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Savages, Saviours and the Power of Story: The Figure of the Northern Dog in Canadian Culture

Savages, Saviours and the Power of Story: The Figure of the Northern Dog in Canadian Culture

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Title: Savages, Saviours and the Power of Story: The Figure of the Northern Dog in Canadian Culture
Author: Riche, Maureen Elizabeth
Abstract: This research was motivated by a recent pattern in animal welfare texts in Canada that portray northern dogs as “savage” trouble-makers, and indigenous people as backward barbarians incapable of caring for the animals that share their spaces. With this comes the troublesome idea that, yet again, the only positive force in indigenous Canada is the civilizing force of outsider intervention: northern dogs need to be rescued; non-indigenous people are their rightful saviours. It is a story that has been circulating in the dominant culture in Canada for centuries, and has urgent implications for both human and non-human animals in Canada’s North.

This dissertation consists of three sections. In the first section, I explore the roots of the colonial figure of the “noble canine savage” through representations in explorers’ journals, ethnographic films and tourism marketing texts. In section two, I consider how the represented dog differs in texts created within the framework of indigenous knowledge, including origin stories, indigenous cinema and elder testimony regarding the sled dog cull in Canada’s North in the mid-20th century. In section three, I return to the current media texts, and explore how they reproduce the racist rhetoric of the past.

The aim of my study was to validate the indigenous view of northern dogs in order to better incorporate local stories into animal welfare projects in northern Canada. Future interventions in this regard may include the use of cultural exchange activities between indigenous and non-indigenous partners in such projects (e.g. between local community groups and visiting veterinary teams); prioritization of narrative approaches to relationship-building; and the use of more culturally sensitive language in public relations and marketing texts.
Subject: Canadian studies
Native American studies
Keywords: Dogs
representation
cultural studies
indigenous knowledge
postcolonialism
Type: Electronic Thesis or Dissertation
Rights: Author owns copyright, except where explicitly noted. Please contact the author directly with licensing requests.
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/10315/30654
Supervisor: McNab, David T.
Degree: PhD - Doctor of Philosophy
Program: Humanities
Exam date: 2015-06-22
Publish on: 2015-12-16

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