People / George Clutesi

Artist, writer, actor. George Clutesi was born in Alberni in 1905. A member of the Tseshaht First Nations band, Clutesi painted in oils throughout the 1940s and 1950s, attracting the attention of artists such as Lawren Harris and Emily Carr. Carr was so impressed by his work that she left Clutesi her unused brushes, oils and canvases in her will. In 1949, Clutesi confronted the Right Honorable Vincent Massey, Chairman of the Royal Commission on the National Development of the Arts, Letters, and Sciences, asking for permission to practice traditional rituals, criminalized by federal legislation; Massey told him to go home and dance. Subsequently, Clutesi began teaching traditional Tseshant song and dance to the children at the residential school where he was employed as a janitor.

Publisher Gray Campbell sought out Clutesi to gather some stories for a publication for the Centennial Project. Son of Raven, Son of Deer (1967) consisted of 12 illustrated Tseshant teaching stories. With this publication, Clutesi became one of the first aboriginal peoples to write about First Nations cosmology and customs. That same year, Expo 67 commissioned Clutesi to create a huge mural for the Canadian “Indian Pavilion”. Clutesi’s second publication, Potlatch, was released in 1969. In 1971, he received an honorary Doctorate in Law from the University of Victoria. Clutesi also received the Order of Canada (1973) and an ACTRA award (1977) for recognition of his work in the film Dreamspeaker (Claude Jutra, 1977), one of Clutesi’s many film and television roles during the 1970s and early 1980s. Per Clutesi’s wishes, his autobiography, Stand Tall, My Son, was published posthumously in 1990, two years after his death.

  1. 06. George Clutesi presenting a display of First Nations Art
    George Clutesi (Photograph)
  2. 07. George Clutesi
    George Clutesi (Photograph)
  3. 08. Children with "Son of Raven, Son of Deer" book written by George Clutesi, The Vancouver Sun, July 14, 1967
    George Clutesi (Ephemera)
  4. 09. The Indian as Artist, Part 3
    Doug Cranmer and Chief Henry Speck (Audio)