Imagining and Visualizing “Indianness” in Trudeauvian Canada: Joyce Wieland’s The Far Shore and True Patriot Love

Kristy Holmes


This article critically explores Canadian artist and filmmaker Joyce Wieland’s 1976 film, The Far Shore, and her 1971 artist book, True Patriot Love, and the ways in which she imagined and visualized aboriginal cultures and identities. I begin by contextualizing Wieland’s artistic construction of “Indianness” in relation to the ways the Canadian federal government, under Pierre Trudeau, was redefining aboriginal identity throughout the 1960s and early 1970s by way of new policies related to citizenship and cultural belonging, namely, the 1969 White Paper on Indian Policy. Part of the reason, I suggest, that Wieland may have been attracted to exploring aboriginal subject matter in her work is because this was a moment when aboriginality was an identity that was intensely debated not only within the realm of the federal government, but also within more mainstream Canadian media. I explore Wieland’s personal involvement in protesting in support of various aboriginal political causes and argue that while she was clearly sympathetic to the effects that the history of colonization had on aboriginal peoples, the artistic translation of this sympathy does not necessarily mean that her artistic production is free of the expression of colonialist thinking, stereotypes, and constructions. In her film and non-film work, Wieland often romanticizes aboriginal identity and positions aboriginal cultures as existing outside capitalist modernity. What is most interesting, I argue, is the disconnection between Wieland’s own personal involvement in protest and support of contemporary aboriginal causes and what emerges in her artistic production. 


Canadian art; Joyce Wieland; True Patriot Love; The Far Shore; feminist art; art and gender; Canadian aboriginal policy; art and protest

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