In Memoriam, Allen Sapp

I was privileged last summer to visit the Allen Sapp Gallery in North Battleford, and see some of the work in person that I previously only knew through books. I also got to meet lawyer, writer and activist Michelle Good (who spoke at the Cree Healing Workshop). Following are Michelle’s personal reflections on the passing of Allen Sapp, whom I also hope to honour by passing on her invitation to reflect on the significance and beauty of his contributions in documenting the Plains Cree way of life in the 20th century.

I heard the news this morning that Allen Sapp has passed on. I ask everyone to look at these images of his paintings and honor him in your hearts and prayers for the great legacy he created and has left for the world to experience. In his art he told the story of our Red Pheasant people; of a time in history, of a way of life. He has created hundreds, maybe even thousands of masterpieces and yet did not have a single art lesson in his life. His career started when he would sell his charcoal drawings for piddling amounts on the streets of North Battleford, He was fortunate that a benefactor, Dr. Gonor came into his life and encouraged and supported him with art supplies and praise. Allen soon became known as the Canadian Van Gogh with his pieces selling all over the world for thousands of dollars. Still he remained a simple man with a simple wish to illuminate our story; our reality through his spectacular art. All he needed was a new hat and a new pair of cowboy boots and he was satisfied. I saw him not long ago when I was visiting my auntie and thanked him for his great gift to the world. I am not sure he understood me, being quite deaf. My personal world has been graced with his art and his work inspires my own. May your journey across the Milky Way to the green grass world be wondrous as you leave behind the burdens of this life and you live in the fullness of spirit.

Michelle’s images:

The website of the Allen Sapp Gallery can be found at

CBC’s tribute to his life:

From Saskatoon’s Star Phoenix:

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