By Kim Anderson
The Kika’ige Historical Society is a professorial performance art troupe, formed by three Indigenous women with PhDs in Canadian history: Dr. Kim Anderson (Metis, Associate Professor, Family Relations and Applied Nutrition, University of Guelph); Dr. Lianne Leddy (Anishinaabe, Assistant Professor, Indigenous Studies, Wilfrid Laurier University) and Dr. Brittany Luby (Anishinaab(l)e(nd), Assistant Professor, History, University of Guelph).
It started with a performance art protest against the Statues Project at Wilfrid Laurier University. In June 2015, Wilfrid Laurier University entered into an agreement to raise the statues of 22 past prime ministers on campus to celebrate Canada’s sesquicentennial. A statue of Sir John A. Macdonald soon appeared. Dr. Leddy and Dr. Anderson found themselves in conversation about their disgust, and decided to use Halloween to engage with the Statues Project. Dr. Anderson wrote an op-ed in the Toronto Star and through music, dance, stoicism, and candy, she and Leddy reminded the public of Indigenous perspectives on Sir John A.’s National Policy, and that his government’s suppression of Riel’s resistance had very real consequences for Indigenous peoples.
Anderson and Leddy soon decided, however, that there was more work to do and that this was not going to be an isolated event. Dr. Luby joined the troupe, and in the midst of Canada 150 celebrations in 2017, the three Indigenous historians made further plans to disrupt and engage with mainstream historical narratives.
The troupe needed a name, and when Kim Anderson gave tobacco to Rene Meshake, an Anishinaabe elder, to help find one that was appropriate, he spoke about the role his father had in blazing a trail for the MNR crew to follow. He gifted the troupe with the following name in the spirit of trailblazing:
“KIKA’IGE. It’s in present tense. It means making marks on a tree by chipping off a piece of the bark. Like blazing a trail for students and travellers. I can see clearly that that’s what you’re doing in the academic world.”
-Rene Meshake (Anishinaabe)
And so the Kika’ige Society was born. During the next outing in October 2017 at the University of Guelph’s Canada150 Symposium: Reflect and Envision, the Society invited nine other sisters to join in from Guelph, Laurier, and Waterloo. The sisters dressed as the “Grannies of Confederation,” a way to celebrate Indigenous womanhood, but also remind Canadians of the exclusion of Indigenous women in Canadian nation-building projects. They stood stoically at the beginning of the conference lunch, inviting participants to reflect on why the sisters had gathered. Anderson, Leddy, and Luby opened a discussion about the Kika’ige Society, and in process, reflected on reconciliation as well. The final photo positions the women as the “Grannies of Confederation,” a play on Rex Woods’ commissioned recreation of “The Fathers of Confederation” at the Charlottetown Conference.
As a performance art and resistance troupe, the Kika’ige Society aims to de-center settler narratives while privileging Indigenous ways of knowing and understanding history. Its members intend to raise awareness of history as it impacts today, but also to have some fun and mischief along the way.