The “Professional Native Indian Artists Association” was founded in November 1973, and included Alex Janvier, Jackson Beardy, Eddy Cobiness, Norval Morrisseau, Carl Ray and Joseph Sanchez. Haida artist Bill Reid, although not formally signing on at the time, was considered the eighth member and participated in some of the groups shows.
The group was better known as the "Indian Group of Seven". The informal name was with reference to the highly esteemed “Group of Seven” of the early 20th century.
Self-taught artist Carl Ray was born 1943 on the Sandy Lake First Nation reserve in northern Ontario, Canada and was known in his Cree community as Tall Straight Poplar as he was 6'4" tall. After Norval Morrisseau’s success in breaking the painting taboos Carl to confidently pursue his craft, which in many cases, included “legend painting” and painting wildlife and northern scenic landscapes.He apprenticed under Norval Morrisseau and worked on the mural for the Indians of Canada Pavilion of Expo ’67 in Montreal. Norval had designed and sketched the mural but it was Carl who did most of the work and was left to finish it.
Many of his works were limited to two or three colours, brown, black and blue, often mixing ink and watercolours.His lesser known, but equally powerful scenic western style canvases were also a large part of Carl's repertoire. Often ensconced in hues of electric blue, he captured the wildlife and beauty of the Sandy Lake area. He also combined the two styles on occasion, capturing his imaginative images of Cree legends in full electrifying colour.