Native artist Jackson Beardy was a member of the Indian Group of Seven. He was born on July 24, 1944 at Garden Hill Reserve in northern Manitoba. One of 13 children of John Beardy and Dinah Monias, Jackson lived with his maternal grandparnets with the expectation that he would learn the spiritual traditions of his nation. When he was seven he was taken from his home to attend residential schools. This made him feel very alientated from both cultures. He began to drink. While he was able to give up alcohol in time, he suffered great pain from stomach ulcers that plagued him all his life.
Beardy had a very distinctive graphic style characterized by flat areas of warm colours and curving ribbons of paint. His early work often narrated legends but as his art and his vision matured he explored the natural balanes in nature and the interdependance of all things.
In 1970, to commemorate Manitoba's centennial, an event was held at the National Arts Centre in Ottawa. Jackson Beardy's work was featured in the celebration and he proudly showed up at the gala with his family but security guards wouldn't let them enter. Two years later Beardy was included in the historic exhibition Treaty Numbers 23, 287, 1171 at the Winnipeg Art Gallery. It was the highlight of his career. Within months Norval Morrisseau, Daphne Odjig, Eddy Cobiness, Carl Ray, Alex Janvier, Joe Sanchez, and Jackson Beardy had formed the Professional Indian Native Artists Association now known as the Indian Group of Seven. They became the nucleus of the Woodlands School of art.
In 1980 he was living in Ottawa, acting as art advisor and cultural consultant to the Department of Indian Affairs. Four years later he returned to Winnipeg to work on a new series of prints. In November of 1984 he suffered a heart attack. He rallied but died a few weeks later from infection on December 8, 1984.
A special memoral service was held in the Manitoba legislative building to honour his life and the contribution he made to Native art in Canada.