Intersections of Disaspora and Indigeneity: The Standoff at the Kahnesatake in Lee Maracle’s Sundogs and Tessa McWatt’s Out of My Skin


Salish-Métis writer Lee Maracle’s Sundogs (1992) and Guyanese Canadian writer Tessa McWatt’s Out of My Skin (1998) are among a small number of narratives that take place during the standoff at Kahnesatake. In this article I read these two texts through a diasporic lens to demonstrate how they explore intersecting histories of Indigenous and Black diasporic marginalization, trauma, and (de)colonization, emphasizing the importance of cross-cultural alliances in nation building. Both novels are set in urban contexts, highlight the importance of language and voice in the process of (de)colonization, de-centre the white reader, and focus on the emotional and spiritual growth of their young female protagonists. They also ask to be read allegorically in that the dynamics of personal relationships signify the larger forces of nation building as in both texts the armed standoff initiates the protagonists’ political awakening and changes their notion of Canada. I bring the two texts in conversation with each other to demonstrate how indigeneity and diaspora intersect, and how the tensions between the two concepts have the potential to transform notions of national identity, sovereignty, citizenship and belonging. My discussion of Sundogs as a diasporic text is indebted to Jean-Paul Restoule’s observation that many Aboriginal people in urban areas have resisted assimilation “in the process creating diasporic identities” (21). In Out of My Skin, the white settler-native dichotomy, on which the discussion of decolonization in Canada and in other settler societies is usually based, is portrayed as being unhinged by the racialized diasporic subject. Both texts subvert the status quo. In Sundogs white society loses its centrality while Aboriginal identity affirms itself by reclaiming Vancouver. Out of My Skin disrupts the notion of the “two solitudes” by acknowledging the role of Aboriginal peoples as well as that of racialized diasporic communities in nation building.

This article “Intersections of Disaspora and Indigeneity: The Standoff at the Kahnesatake in Lee Maracle’s Sundogs and Tessa McWatt’s Out of My Skin” originally appeared in Tracking CanLit. Spec. issue of Canadian Literature 220 (Spring 2014): 74-91.

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