Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository


Doctor of Philosophy




Dr. Regna Darnell


This dissertation examines cross-genre and cross-cultural discourse between contemporary Indigenous windigo narratives and medical narratives involving the topic of Indigenous youth suicide. The Indigenous narratives include forms that are Western in their origin, the novel, comic book and film, but contain traditional Indigenous narrative patterns, actors and themes. I draw these narratives from fictions produced by Indigenous public intellectuals. The medical narratives represent a cross-section of fields but focus mainly on Coroners’ reports, social determinants of health research and suicide research based in psychology. The goal of my research is to examine how and where these forms of discourse come together in a meaningful way and how that union can benefit the Indigenous communities and medical researchers.

My research methodology includes the application of narrative and literary theory originating from such scholars as M.M. Bakhtin, Paul Ricoeur, Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari. Narrative theory is brought together with the ethnographic work of A. Irving Hallowell, Victor Turner, Dell Hymes, and William Labov and Indigenous scholarship, particularly the work of Cree academic, artist and poet Neal McLeod, in order to conduct cross-genre and cross-cultural discourse analysis.

My major research findings are that the cross-genre discourse is not my own construct, as is evidenced by the role of medical narratives within the construction of contemporary Indigenous narratives. Medical narratives, also, demonstrate an application of ethnographic and cultural awareness in their analysis. However, I argue that there are still gaps that can be closed in the discourses that will benefit both sides of the conversation. I argue that by focusing on the points where the discourses meet and where they are disconnected, the field of Indigenous youth suicide can gain a better understanding of the ontological and epistemological view-points of the communities they are studying and how these positions are connected to the stories they tell about their histories.