Indigenous graphic novels against settler colonialism: Raven Lovering, ‘Graphic Reminders: Confronting Colonialism in Canada through Betty: The Helen Betty Osborne Story’, Contemporary Kanata, 2021, pp. 17-21


Abstract: David Alexander Robertson’s 2015 graphic novel Betty: The Helen Betty Osborne Story connects non-Indigenous Canadians to the racial realities of Canada’s intentionally forgotten past. Robertson translates Helen Betty Osborne’s biography into the accessible format of the graphic novel which allows for a wide range of readers to connect present day racial injustices to the past, generating new understandings surrounding violence against Indigenous peoples in Canada. Helen Betty Osborne, a young female Cree student was abducted and murdered in 1971, targeted for her race and gender. The horrors Betty experienced reveal the connection between her story and the contemporary narrative of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women in Canada. Betty: The Helen Betty Osborne Story deconstructs Betty’s life from the violence she is subjected to, personifying a historical figure. The graphic novel allows for a visual collision of past and present to express the cycle of colonial violence in Canada ignored by non-Indigenous Canadians despite its continued socio-economic and political impact on Indigenous peoples. As an Indigenous author, Robertson preserves the integrity of Indigenous voice and revives an integral gendered and racialized historical perspective that is necessary to teach. This close reading of Betty: The Helen Betty Osborne Story explores how Robertson uses the graphic novel to revive history and in doing so, demonstrates connections between past and present patterns of racial injustice against Indigenous women in Canada today.

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