Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy




Dr. Julia Emberley

Second Advisor

Dr. Kim Solga

Third Advisor

Dr. Pauline Wakeham


This dissertation investigates literary, activist, and policy-related interventions into the social issue of violence against Indigenous women in Canada, examining key points of intersection between contemporary Indigenous resistance writing and antiviolence activist discourse. Although Indigenous resistance literature has received some critical attention in Canada, its specific relation to activist discourse remains relatively unexplored. My dissertation makes a case for reading literary texts and activist discourse in dialogue with one another, engaging a comparative frame through which to understand cultural production as an activist pursuit, while then using this frame as a reflexive means of querying the possibilities and limits of contemporary anti-violence strategies and debates. For instance, I consider how some activist discourse risks narrativizing Indigenous women’s experiences of violence in ways that enforce, rather than challenge, liberal multicultural measures for social change. I then look to Indigenous cultural production as a site where the representational strategies of anti-violence campaigns can be thrown into relief, and subsequently problematized. Each chapter thus constitutes a case-study in anti-violence that investigates the question of resistance through a juxtaposed pairing of contemporary literary and activist texts or contexts. Chapter One examines the Amnesty International Stolen Sisters report for its representation of missing and murdered Indigenous women in Canada, and reads against this action-oriented text the commemorative poetry of Beth Brant and Marilyn Dumont, and the documentary filmmaking of Christine Welsh. Chapter Two problematizes the inclusionary politics of anti-racist reform as pursued in mainstream feminist anti-violence agencies, and as illustrated by the reception of Morningstar Mercredi’s memoir, A 111 Warrior's Spirit. Chapter Three turns to the issue of community-based restorative justice for Indigenous women victims of violence—reading the federal government’s Aboriginal Justice Strategy and Winona LaDuke’s story, “The Women’s Warrior Society” for the tensions they reveal about “culturally appropriate” programming. Chapter Four interrogates the politics of memorialization, offering a critical reflection on the figure of Helen Betty Osborne as commemorated in government legislation and in David Robertson’s graphic novel biography, The Life of Helen Betty Osborne. I then turn to a discussion of Anna Mae Pictou-Aquash as invited by Yvette Nolan’s play, Annie Mae’s Movement.



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