Allen Sapp was born in the winter of 1928 on the Red Pheasant Reserve in north central Saskatchewan. He was a weak and sickly child born to a mother who herself had to fight for her life and who eventually died of tuberculosis. Allen was raised and cared for by Maggie Soonias, his grandmother. The memory of this tender relationship has spawned in Sapp some of his finest and most sensitive works, bringing to his canvas a sense of affection and love rarely communicated or seen in the twentieth century art world.

Allen was often sick as a child and was picked on by other children. He never learned to read or write but found refuge and satisfaction in drawing pictures. When he was eight years old and suffering again from a childhood illness, the Nootokao (old matriarch) had a dream in which Allen was threatened seriously with death. She was compelled to bestow a Cree name upon him. She touched his forehead as he slept and called him Kiskayetum (he perceives-it).