Beardy was one of 13 children and went to Commercial Art at Tech Voc High School and then finished his education at the School of Fine Arts at the University of Manitoba.
In 1972 Jackson Beardy, held a joint exhibition with others at the Winnipeg Art Gallery called "Treaty Numbers 23, 287, 1171". The name was a reference to the treaty numbers that the Canadian government gave to the indigenous groups which they had concluded treaties with. From this exhibition grew a group of indigenous (Native) Canadian artists who named themselves the "Professional Native Indian Artists Association” in 1973, better known as the Indian Group of Seven. Included alongside Jackson Beardy was Alex Janvier, Norval Morrisseau, Daphne Odjig, Carl Ray, Eddy Cobiness and Joseph Sanchez.
They were committed to indigenous control of indigenous art and changing acceptance from emphasizing "Indigenous" to emphasizing "Artistic” value. His media of choice was oil, acrylic, tempura and prints. His stylized paintings depicted Cree legends and stories told to him by his grandmother.
Although Beardy's early work often narrates specific legends, his mature art expresses fundamental cosmological and spiritual concepts such as balance in nature, regeneration and growth, and the interdependence of all things. His distinctive graphic style is characterized by precisely defined flat areas of warm colour and curving ribbons of paint.