This title is complimentary to Hancock House's first Mildred Valley Thornton book released in 2000, Buffalo People: Portraits of a Vanishing Nation. Potlatch People concentrates on the lives and legends of the Coastal Indian Tribes.
Mildred Valley Thornton had an abiding passion which she pursued with almost missionary fervor throughout her life-the preservation of Canada's Native culture. For over fifty years she dedicated herself to that purpose through the medium of her paintings, writings and lectures. During the course of her career, Mildred not only painted the portraits of many prominent and historical Native Canadians, but she assembled an accompanying catalogue of anecdotes, folklore and legends, which today provide a unique chronicle of a vanished age. This publication is a collection of both Thornton's colorful portraits and the fascinating story behind each one.
Born of a large farming family in the small Ontario town of Dresden at the end of the nineteenth century, the young Mildred Stinson soon demonstrated to her parents that she was not destined to remain on the farm.
They recognized her artistic abilities and sent her to study at Olivet College in Michigan, from which she graduated in 1910. She continued her studies at the Ontario School of Art and the Art Institute of Chicago before the lure of Canada's burgeoning prairie beckoned her west. Arriving in Regina, Saskatchewan, with little more than a valise and her paintbox, she immediately fell under the spell of the vast, limitless plains and, even more avidly, developed a lasting fascination for the then nomadic Indian tribes.
It was then and there that she commenced her life's work to preserve on canvas and in the written word the countenances and culture of what she perceived to be a threatened and fascinating society. When Mildred Valley Thornton moved to British Columbia in 1934, she discovered Indians who were very different from those she had known on the Prairies. Her commitment to documenting the lives and faces of the Native peoples of her day was renewed and continued for the rest of her life as she devoted herself to painting the Indians of Canada's westernmost province.