Morrisseau's Skyman, Inspired by Petroglyph

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Above, drawing by Morrisseau, donated to Akwesasne Notes Indian Newspaper in 1974. Along with much of the original artwork and the "stats" that had to be expensively made by camera in those days, it was destroyed in one of the serveral arsons of the late '70's and early '80's that were part of an attack by both the U.S. and Canadian governments on this then-wonderful periodical.

This particular drawing (in black and white) was used just once: as a spot-illo to a story which is a reported speech by AIM leader John Trudell (Santee Dakota, Nebraska). John's speech was about how AIM men had to stop fooling themselves about alcohol -- that it was and is a poison, and while you can blame colonialists and oppressors for introducing it, to heal of its effects, you must STOP DRINKING it, and you cannot be effective, in the cause of freedom and sovereignty until you do.

I think of him as Skyman. I was told his picture in the stars is almost the contellation western astronomy knows as Oirion, with his belt of 3 very bright stars.

Here you can better see the "mystic x-ray" anatomy. You can see Morrisseau did this, it's not on the old rock-painting, neither for the Sky-man nor for his otterskin Midèwayan, his medicine bag. I'm no anthro or art critic (or artist), I am going to call these "spirit-guts.". Sounds like a contradition, doesn't it--guts is earthy, material, squishy, yucky all-too-physical, spiritual even has a word-root origin meaning airy, non-material, indefinite, untouchable, maybe even abstract.

I think the spirit-guts of the otter medicine bag means powers inherent. That's no dead skin, made into a bag to hold this and that, that's a live otter spirit. The skyman is in some kind of direct contact with skypowers, shown by the lightning-arrow from his head. His heart glows with power, too, and there are sun-marks on his hands.

Though the petroglyph is enigmatic, maybe even sinister in its location on the seldom-frequented drainage of the Bloodvein River, Morrisseau's Sky-man is friendly looking. His face is abstract, thre is no conventional smile or eye-twinkle; nevertheless the feeling is of friendly greeting.


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Last Updated: Friday, July 12, 1996 - 7:04:14 AM