Andersen Kee grew up in Cottonwood, 25 miles west of Chinle. "Sometimes it shows up on the map, and sometimes it doesn't," he says. This is a place on the planet best described by Willa Cather, who wrote, "Elsewhere the sky is the roof of the world, but here the earth was the floor of the sky."
His father worked on the railroad but supplemented his income as a silversmith, while his mother Sadie was a weaver, when she wasn't busy raising 14 kids. Andersen was smack in the middle: lucky number 7. But he liked hanging out with his older brothers, which is where he learned to ride. "My dad had a herd of mustangs: at the most thirty head, at the least ten, and a few we kept around the homeplace. It was open range and it was the kids' job to go check on the herd. Being the youngest, my brothers got all the saddles so if I wanted to go along, which I always did, I had to ride bareback."
Just as much fun, and a lot easier were the artistic pursuits. Taking a cue from his parents’ creativity and handiwork, Andersen would go out to a nearby cliff and break off a flat section of rock on which he would scratch images with a nail or sharp piece of glass. In the way he could rub the images off the surface and paint something else, the sandstone slabs were like a chalkboard.
He didn't speak English until he was in the fifth grade, nor did he grow up having much of a feeling for Navajo history. But when the topics came up in middle school, he couldn't get enough of either the language or the history classes and they became the focus of his education. It was during this same time period that his interest in history began to manifest itself in drawings and paintings, which led to a lifelong devotion to Native American subject matter.
Encouraged by a high school art teacher, he applied and was accepted into the prestigious Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe. Next he completed two years at the California College of Arts and Crafts. Over one summer he worked at the Colter Bay Indian Arts Museum, giving tours, guiding nature walks and conducting demonstrations of Native arts and crafts.