Posts from another blog

This post comes from the personal blog of Bill Andersen, one of Helen Andersen’s children. It is reposted here because the origibal blog has been retired.

I just handed in the last assignment for the online Indigenous Canada course from the University of Alberta. My final grade was good enough for Danica to call me a browner. 🤓

In addition to much, much more, I learned about a history painting (oil pastel, actually) that hangs in our front room.

The Lubicon Expect Fair Play From the Government by Helen Andersen, circa 1986

It is evidence of Helen Andersen‘s keen interest in Indigenous political struggles. How many non-Indigenous Canadians were really aware of the significance of the Lubicon Cree First Nation’s battle at the time

Protesters with flags, in traditional dress. They boycotted the Shell Oil art show.

A band of 500 or so Lubicon people have lived in part of what is now called northern Alberta for thousands of years, never ceding land to settler governments, but also ignored by federal bureaucrats. They were not recognized officially, so they used art and the world stage to embarrass Canada internationally during the Calgary Winter Olympics in 1988.

Although Helen’s title, written on the back of her artwork, may seem ironic or even sarcastic, it would not have been intended that way. It wasn’t so much the Lubicon who expected more of the government, it was Helen, from her settler perspective. 

Dance continues to be an important component of oral history traditions.

Helen’s expectations were never met. Provincial and federal governments resisted fair play for another 32 years until a compromise settlement was reached in 2018.

There is a small, intriguing figure on the horizon behind the dancer figure … two figures, if you count one that might be a porcupine. 

Who is looking on?

I see the larger figure as female, with big hair and a nipped-in waist. Whenever I see a solo female figure in Helen Andersen art, I take it to be a psychological selfie. The cocked elbow, hand on hip, says “authority” and “expectation”. It fits in a more general way, too, with Indigenous inclusion of women in positions of political power and influence.

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