WIIKWEMKOONG, MANITOULIN ISLAND (October 3, 2015) – On Saturday, October 1, 2015, Daphne Odjig, passed away at the age of 97 in Kelowna, B.C. Her son Stan Somerville was by her side. Daphne was born and raised in Wiikwemkoong Unceded Territory.
Daphne Odjig was an artist of international status and acclaim whose images drew deeply upon her Odawa-Potawatomi father and English mother. Her earliest artistic influences came from her grandfather Jonas Odjig, a stone carver who encouraged her to pursue her artwork as a child and shared Anishinabek legends and stories with her. She was also influenced by Picasso who she deeply admired and studied. Her work is found in private and permanent collections around the world. She was the only First Nations woman to have had a solo show at the National Gallery of Canada and has won numerous awards, including the Order of Canada, the Governor General’s Award and five honorary doctorates.
On learning of Ms. Odjig’s death, Ogimaa Duke Peltier remarked “It is with great sadness to hear that our elder and statesperson, Daphne Odjig has passed into the spirit world. Daphne understood the importance of our history and the hardships we have had to encounter in our history of colonization. As she has said, “We had to be strong to survive.” She was a strong advocate of the arts as a way of cultural and spiritual revitalization and its importance – “If you destroy our legends, you also destroy our soul.” Those legends have been revitalized and are an inspiration for many of our young people to enter into the arts. We can give special recognition and thanks to Daphne for the many flourishing artists that have come out of our community because of her work and activism. Our thoughts and prayers are with the family and close friends. Council and community members send our deepest sympathy to them at this time of great sorrow. Daphne was our shining star and while she lived in various places throughout Canada during her life, she never forgot where she came from and the people that loved her. She will be sadly missed but we will continue to celebrate her kindness, generosity and achievements. Baa maa pii Daphne, miinwa gawabam.”
Ms. Odjig will be cremated and her ashes will be spread in the mountains near her home in Kelowna, B.C. The community of Wiikwemkoong will host a memorial at a later date.