Publication Details

McMahon-Coleman, K. 2009, 'Arctic and outback - Indigenous literature at the 'Ends of the Earth'', Australasian Canadian Studies, vol. 26, no. 1, pp. 43-58.


Canada and Australia share a colonial history which featured an attempt to eradicate Indigenous spirituality and language and which involved governmental intervention in areas such as health and education. The movement across traditional borders in order to access health and education created a kind of intra-national diasporic condition, which Indigenous peoples in these countries continue to negotiate on a daily basis.

The Inuit writer Alootook Ipellie and Murri writer Sam Watson seek to resist cultural constraints through creating works which are multiply transgressive. Their works cross genre boundaries and use the interstices between Indigenous diaspora, queer theory and maban reality in order to find a way of locating cultural subjectivity in relation to their narratives. They each offer alternatives to normative binaries in literature, especially with regard to cultural and sexual identity. The characters they create are shamanic, and thus able to negotiate the difficulties of being Indigenous diasporans in the contemporary world. Ipellie’s narrator in his collection Arctic Dreams and Nightmares is still most at “home” in the Arctic, where his powers are at their strongest; he is hyper-masculine, pragmatic, and engaged with mainstream cultural iconography. Watson’s protagonist is bicultural, promiscuous, and angry at authority figures from both cultures.

In the end this paper seeks to analyse how these authors contest established categories about who belongs and where, and how they have determined the means to tell stories of the Arctic and Queensland which might otherwise have been lost through colonial processes.


200502 Australian Literature (excl. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Literature), 200506 North American Literature