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Morris, Edmund Montague.

Transcribed by Mary Fitz-Gibbon. Toronto, Royal Ontario Museum, c1985. 179pp. paper, $24.95, ISBN 0-88854-259-3. CIP

Grades 9 and up
Reviewed by Louise Dick

Volume 14 Number 3
1986 May

Edmund Morris has been known primarily for his pastel portraits of Indians. The diary of his summers with the Plains Indians has been virtually inaccessible because of the extreme difficulty of deciphering it. Fitz-Gibbon, with the assistance of other Royal Ontario Museum staff, has now transcribed the diaries in full, to reveal a remarkably vivid picture of the history and traditions of these bison-hunting peoples. The treaties of 1871-1877 and the 1876 Indian Act confined the Plains Indians to reserves and curtailed their hunting way of life. Morris carefully recorded firsthand oral accounts from the Indians themselves, verifying these when possible, to document a disappearing life-style. To the transcribed diaries, Fitz-Gibbon adds detailed annotations and maps for each journey, an index expanded from Morris's own, a genealogy, and a bibliography. She includes numerous black-and-white and twenty-four colour reproductions of Morris's pastel portraits and of Indian artifacts. There are also photographs of certain of the Indian leaders whom Morris painted. Excellent quality of reproduction and printing distinguish the illustrations. An introduction gives a biographical sketch of Morris and an explanation of the Plains Indians' situation.

This scholarly presentation will be of special interest to students of Canadian painting and of the Plains Indians and valuable for in-depth collections in those areas. Its general interest is also considerable, for the transcription has yielded a very readable oral history. With the accompanying portraits, it offers a fascinating insight into Indian life and personalities as recorded by a careful observer and talented painter. The impact of the white man's influence, as in the introduction of tuberculosis and the total destruction of a way of life, is abundantly clear.

Louise Dick, Branksome Hall School, Toronto, Ont.
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