Buffalo Seed is an unrepentantly luscious and beautiful work. The painted surface is combined with sunflower petals, meticulously arranged, floating on top, revelling in their saturated background. Two Elders, long since gone from this world, stand stoic and dignified. The buffalo themselves are inspired by a drawing of buffalo made by an Arapaho orphan who was known as Frank Henderson. These images made by a young Native child who never knew his real heritage draws some parallels with the experience of Poitras herself. While it is an undercurrent, and obviously a biographical perspective to which she could relate, there is a wide-ranging cultural moral as well. The buffalo taught the Natives about the importance of sunflowers. The virtual slaughter of those animals that had knowledge that white settlers didn’t is a metaphor for the slaughter of the Aboriginal people and the dissolution of their knowledge and culture. The two are parallel. (Exhibit Text by Virginia Eichhorn)


  • Title: Buffalo Seed
  • Creator: Jane Ash Poitras
  • Creator Lifespan: 1951
  • Creator Nationality: Cree
  • Creator Gender: Female
  • Creator Birth Place: Fort Chipeywan, Alberta, Canada
  • Date: 2004
  • Physical Dimensions: w244.2 x h153.2 cm
  • Provenance: This acquisition was made possible with the generous support of the Louise Hawley Stone Charitable Trust Fund.
  • Type: Mixed media installation
  • Rights: Royal Ontario Museum
  • Medium: Mixed media
  • Measurement Depth: 4
  • Artist Biography: As one of Canada’s preeminent artists, Jane Ash Poitras is best known for her expressive mixed-media assemblages. Her works have explored the impact of colonialism, both past and present, as well as the political and spiritual strength of the Indigenous peoples of the Americas through juxtaposition of personal and historic imagery. Poitras is an erudite and scholarly woman having attained Bachelor Degrees in Science and Fine Arts, a Masters of Fine Arts, and two years of study in Pharmacology. These academic studies are rounded out through other equally important experiences. She meets regularly with Elders from many native communities to hear their stories and to learn from them. She travels often, allowing her to observe and partake in the rituals of various native cultures. By doing so, she brings a very humanist approach to her work. She isn’t just trying to give information – rather her work is about sharing knowledge. These paintings represent part of the artist’s ongoing investigation of traditional non-Western medicines and the ‘secrets’ of plants. These works incorporate knowledge that is taught and knowledge that is revealed, in combination with a powerful artistic vision.
  • Accession Number: 2008.114.2

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