercises (e.g., contour drawing, gesture drawing, figure drawing, drawing from the flat), as well as sketches and studies, cartoons and underdrawings. (  was produced in 1990 as a reaction to the news stories featuring the Aboriginal act of resistance at the Mohawk community of Kanehsatake, northeast of Montreal, near the village of Oka in Quebec.

The Aboriginal peoples objected to the expanding of a golf course onto a traditional ancient Aboriginal burial site. The governments of the day reacted with a total disregard for the Aboriginal claims and sent in the army to control the uprising. After a 78-day armed standoff the crisis was ended. The land claim was to be resolved before the snow flew that year, however, it is still unresolved.  Other land claims have been settled and the Oka crisis created “a new urgency to resolve land claims more quickly and peacefully” for government leaders in Canada.  (Foss, undated)

additional resources A New Look for the '90s
Duration: 1:12 min
Size: 5459kb
Indian Portraits- Late 20th Century
Duration: 1:58 min
Size: 8728kb
Living Post-Oka Kind of Woman Series
Duration: 2:25 min
Size: 10651kb
No Racism Just Underlying Bitterness
Duration: 1:23 min
Size: 6248kb
People Target Panel
Duration: 1:41 min
Size: 7425kb
She Decided to Be an Artist in Grade Three
Duration: 1:22 min
Size: 6046kb
White Liberal Series
Duration: 1:51 min
Size: 8062kb
Things to Think About
  • Research the "Oka" uprising and the Riel Rebellion of 1885.  Can you make connections between the two events?
  • Cuthand’s frustration and anger over the Oka event is the driving force behind this work. Have you ever seen another artwork that was based on anger? One example could be Picasso’s Guernica painting.  Isn’t art supposed to be beautiful?
  • Living Post-Oka Kind of Woman clearly raises some of the concerns and issues that Cuthand feels need to be addressed.  What does she want her audience to learn or contemplate? She incorporates the term "the natives were restless".  To what does that phrase refer? What is “Indian summer“? 
  • Cuthand states "No stereotypes here".  Is this so?  Prejudice is a pre-formed opinion, based on insufficient knowledge, irrational feelings or inaccuracy of information and stereotypes and causes disadvantage or harm to somebody or something.  Does Cuthand refer to prejudice and racism in this work?
  • Sometimes Cuthand suggests hopelessness, a belief that things will never change. “Five generations later... Waiting...calmly...patiently...almost...stoically... waiting…waiting...Don't worry we're depressed...but happy."  Are there any changes that have occurred or point toward what will occur in the future to suggest things are improving for peoples who are marginalized?  Why do you think Ruth Cuthand uses faceless dolls in her work?
  • Cuthand states, "You keep telling yourself things have changed and you can live in Canadian society. But then something like Oka happens, and you remember that Indians only got the vote in 1960." (Martin, 2004) Discuss.
  • Can artists who use humour and simplified cartoon images make strong political statements without fear of major repercussions?  Discuss situations in the news or in your community where artists have been challenged for their representations.
Studio Activity
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Art and the news

Ruth Cuthand’s Living Post-Oka Kind of Woman is a comment on a specific event reported in the news.

  • Design an artwork that makes a comment on an event in the news.


A section of Cuthand's Living Post-Oka Kind of Woman was chosen as the image to be used for an invitation to an exhibition in Toronto, Ontario called A History Lesson organized by the MacKenzie Art Gallery, guest curated by Lee-Ann Martin, 2004 at The Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art.

  • Enlarge a small section from one of your original artworks and use this as the image for an invitation to an exhibition, or for a postcard to be sent to a friend.

Editorial cartoons

  • Find and view examples of comics and editorial cartoons in your local paper.  Some examples of editorial cartoons online include:
  • Discuss how comics and editorial cartoons often draw attention in a humorous way to some societal problem or concern. 
  • Design a simple cartoon character and use this character to tell a cartoon story.
  • The message might relate to a current situation students have observed in their school or community.

Childhood experiences

Cuthand's more recent work references some of the difficulties she experienced growing up near the Blood Reserve in Alberta.

  • Make an artwork based on your childhood experiences.

Visit an artist’s studio

Cuthand's interest in art was enriched by visits to the studio of artist Gerald Tailfeather.

  • On your own or with others, visit an artist's studio.

Author unknown.  ‘Beyond Words: Gilbert Boyer, Ruth Cuthand and Elizabeth MacKenzie, Paul de Guzman, Nelson Henricks, Kelly Mark. Nadia Myre, Sylvia Ptak, Rober Racine.’  Indepth Art News, Bishop’s University Art Gallery, Lennoxville, Quebec.  Retrieved from the Internet on October 20, 2008 from

Cuthand, Ruth.  ‘S. Ruth Cuthand.’  Saskatchewan Indian, Indian Art Supplement, July/August, 1988.  Retrieved from the Internet on October 20, 2008 from

Foss, Lindsay.  ‘This land is my land:  Three stories of land-claim disputes and settlements.’  Canadian Geographic, undated.  Retrieved from the Internet on August 12, 2008 from:

Martin, Lee-Ann.  A History Lesson.  Exhibition catalogue.  MacKenzie Art Gallery, 2004.

Ministry of Education (Saskatchewan).  Grade Three Visual Art Unit Overviews, Unit 4:  Government curricula on Treaty Dress.

Sinkewicz, Paul.  ‘Ruth Cuthand:  artist uses interesting methods to make her point.’  Saskatchewan Sage, May, 1999.  Retrieved from the Internet on October 20, 2008 from Aboriginal Faces of Saskatchewan

Canadian Heritage University of Regina Mackenzie Art Gallery Mendel Art Gallery Sask Learning