“The story of Canada is about us as well. From day one. Because we were here first. We settled here first. It’s a tripod, this country. It’s French, English and First Nations. We helped shape this country, you know, and we continue to.” – Robert Houle
Recently the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) launched a new series of Teacher Resources created for grades 7-12 that features contemporary artists from the AGO’s collection with a first set which “focuses on Indigenous artists in the AGO Collection.” Two of Robert Houle’s works have been included – The Pines and and Premises for Self-Rule: Constitution Act.
For the resource on The Pines, background and context is provided on the work which Robert created as a reflective response to what is commonly known as the Oka Crisis of 1990, a historicially important moment of Kanien’kehá:ka (Mohawk) Resistance. In the subtly evocative painting Robert’s use of colour is important.
From the resource:
Houle painted The Pines for himself as a way of remembering the spiritual energy he felt when he visited the area.
Houle has said that blue is an emotional colour that references his ancestry and the power of water. Houle made
other paintings in response to the Kanien’kehá:ka Resistance, and has said that the shade of green is a reference
to the golf course.
The questions asked in the resource challenge students to consider and compare what happened in Québec at Oka to current Indigenous Resistance movements an example being the ongoing conflict in British Columbia between corporate and government interests and the sovereignty of the Wet’suwet’en Nation. This important work of Robert’s provides an opportunity for framing a discussion around Canada’s history as well as current events with regards to what has or has not changed for Indigenous peoples.
The AGO has made the digital resources available to the public. Download Robert Houle’s PDF on The Pines here. For more on Robert’s work focusing on Oka and Kanien’kehá:ka Resistance read the Art Canada Institute’s book on Robert, also available as a downloadable PDF.