‘Unsettling Coyote: Engaging with Indigenous Canadian Theories of Eco-Sexuality in Gail Anderson-Dargatz’s The Cure for Death by Lightning (1996)’

Alice Higgs

University of Sheffield



Journal of Australian, Canadian, and Aotearoa New Zealand Studies 1, issue 1 (June 2021): 78-110, https://doi.org/10.52230/BCMS7029


This article argues that The Cure for Death by Lightning is a novel that attempts to make a meaningful and serious engagement with the Shuswap figure of Coyote. In doing so it raises vital questions regarding the extent to which a settler writer can and should appropriately engage with an Indigenous story. Through a focus on both the material animals in the novel, such as domesticated farm animals and the wild coyotes of the bush, and also the representation of Coyote and the Shuswap characters, this article will argue that Anderson-Dargatz encourages a re-evaluation of the way in which we engage with non-human animals, introducing an eco-sexual framework that encourages empathy and kinship with all beings. By using Kim TallBear’s (Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate) and Melissa K. Nelson’s (Anishinaabe/Métis) definition of eco-sexuality, it will argue that the novel pushes for the centring of Indigenous knowledge in building more sustainable relations with animals. However, it will also acknowledge that despite this eco-sexual engagement, the novel ultimately still continues to centre the settler experience in its narrative, encapsulating and enacting a form of displacement in its very construction. By treading this fine line between an attempted serious engagement with Shuswap culture and questions of cultural appropriation, the novel is an example of the notion that it is imperative that settler literature must engage and destabilize the types of oppressive hierarchies that underpin both species and settler-Indigenous relations, namely settler-sexuality and anthropocentrism, if settler culture is to follow.


Settler-Indigenous relations, Indigenous Studies, Eco-sexuality, Animals, Coyote

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