An Indian without a Country

Are you a Canadian citizen? This is the question put to the Métis speaker of Marilyn Dumont’s poem ‘It Crosses My Mind’. The speaker contemplates a job application that solicits a one-word answer to that question and muses,

I sometimes think to answer, yes, by coercion, yes, but no ... there’s more, but no space provided to write my historical inter-pretation here, that, yes but no, really only means yes because there are no lines for the stories between yes and no. (59)

At heart, this essay attempts to render some ‘lines’ for a short story that speaks to the ‘yes, but no’ of Indigenous citizenship. That story is Thomas King’s ‘Borders’ (King, One Good Story). My aim is to consider the ways in which ‘Borders’ elucidates the constraints of Canadian citizenship for Indigenous peoples and re-imagines citizenship from an indigenous perspective. Beyond that, I hope to suggest some of the ways in which reading this story can help those of us who study and teach indigenous literatures to answer the question memorably put by Cheryl Suzack: ‘how do we put our commitments to indigenous knowledges in the service of new social movements?’ (1).

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Published 1 June 2009 in Volume 24 No. 2. Subjects: Citizenship, Indigenous literature & writers, Canadian Literature.

Cite as: Dawson, Carrie. ‘An Indian without a Country.’ Australian Literary Studies, vol. 24, no. 2, 2009, doi: 10.20314/als.31d95a654a.