Beyond the Brink: Indigenous Women’s Agency and the Colonisation of Knowledge in the Maid of the Mist Myth

Robinder Kaur Sehdev

Abstract

The myth of the Maid of the Mist of Niagara Falls is a settler story of an Indigenous woman who kills herself by piloting her canoe over the cataract. This is presented not as a tragedy, but as a cultural necessity. So compelling was this settler myth that until recently it was the focus of settler cultural production at Niagara. I argue that the creation and subsequent fixation upon the myth attempted to displace Indigenous stories, and the centrality of Indigenous women to Indigenous epistemologies and in decolonial action. The recent move to banish the myth from tourist audiences does further violence by moving colonial cultural production to the fringes of visibility and away from critical interrogation. The myth and the ways it is called upon and subsequently banished indicates the normalizing practices of settler colonialism and must be pulled from the brink of unnameability and unknowability into critical discourse.

Keywords

Critical Indigenous Studies; settler studies; representational politics; Indigenous women; Native-settler epistemologies

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