The hall, specially built in the Legislature of Saskatchewan, to house the fabulous Indian portraits painted by Edmund Morris in 1911.
Painters of Aboriginal Peoples - From the time the first white people arrived, Canada's First Peoples have attracted the artistic attention of painters who were entranced by what a rich treasure trove of costumes, and artefacts, colour, and facial expressions Canada's aboriginal peoples put at their disposal.
In fact, among the first images - Champlain in the east and Captain Cook in the west - took back to Europe, were pictures of Canada's native people.
Some artists who would win renown for the excellence of their Canadian aboriginal portraits were: William Berczy (1744-1813), Paul Kane (1810-1871), Father Henry Metzger (1877-1949), James Henderson (1871-1951), Edmund Morris (1871-1913), and latterly Nicholas de Grandmaison (1892-1978) and Jeanette McClelland Brookes (active 1980s on).
Edmund Morris: Edmund was born in Perth, Ontario, in 1871. He was the son of Alexander Morris, a lawyer and former Minister in the Government of John A Macdonald, who then made him Lieutenant-Governor of Manitoba and the North West Territories from 1872-1877.
During that period the senior Morris played the major role in concluding the land claims treaties that brought the former Indian lands across the western prairies under Canadian government control. That was crucial because John A had promised British Columbians on the Pacific Coast that he would connect them with a transcontinental railway in ten years, their price for joining Confederation.
In the 1880s Edmund went on to study art under painting masters in Toronto, New York and Paris, France. He came back to Canada and in 1907, was an important founding member of the Canadian Art Club whose members sought to foster the development of Canadian art at the dawn of the 20th century.
In 1906 Edmund was commissioned, by the Ontario Government to join Duncan Campbell Scott and the James Bay #9 Treaty party, to paint portraits of the main Ojibway leaders involved in the land claims negotiations. The Indian Department believed that the Indians were a "waning" culture and race, whose leaders should be painted before it was too late.
In 1907 Edmund received a second Ontario Government commission to paint other treaty negotiating leaders.
In 1905 the old North West Territories of the Canadian west had been reconfigured into the two large provinces of Saskatchewan and Manitoba. Construction of two huge legislative buildings was begun in Winnipeg, MB and Regina, SK.
In 1910 the first premier of the Province of Saskatchewan, Walter Scott, commissioned Edmund to make a series of 15 pastel portraits of Indian leaders to be hung in the new legislative building, even before the construction was finished. (below)
The Alberta Government followed suit, commissioning him to paint five more for their legislature.
Today these pastel portraits still hang in honoured places in the legislatures of Saskatchewan and Alberta.
With these commissions Morris confirmed his reputation as Canada's official Indian portrait painter.
Morris also painted urban scenes and landscapes.
Sadly, not long after he painted the portraits, in 1913, Morris died at 42, possibly a suicide.
No "big city dude from down east" painted Canada's most celebrated Indian portraits.
Edmund Morris, came by his passion for Indians by direct experience, over many years, from virtually the moment he drew breath, when he was surrounded by talk of Indians.
His father Alexander Morris was Lt. Governor of Canada's "Wild West" during the most fateful years in its history, the period during which he concluded treaties which stripped the Indians of much of northern Ontario and western Canada, giving up, thereby, their rights to their ancestral homelands, where they had ruled supreme for thousands of years.
In 1880 the senior Morris published his recollections of the process, the arguments, the bargaining, and the personalities involved with his "The Treaties of Canada with the Indians of Manitoba and the North-West Territories."
The verbatim accounts of the exchanges which Alexander Morris published, makes it clear the Indian leaders, spread out across the Canadian wilderness, hampered by poor communications - even locally - were incapable of a unified and concerted defence of their rights, and were merely helpless pawns in the hands of the Governor and the formidable forces at his disposal.
By and large, their signatures were easy to extract. The Indians were starving; a promise of a cow here, some seed there, put off a desperate reckoning with their Maker for another day. Chronically underfed and poorly sheltered, they were in no condition to discuss from any position of strength their ancestral rights to their lands with well-fed, government bureaucrats, on expense accounts, and backed up by the financial and military might of the Canadian Government.
But reading his book makes it clear that Alexander Morris had high hopes for the cultural survival and prosperous future of Canada's western tribes. He recounts with obvious deep respect for the way, as Governor, he was received and "given the place of honour" among the people with whom he had come to make treaty.
His son, Edmund, only a child at the time, grew up in this atmosphere of great respect for an aboriginal people and a way of life that was fast passing from the scene. He would have absorbed the feeling from his surroundings through his eyes, ears, indeed, through his very skin.