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ISSN 2582-2241




The fundamental principle underlying ecofeminism revolves around the empathic connections between women and the natural world, highlighting how the empowerment of one is not possible without that of the other. The indigenous women of Canada and India identify the roots of this empathy within their mutual ability to procreate, nurture, sustain and preserve life and their shared history of oppression in the hands of the mainstream populace of the two nations. This paper explores how the indigenous ecofeminist standpoint has emerged as a major tool of protest against colonial atrocities and postcolonial governance deficits, which have adversely affected the Chippewa (Ojibwe) of Canada and the Ao Naga of Nagaland in India. With reference to the poetry of the Chippewa writer, activist and publisher Kateri Akiwenzie-Damm and that of the Ao Naga writer, scholar and ethnographer, Temsula Ao, this paper traces an ecofeminist trajectory of indigenous interconnectedness across the two nations.     

As an Anishnaabe woman my purpose in life is geared to my community, to forming and strengthening connections, to preserving my bond to the earth, to maintaining my link to creation. I strengthen myself, I learn, I accumulate experience and knowledge, not for personal gain but because ultimately I know that personal development is a necessary tool for contributing to the community, to the earth, to life. We are supported and sustained within a web of relationships. And it begins with the land. So we say truly that the land is our mother, Mother Earth.[1]

THESE WORDS OF THE ANISHINAABE WRITER, ACTIVIST, PUBLISHER and spoken word artist of mixed ancestry Kateri Akiwezie-Damm (born in 1965), who hails from the Cape Croker Reserve in Saugeen peninsula, Southwestern Ontario, Canada, as quoted from her essay “First People’s Literature in Canada,” enunciate the basic concept underlying ecofeminism that is based on “empathic connections between women and the natural world.”[2] The indigenous women of Canada and India have traditionally identified the roots of this empathy within their mutual ability to procreate, nurture, sustain and preserve life. Unlike the Western worldview, the man/nature dichotomy has never been a part of the traditional beliefs of the Chippewa(s) of Nawash First Nations of Canada and the Ao Naga(s) of India. Their ancestral lands in the Saugeen Peninsula of Ontario and the Mokokchung district of Nagaland respectively have been an integral part of their identity, since pre-colonial times. These lands, in fact, are emblematic of their entire cultural topoi. Held in high esteem for their ability to produce new life, it had been the women of the community who held the key to the traditional knowledge of the land, transmitting the ethics of acting with responsibility and ‘response-ability’ towards nature across generations through activity-based learning, enactment of ritualistic cultural practices and oral storytelling sessions. The ecological and cultural crisis ushered in through the encroachment of the indigenous lands by the European colonisers in the name of urbanisation, the appropriation of hunting-fishing-gathering rights of the indigenous communities in favour of industrialisation, the exploitation of nature through mining activities, and the construction of dams over the respective territorial waters (Saugeen river on one hand, and the Dikhu and Disai rivers on the other), have posed a serious threat to the communities’ survival.

For the traditionally matriarchal and matrilineal community of the Chippewas, this threat was further sharpened by the intervention of Euro-Canadian Christian missionaries, which gradually led to a percolation of patriarchal notions of sin, shame, chastity and sexuality pertaining to the female body into the collective communal psyche. Such a threat in the case of the Ao Nagas, already accentuated by the thwarting of the autonomy of women through the colonial imposition of Christianity, worsened with their objectification and violation as a part of the ‘state terrorism’ perpetuated by the implementation of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (1958) in Nagaland in the postcolonial period. The indigenous women’s shared experience of facing domination, oppression, and violence further strengthened their bond with nature, even though they were deterred from playing their traditional role of protector and preserver of their communities’ ancestral lands and natural resources. These concerns highlight the necessity of confronting the systemic and systematic patriarchal structure of domination in its totality, in order to combat not only gender-based oppression but also any ecological crisis caused within the community due to the rampant exploitation of nature.

In light of this observation, this article explores how the fundamental principle underlying ecofeminism emerged as a major tool of protest against colonial atrocities and postcolonial governance deficits, for the two indigenous communities of Canada and India. It traces an ecofeminist trajectory of indigenous interconnectedness across the two nations through the poetry of Kateri Akiwenzie-Damm (My Heart A Stray Bullet, 1993, and Standing Ground, 2003) and that of Temsula Ao (born in 1945, Songs that Tell, 1988, Ao Naga Oral Traditions, 1999, and Book of Songs, 2013). The voice of resistance of both the poets secures the bonds of empathy that connect women with the natural world through common concepts—Akiwenzie-Damm’s “Woman to Woman,”[3] and Temsula’s the “Kindred Heart,”[4] thereby highlighting how the empowerment of one is closely associated with that of the other.


Kateri Akiwenzie-Damm (above), and Temsula Ao.

Akiwenzie-Damm is one of the foremost among indigenous women writers in Canada to have tried to establish bonds of indigenous solidarity in the face of colonial oppression not only within but beyond the borders of Canada, into the United States, Australia and Aeotoreoa (New Zealand). The Kegedonce Press, set up by her, is one of the very few publishers in Canada that gives voice to the marginalised original inhabitants of the European settler colony. As an Anishinaubae woman, Akiwenzie-Damm speaks strongly against what she calls “the cookie cutter approach” that refuses to accommodate diverse worldviews and harps upon a tendency to fall back on Western theories to understand and analyse indigenous literatures.[5] It is the stories, experiences, and memories of the indigenous woman that provides an alternative theoretical framework for shaping the indigenous notion of ecofeminism. The alternative notion of ecofeminism finds poignant expression in Akiwenzie- Damm’s first collection of poetry My Heart A Stray Bullet that was born out of her wish to share her stories with other native writers while coordinating an international indigenous arts conference, “Beyond Survival: The Waking Dreamer Ends the Silence,” the first of its kind in Canada organised by First Nations artists in Quebec in 1993. Within this collection, in her poem “Woman to Woman” she defines the Anishinaubae woman as a “maker” and “a woman with memory,” highlighting not only her power to create new life but also her role as the repository of the collective cultural memory of the community and the traditional knowledge of the land.[6] This belief has its roots in the Anishnaubae creation story of the Geezhigoquae or Sky Woman, according to which a pregnant woman falls from the sky on the back of a turtle in a flooded world ultimately leading to the creation of the turtle island (an Anishinaubae name for North America). The poet reclaims her legacy as the daughter of the Sky Woman in the poem “Nawash,” one of the twelve poems set to music as a part of the spoken word CD album, Standing Ground (a collaborative project that strives to bring together indigenous voices of resistance like those of Joy Harjo, Te Kupu, John Thorp, Rhys B, Marcos Arcentales, Luis Abanto and Raven Kanatakta from across the world):

(C)olonizer man, this is indigenous land
and I got roots that go deep ,
from the woman who fell to earth
to the day my mother gave birth
from a baby who dreams and sleeps,
to the day when as akiwenzie, I bend to ahki,
there’s no dearth of connections in this family tree
the web around me, the communities protection, it’s all we need
spirituality, our reality, the freedom to be.[7]

The poem establishes a firm connection between the maintenance of the ecological balance of Cape Croker Reserve, which she refers to both as her mother(s) and her “motherland,” as a “branch that never breaks,” and the spiritual, social, political and sexual autonomy of the women who call it their home. [8] This dual connotation signposts an ecofeminist trajectory that connects women and nature in the Anishinaubae worldview. This belief finds resonance in the idea of the ‘Soft Power’ enunciated by the Okanagan writer and creative artist Jeannette Armstrong, who asserts in her essay “Land Speaking”: “The feminine process has the power to heal the world and the individuals in it.”[9] ‘Soft Power’ has formed the backbone of the indigenous communities of Canada since the pre-colonial times, encompassing some of their major secrets of survival in the face of adversities. Excessive exploitation of land and nature is seen in the destruction of berry-picking trails for the construction of towns and factories, enhanced fur trade to serve the purpose of Canada’s capitalist economy, building of dams on the Saugeen river, and rampant issuing of fishing license to non-indigenous fishermen. While the anguish over the loss of indigenous lands for the construction of strip mines, high rises, airports and golf courses of the “superior” civilisation of the coloniser is expressed poignantly in “My Heart is a Stray Bullet,” the title poem of the her first collection of poetry, the nomenclature of the spoken word poetry album, itself, is strongly reminiscent of a dark chapter in the alternative ‘history’ of the Cape Croker, that is marked by the forceful acquisition of the Ojibweburial grounds. Even the cover of the CD, which features the map of Nawash on one side and the trees and the waters of the Cape Croker on the other, marks an attempt on the part of Anishinaubae women to re-write or rather re-speak ‘history’ from outside the colonial discourse that finds place in the mainstream textbooks of Canada.

The gradual infiltration of patriarchal values within the Chippewa community has posed a serious threat to the power and prestige traditionally accorded to their women. Largely disempowered within the dominant patriarchal ideology, the Anishinaubae women remain mostly unrepresented in the male-dominated Band Councils. Objectified and exoticised by the Euro-Canadian male gaze, her body is subject to domestic violence within and sexual assault outside the community. The pain of disempowerment of the Anishinaabe woman within the dominant patriarchal ideology has a deep impact upon Akiwenzie- Damm’s creative endeavours as an indigenous woman writer. “When I go about my life and when I write, Helen Betty Osborne is with me,” she writes with reference to the “conspiracy of silence” that surrounded the brutal rape and murder of the Cree girl by four ‘white’ men in Pas, Manitoba on the fateful night of 1971.[10] The poem “Dry Season” (My Heart is a Stray Bullet) highlights beautifully how a common history of oppression marks the existence of the indigenous world and the world of nature, and how it adversely affects the well-being of the community. Over exploitation, moreover, spell death, decay and drought for Mother Earth. The ecological concerns get closely associated with the attempts to control and repress female sexuality and sexual desires through the Christian concepts of sin, shame and chastity, when she ends the poem with “water blood and moon everything is connected/water blood and moon everything is connected” establishing the connections between the lunar cycle of time and the menstrual blood of those who can create, sustain and preserve life.[11] But in the words of the Laguna Pueblo/Sioux storyteller, Paula Gunn Allan, as quoted from “The Sacred Hoop: A Contemporary Perspective”: “we survive, and we do more than just survive. We bond, we care, we fight, we teach, we nurse, we feed, we care, we laugh, we love, we hang in there, no matter what,” and in this way, women continue to play their traditional role in the preservation of nature and the traditional knowledge of the community by working outside the dominant structure of the Band Council, through community programmes, gatherings, feasts, storytelling sessions and even kitchen table talks.[12]

Never restricted only to the cause of the Anishinaabe, the poetry of Awikenzie-Damm is imbued with an attempt at attaining self-determination of indigenous women across Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the United States, with a strong undercurrent of ecofeminism establishing bonds of empathy across cultures. As she admits in “Night Falling Woman”:

And I keep falling…
But nothing in life is reasonable, nor life itself
Nor the trajectory of running that leads us home itself
So who can say we don’t share the same blood
Or that you are not the child of a dream
I imagined several lifetimes ago?[13]

Thus the poet strives to make connections among women of indigenous communities across diverse geopolitical spaces. Their legacy as preservers of nature and their shared angst over its destruction, their prestige within the community and the shared pain over its erosion, promises to pave the way for a more holistic understanding of indigeneity across cultures.

The theme of ecofeminist interconnections across indigenous cultures brings this article to the poetry of Ao Naga literary artist Temsula Ao, former professor of English at the North Eastern Hill University, former director of the North East Zonal Cultural Centre, the recipient of the Governor’s Medal (1997) awarded by the government of Meghalaya and the Padma Sri (1999), who has been striving to provide Ao Naga literature the hitherto denied recognition at the national level in India. Rooted in a socio-political reality fraught with violence and injustice, Temsula strives to “revive and vindicate a culture under threat of being lost forever.”[14] Her poems have been a way of reclaiming her kinship with her community and the Ao Naga ecoscape, and of investing in their happiness and sorrows the way her ancestors did since pre-colonial times. As a literary artist who sees herself as a “Naga woman poet in search of traditions,”[15] she identifies the first step towards this reclamation to be an interrogation of the human/nature and man/woman equation adversely affecting her community’s survival in contemporary times, in the light of its traditional understanding by “invoking the past as a collective cultural memory and making meaning of it in the 21st century for the individual listener (reader).”[16] It is only by inscribing the oral within the written that she hopes to bring the ‘modernised’ Ao Naga youth closer to their roots.

Reminiscent of the Chippewa creation story of the Sky Woman, the role of the Ao Naga women as keepers of cultural legacy has its roots in the Ao Naga creation myth of the “The Stone-people from Lungterok” that has been chronicled by Temsula in her seminal poem of the same name in Book of Songs. It is a story that speaks of the emergence of Six Wise People, three men and three women, “the possessors of special skills for survival, well versed with the secrets and wisdoms of nature and the worshippers of nature and the supernatural,” out of six stones; they were the original ancestors who were responsible for the birth of the entire community.[17] The folklore puts both sexes on equal standing vis-à-vis their location within Ao Naga cultural legacy. Though traditionally patriarchal and patrilineal like most of the Naga tribes, the Ao Naga people, whose ancestral territory extends from the valley of the Tsula or Dikhu river in the north and that of the Tsurang or Disai river in the south in the Mokokchung District of Nagaland in India, have held women in high esteem for their ability to produce new life and for being the repositories of important cultural knowledge and spiritual values within the community since pre-colonial times.

The advent of the Christian missionaries in the mid-nineteenth century saw the devaluation of the traditional community’s belief in the “power of the womb” that not only preserved the community’s deep-rooted association with their ancestral land but also their high esteem for their women whose bodies were considered almost as a sacred site where life began. As the discourses of sin, shame and chastity began to percolate into their worldview, the traditional equations of power within the community were destabilised, leading to a disempowerment of women. In her attempt to highlight the forces of cultural appropriation that have reduced Ao Naga artworks into mere “specimens” of the “exotic past” of the Nagas to be labelled and kept inside glass cabinets of museums to satisfy the voyeuristic curiosity of the coloniser, Temsula, in her poem “Heritage ,” delves deep into the tumultuous emotions that such an ‘exhibit’ in a European museum—a traditional body-cloth—evokes within a young Ao Naga woman. The narrator—a recipient of Western education on the one hand, and an inheritor of the gamut of collective cultural memory of her “ancient mothers” (female ancestors) on the other—cannot but help revel at the rich legacy of the women, once revered for their ability to balance their roles of nurturers and repositories of the knowledge of traditional artistry, that must have gone into the making of that garment:

Gazing at this spectacle
I yearn to stop and ask
how they spun the yarn,
what root or bark of leaf lent them the dye,
who created the design
and above all, how long
it took them to weave this magic cloth
between sucking babies, fetching water,
husking paddy, cooking meals, fending fields
and also catering to their men?[18]

The young girl considers it an insult to her indigenous heritage when all the care and hard work is reduced to mere promotion of cultural tourism. The concept of trees “lending” them the dye from their barks and roots searingly captures the reciprocal equivocal relationship the pre-contact community had shared with their ancestral lands. Ao Naga women, with their empathetic connection with nature, have been the flag-bearers of this “response-ability” towards the region’s flora and fauna. As the foreign forces strive to “conquer” the rough terrain of the Naga Hills, both the Ao Naga landscape and the body of the Ao Naga woman become sites of establishing the authority of the coloniser.

The women find themselves reduced to mere sexual playthings in the male colonisers’ gaze, passive recipients of their coercive sexual advances. The pain and humiliation hits the young Ao Naga woman hard as she chances upon a statue of a copulating couple in the museum, as depicted in Temsula’s poem, “Heritage”:

The inert and supine female beneath the grimacing male
contours into question and I long to know
what prompted the artist to carve this figure
was it in memory of long-gone lovers
or was it simply a testimony to his own sexual prowess?[19]

The loss of agency of the Ojibwa women, so deeply lamented by Akiwezie-Damm, finds resonance in the pitiable condition of the Ao Naga woman carved on stone. Taking a leaf out of the colonial master’s book, the men of the community, too, deem the body and the mind of their women to be theirs to control, regulate and subjugate. The pre-existing patriarchy, now invested with the Christian ideas on sin, shame and chastity, reconfigures Ao Naga society as the machinery that thwarts the voices of its women. Such an impingement upon their autonomy sees a gradual erosion of traditional sensibilities pertaining to the maintenance of the ecological balance, spelling decay and death for their traditional ways of life. These lands, a part of the Assam province of British India, have been subjected to rapid urbanisation, industrialisation, mining, and deforestation, posing serious threat to the web of kinship that sustained the community in happier times. With the ability to respond to the language of nature fast disappearing from the collective psyche of the Ao Naga community, colonial interventions continued to wreak havoc upon the Ao Naga landscape over centuries of domination and exploitation.

But unlike Canada that continues to be a settler colony, India has been free of colonial domination for more than seven decades now. Unfortunately, this has hardly improved the plight of most of the indigenous communities residing in the Seven Sister states located in India’s North East. The mountainous region often perceived as “the problem child since the very inception of the Indian Republic,” has been suffering from an onslaught of perpetual ethnic violence and insurgencies largely prompted by the apathy of the government of India towards the traditional ways of life of its indigenous population.[20] As more and more forests are devoured by the state machinery of urbanisation, and the rivers falling prey to hydroelectric power projects, the Ao Naga landscape is fast changing its contours. The coercive march of ‘modernisation’ has been steadily destroying the ecological balance of the region. Their traditional lives have been disrupted by the increasing imposition of a formal education system at the cost of activity-based learning that automatically imparted a sense of responsibility towards nature to the children of the community. The transformation of the community’s traditional lands as a space fraught with such conflict and contradiction—one where the mainstream and indigenous interests come into a confrontation—has resulted in the rise of ethno-nationalism within many of the Naga communities, including the Ao Nagas.

The government has attempted to combat ethno-nationalism by using the AFSPA that authorised the intervention of the Indian Armed Forces within the ‘disturbed areas’ in and around the Naga Hills since 1958. The perpetual unrest that led up to the imposition of the AFSPA and eventually resulted from it—especially the Mokokchung Massacre of 1994, deemed “an unforgettable action of genocide committed by the Indian Army in the last 60 years of its unholy crusade against the Nagas”—has left a trail of tears, spelling not only continued usurpation of the ancestral lands of the Ao Nagas and constant denigration of their traditional culture, but also erosion of the dignity of the female members of the community.[21]

Sexual abuse has become a living reality of the Ao Naga women as forces extraneous to the community continue to conceptualise the female body as the site of playing out their power politics.[22] As the narrator of “Heritage” realises, the statue of the couple is not only a touchstone of a past long lost, but an integral part of her “insistent present.”[23] The foreign forces of colonisation are no longer there, but the legacy of oppression continues as a part of military interventions. The patriarchal machinery has historically deemed the violation of the basic rights of women to be one of the most effective ways of gaining control over a community. The contemporary reality of the Ao Naga women is a living embodiment of this phenomenon.

The tendency towards such violations percolates into the community and manifests itself in the form of the subjection of women to bouts of domestic violence and moral policing, and prohibition from attending khi (Village Council) meetings. With the imposition of social restrictions that exert an iron grip over the life and choices of the women, comes a general disregard for their legacy of oral stories that are imbued with ecological ethics that the community had thrived on, and valued dearly for long. The storyteller has many stories to tell, but few to listen to them. The members of the new generation, with increasingly weakened ties with their roots, no longer fall back upon these creation stories, ancestral tales and ritualistic songs, for lessons on social regeneration. The bleak future awaiting them terrifies the storyteller, and so does the effect of their dismissive attitude on her cultural memory:

The rejection from my own
Has stemmed the flow
And the stories seem to regress
Into un-reachable recesses.[24]

With daughters and granddaughters fast losing interest in internalising these lessons and transmitting them to the next generation, they are disappearing from the collective memory of the community.

The crisis highlighted by the Ao Naga storyteller strongly resonates with the anxiety of the young Anishinaube girl—in the poem “my grandmothers”—whose visits to her anna (grandmother) Irene’s place in Toronto as a child become a transformative experience for her in retrospect. The busy streets and marketplaces of Toronto and her anna’s apartment in Bloor Street are a welcome change to the girl who had never ventured out of the confines of the reserve. Marvelling at the so-called glitz and glamour of urban existence, the awestruck child hardly pays attention to her anna recounting the stories of her childhood, steeped in traditional knowledge of the community. The child, imbued with the confidence of youth, is unable to understand the importance of lending a patient ear to what the elder has to say. Burdened with poverty and deprivation, her vision is under the threat of being clouded by the colonial forces of consumerism that renders her unable to realise what a treasure trove anna Irene wished to hand over to her beloved grandchild. She represents a generation of young women fast losing sight of their role of sustaining and transmitting the environmental ethics that were being passed down by the grandmothers of the community. The regret for disengaging from the collective memory of the grandmothers is portrayed poignantly in the self-reflexive ruminations of the narrator, now an adult, far removed from her ancestral lands and communal cultural roots:

i remember how i took you for granted
i remember my ears burning from listening
while you recounted your days
and how many times I wasn’t really listening
because i’d thought I’d heard it all before.[25]

Caught between memory and forgetting, the protagonist laments the loss of her anna Irene, and the all other elders, whose death spelt a loss of knowledge beyond recovery for the lack of rightful and responsible successors to their legacy. What anna’s words encapsulate is an alternative ‘history’ of exploitation that does not inform the official discourse of history writing in Canada; it is a ‘history’ that reeks of destruction of nature and the spirit of its traditional preservers—it is a ‘history’ that mainstream society would like to push under the carpet. Like the Anishinaube young woman, too young and enamoured by the cityscape to realise the cost at which it came into being, the Ao Naga tourist girl of “Heritage” is able to comprehend much later in life how ‘remembering’ this spoken ‘history’ might be the first step towards ensuring the re-empowerment of women and facilitating an ecologically cogent sustainable development of the community.

The increasingly strong empathetic connection between the Ao Naga woman and nature further accentuates with the implementation of the ‘grouping’ mechanism, where, in Temsula’s own words, “whole villages would be dislodged from their ancestral sites and herded into new ones.”[26] Though the strategy of ‘grouping’ was basically aimed at constantly monitoring the community and thereby minimising possibilities of ethno-nationalistic mobilisations, it had more serious implications for the community, especially its women. Not only does it problematise their idea of ‘home,’ their age-old secrets of survival of the community within the particular natural set-up of their ancestral lands, and the preservation of its ecological balance lose relevance in the face of such displacements. The way of life based on traditional life skills of the community is at stake, so are the birds, animals, fish and plants that inhabit their ancestral lands and waters. As the web of kinship, within which the Ao Nagas have conceptualised their existence since ages, is torn to shreds, the women suffer a loss of self-esteem, a fact they cannot cope with. They suffer a fragmentation of identity that threatens to break their spirit in a way no physical violence could. The helplessness to abide by their traditional role of the preservers of nature and keepers of cultural memory finds poignant expression in Temsula’s words:

But to-day
I no longer know my hills,
The birdsong is gone,
Replaced by the staccato
Of sophisticated weaponry.[27]

The home they have known for ages has undergone a transformation that makes it almost unrecognisable to its residents. The inability to discharge their traditional role as the preservers, protectors and nurturers of these ‘hills’ pushes them to the edge of utter helplessness and hopelessness. A feeling of hopelessness is enough to engulf the entire community within its dark folds, disempowering them to a great extent. But akin to their Canadian counterparts, theirs is a spirit never to be broken. The cultural activism of Temsula Ao demonstrates that the wounds inflicted by forces extraneous to, or within, the community have served to fuel their determination to move towards self-determinism.

The idea of the ‘kindred spirit’ evoked by Temsula in “The Old Storytellers,” strongly connecting the contemporary Ao Naga female consciousness with that of their ancestors and the ecological knowledge and ethics it was imbued with, resonates very strongly with Akiwenzie-Damm’s dual connotation of a “branch that never breaks.” Temsula shows how, as a contemporary Ao Naga woman, perpetually caught between the urge to preserve the traditional ways of life and the coercive forces of cultural assimilation, her creative endeavours

….now vibrate
for a kindred heart
who knew and understood
long before I knew them.[28]

The ‘Kindred Heart’ helps trace her roots to the ‘Greater Bards,’ the ancestral storytellers and preservers of the knowledge of the land, by falling back upon the fast eroding storehouse of oral songs. It is only by tracing and reiterating the contours of the networks of oral communication and activity-based learning with the elders that the contemporary Ao Naga woman may reassert their agency within the community, in turn ‘healing’ the wounds infesting the community and the ecoscape of their ancestral lands across centuries. Like Akiwenzie-Damm, her Ao Naga counterpart too calls upon the female agency and resilience to reclaim the reciprocal, mutually respectful relationship between nature and the community, which prevents the exploitation of natural resources beyond the basic needs of sustenance. As both the poets shape their creative endeavours as tools of subverting and interrogating the mutually intertwined forces of gender-based and ecological exploitation, the art of writing emerges as an important tool to reaffirm the indigenous notion of ecofeminism across continents.

Cultural resistance thus continues to inform the contemporary existence of the two indigenous communities divided by distance, yet strongly united by their worldviews. The areas of congruence between the avenues that open up the scope of cross-cultural interactions and eventual solidarity against gender-based oppression and ecological exploitation might help the marginalised indigenous women to take a step towards reinstating their traditional environmental ethics and achieving the goal of self-determination.

  Urmi Sengupta is a Senior Research Fellow in the Department of Comparative Literature, Jadavpur University, Kolkata. For her doctoral research, she is working on the short stories of Alice Munro and Nirmal Verma. Her areas of interest are Indigenous Studies, Canadian Studies, gender, Translation Studies and ecocriticism. She has presented papers at several national and international conferences on Comparative Literature and Canadian Studies. Her articles and book reviews have been published in the journals Sahitya: The Journal of Comparative Literature Association of India, and Littcrit: An Indian Response to Literature.


[1] Kateri Akiwenzie-Damm, “First Peoples’ Literature in Canada,” in At the Crossroads of Culture and Literature, eds. Suchorita Chattopadhyay and Debashree Dattaray (Delhi: Primus Books, 2016), 55.

[2] Greta Gaard, “Living Interconnections with Animal and Nature,” in Ecofeminism: Women, Animals and Nature, ed. Greta Gaard (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1993), 2.

[3] Akiwenzie-Damm, My Heart is a Stray Bullet (Ontario: Kegedonce Press, 1993), 20.

[4] Temsula Ao, “Songs Dedicatory,” in Songs that Tell (Kolkata: Writers Workshop, 1988), 3.

[5] Debashree Dattaray, “Images from the Spoken Word: A Contemporary Study of Kateri Akiwenzie-Damm’s My Heart as a Stray Bullet and Standing Ground, Semantic Scholars: 91. Accessed March 10, 2018.

[6] Akiwenzie-Damm, My Heart is a Stray Bullet (Ontario: Kegedonce Press, 1993), 20.

[7] Akiwenzie-Damm and the Nishin Spoken Word Project, “Nawash,” Standing Ground, (Cape Croker: Nishin Productions, 2004), CD.

[8] Ibid.

[9] Jeannette Armstrong, “Land Speaking,” in Speaking for the Generations, ed. Simon Ortiz (Tuscon, AZ: University of Arizona Press, 1998), 36.

[10] Akiwenzie-Damm, “First Peoples’ Literature,” 61.

[11] Quoted in Nilanjana Deb, “Land, Community and Text: An Examination of Three Ojibwe Women’s Texts,” in At the Crossroads of Culture and Literature, ed. Suchorita Chattopadhyay and Debashree Dattaray (Delhi: Primus Books, 2016), 97.

[12] Paula Gunn Allen, The Sacred Hoop: Recovering the Feminine in American Indian Traditions (Boston, MA: Beacon Press, 1986), 190.

[13] Akiwenzie-Damm, “Night Falling Woman,” in Native Poetry in Canada: A Contemporary Anthology, eds. Jeannette Armstrong and LallyGruer (Calgary: Broadview Press, 2001), 332.

[14] Neeraj Sankhyan and Suman Sigroha, “Literature as Social Agenda: The Poetry of Temsula Ao,” Research Gate: 115. Accessed March 10, 2018.  doi: 10.21659/mejo234.

[15] G.J.V. Prasad, introduction to Book of Songs: Collected Poems 1988-2007, by Temsula Ao (Nagaland: Heritage Publishing House, 2013), xvii.

[16] Vaiyu Naidu, “Making Storytelling Work,” August 9, 2009. Accessed March 10, 2018.  http://www.india-seminar.com/2009/600/600_vayu_naidu.htm.

[17] Sankhyan and Sigroha, “Literature as Social Agenda: The Poetry of Temsula Ao.”

[18] TemsulaAo, “Heritage,” Indian Literature 53, no. 6 (November/December 2009): 154.

[19] Ibid.

[20] Subir Bhaumik, preface to Troubled Periphery: The Crisis of India’s North East (New Delhi: Sage, 2009), xiv.

[21]Lijaba, “The Mokokchung Incident: December, 27, 1994,” Lijaba’s Blog, Wordpress. Accessed on September 20, 2014. https://lijaba.wordpress.com/2014/09/20/massacre-in-mokokchung-27th-december-1994.

[22] Indrajit Kalita, “Problematizing Home in the Writings of Temsula Ao,” Chaidur College: 5. Accessed March 10, 2018. www.chaidurcollege.org.

[23] Sankhyan and Sigroha, “Literature as Social Agenda.”

[24] Temsula Ao, “The Old Storyteller,” in Book of Songs: Collected Poems 1988-2007 (Nagaland: Heritage Publishing House, 2013), 242.

[25] Akiwenzie-Damm, “my grandmothers,” in Native Poetry in Canada: A Contemporary Anthology, eds. Jeannette Armstrong and Lally Gruer (Calgary: Broadview Press, 2001), 323.

[26] Temsula Ao, “Soaba,” in These Hills Called Home: Stories from a War Zone (New Delhi: Penguin, and Zubaan Books, 2006), 11.

[27] Temsula Ao, “My Hills,” in Book of Songs, 158.

[28] Temsula Ao, “Songs Dedicatory,” 3.