Native Creative Process: A Collaborative Discourse between Douglas Cardinal and Jeannette Armstrong


127 pages
ISBN 0-919441-26-2
DDC 704'.0397





Photos by Greg Young-Ing
Reviewed by Terrence Paris

Terrence Paris is Public Services Librarian at Mount St. Vincent
University in Halifax.


Douglas Cardinal, a Métis architect born in Alberta, is best known for
designing the Canadian Museum of Civilization in Hull, Quebec. Jeannette
Armstrong, an Okanagan Indian with a special interest in the nurturing
of Native peoples’ creative expression, is Director of En’owkin
International Writing School. Both are interested in how the creative
process contributes to the healing of Native peoples and all peoples.
Conversations taped over two years are the source for the
“collaborative discourse” in which the authors attempt to articulate
the life principles central to their undertakings. The discourse reads
less like a conversation than like alternating declarations of
principle, first by Cardinal, then by Armstrong. Each short statement is
accompanied by an uncaptioned photograph by Greg Young-Ing. The
photographs depict Native peoples, both in Canada and in the South
American Andes, engaged in a range of activities—artistic, domestic,
and political—as well as nature scenes and cityscapes.

An observation by Cardinal that “We are not perfect. You see the
human as a loving, contributing machine which has its problems. That is
the fundamental thing about all humans. . . . If you see the greatness
in yourself, you can see it in everybody” is unfortunately typical.
Jeannette Armstrong’s fondness for phrases like “continuance
links,” “creative thought constructs,” and “societal
functioning” makes her part of the discourse sound like a sociology
textbook and discourages any sustained reading. If the authors had
original insights, the reader’s attention might be engaged.


Cardinal, Douglas., “Native Creative Process: A Collaborative Discourse between Douglas Cardinal and Jeannette Armstrong,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed June 21, 2024,