Dr. Kim Anderson: A Métis Scholar Whose Work Integrates Artistic Practices and Indigenous Ideologies
“It's about representation. And education.”
These were the words of Kimberley Anderson in explanation of her performance art piece that took place on the Wilfrid Laurier campus on Halloween day 2015. In protest against a recently erected statue of Canada’s first Prime Minister, Anderson and some of her colleagues dressed up in prison uniforms and offensive “Indian” costumes to hand out candy. They were protesting the celebration of Macdonald’s legacy of genocide while also representing the Indigenous presence on campus and educating passersby about the contributions of historic Indigenous figures such as Louis Riel. Her innovative intersection of scholarship, activism and artistic practice has made her one of the most distinguished Indigenous scholars working in Canada today.
Much of Anderson’s work involves arts-based research methods and the use of art installations and performance. In many of her projects, art and research intersect to create and distribute knowledge. Lands-based methods are also integral to her practice. Many artistic projects she has been involved in take up and make space to call attention to both our connection to the natural world and to injustices plaguing Indigenous peoples. One such project was the use of human bodies to form the shape of a medicine wheel to raise awareness of the pandemic of missing and murdered Indigenous women. Another is her involvement with the Konnón:kwe exhibit at the Guelph Civic Museum about women’s roles in Indigenous communities.
Anderson is a Métis woman who was born in Ottawa in 1964. She lived there until the age of 18 when she left to attend university. In 1997 she received her master's degree in Adult Education, Sociology and Equity Studies from the University of Toronto. Her first book, A Recognition of Being: Reconstructing Native Womanhood, emerged from her master's thesis. In order to set aside time in her busy life to work on her second book, Anderson enrolled at the University of Guelph to pursue her PhD. Her doctorate in history, awarded in 2010, and the accompanying dissertation gave life to her second book Life Stages and Native Women: Memory, Teachings, and Story Medicine. In recent years, she has also co-edited a number of collections on topics including Indigenous masculinity, Indigenous mothering and missing and murdered Indigenous women. Anderson holds the current Canada Research Chair in Indigenous Relationships.
At present, Anderson is an Associate Professor in the Department of Family Relations & Applied Nutrition at the University of Guelph. One of her current projects at the University revolves around the idea of ‘Indigenizing the campus’. The primary goal of the project is the creation of a safe space for Indigenous students, learners and faculty where they can relearn relations with the natural world and each other through an Indigenous perspective. There are also plans to encourage research and scholarship by Indigenous scholars and to increase the number of Indigenous professors and mentorship opportunities for students. Anderson is currently a member of the University’s Indigenizing Strategy Committee which is taking steps for substantial change.
Recently, Anderson co-authored a letter to the federal government, asking why they have not moved on in the investigation of missing and murdered Indigenous women. She says: "Acting on something like this is possible immediately – let's go, let’s make a difference right now!"
Dr Anderson relaxing in a garden. She is wearing a jean jacket and has a cup in her hand.
The cover of the second edition of Dr Anderson's "A Recognition of Being: Reconstructing Native Womanhood".
The cover of Dr Anderson's "Life Stages and Native Women: Memory Teachings and Story Medicine"