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Biographies Unit Biographies

Frank Day 1902–1976
Maidu Painter

Frank Day was an unusual artist. He did not start painting until he was almost sixty years old. He taught himself how to paint and made more than 200 paintings.

Day was born into the Konkow group of Maidu Indians. As with many American Indian children in the early 1900s, he went to a government-run boarding school. He wore a school uniform and learned English. Later, he decided to explore his American Indian roots. He traveled around the West for ten years. Finally, he settled in California and got a job as a farm worker. After a bad accident, he started painting.

When he painted, Day thought about stories and traditions he had learned from Maidu elders when he was a child. He used these memories and his imagination to create colorful, dreamlike paintings. Day saw his art as a way to preserve Maidu culture. “Because if I do not do this,” he said, “all things will be forgotten.”

Comprehension Check

Why did Day travel around the West for ten years?

Critical Thinking

State one fact based on the biography of Frank Day. Then state one opinion based on that fact.