Chee Chee: A Study of Aboriginal Suicide


178 pages
Contains Illustrations, Bibliography, Index
ISBN 0-7735-2687-0
DDC 362.28'092





Reviewed by David Mardiros

David Mardiros is a lawyer and anthropological consultant in Terrace,
British Columbia.


Chee Chee was an Ojibwa artist who, in 1977, died by his own hands in an
Ottawa jail at the age of 33. In 1973, his artwork was becoming
prominent across Canada, but despite his outgoing and driven public
persona, he was inwardly confused, morose, and angry. The alcohol that
transformed him into a violent “drunken Indian” had become a
substitute for genuine human relationships.

Through a series of interviews with key people in Chee Chee’s life
and through the voices of Aboriginal youth and leaders, Evans engages in
a critical evaluation of Canadian society and its impact on Native
people. He identifies similarities between the reserve system and the
Russian gulags. Natives continue to be separated from Canada’s
economic, social, educational, and political development, and to be
excluded from planning their own futures. Not surprising, given this
disenfranchisement, the suicide rate among Aboriginal youth is among the
highest in the world.

Through Chee Chee’s art and life story, we discover what actions,
attitudes, and feelings of non-Aboriginal Canadians have done to
Aboriginal people. This sensitively written book challenges Aboriginal
people to unlock the wellspring of health within themselves and for
non-Aboriginal people to remove the obstacles that have prevented them
from achieving that goal in the past.


Evans, Al., “Chee Chee: A Study of Aboriginal Suicide,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed May 21, 2024,