Is This Culturally Appropriate?: The Role of the White Fiction Writer in Respecting Truth and Reconciliation

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Sarkadi, Laurie

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University of Guelph


The question of who gets to tell a story, and how it is to be told, is at the centre of my exploration into the non-Indigenous fiction writer’s position in respecting Truth and Reconciliation. At this critical juncture of climate change and social justice movements such as #IdleNoMore, #MeToo and #BlackLivesMatter (BLM), it is crucial that Indigenous worldviews—often so fundamentally opposed to capitalist, colonial ideologies—are conveyed respectfully, as part of the conversation on how to move forward together in an ethical space. The male-dominant, Eurocentric narratives that hold foundational power are being increasingly challenged by women and BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Colour) authors. As a settler-feminist writer who lives off-grid on Dene lands, I present two works of short fiction to expose racial inequalities and the inter-generational impacts of sexual abuse at residential schools in Canada’s North. Guided by Indigenous writers, I add research into whether this constitutes cultural appropriation, and meditate on the respectful creation of Indigenous fictional characters.



cultural appropriation, creative writing, truth and reconciliation, Northwest Territories, Dene, sexual abuse, intergenerational trauma, feminism, midwifery, racism, nature, North