“I want to taste your language”

Sovereign Erotics and Language in Indigenous Women’s Poetry on Turtle Island


  • Malou Brouwer University of Alberta




This paper builds on an extensive pool of Indigenous women’s artistic and intellectual expressions to explore Indigenous women’s erotic poetry as a decolonizing intervention that challenges and transcends linguistic boundaries. Indigenous women are often regarded as keepers of knowledge and language in their communities. They contribute to “the well-being of the community and the nation as a whole” (Maracle 41), they are “caretakers of this land” (42), and they are resurgence (Simpson 27-37). Indigenous women are disproportionately impacted by settler colonialism, which makes their critiques of heteropatriarchy, racism, and settler colonialism as interlocking systems even more telling.  Linguistic borders across Turtle Island are multiple and involve colonial languages such as French, Spanish and English, as well as the more than 150 Indigenous languages spoken across these lands. Indigenous women’s poetry – and more generally Indigenous literatures in Turtle Island – know a rich linguistic variety: while some texts are written in one of the colonial languages (English, French, Spanish), others are composed in an Indigenous language (e.g. Inuktitut, Cree, Innu), and perhaps most include an array of languages. Particularly, in what is now called Canada, the colonially-imposed English/French divide is being challenged by Indigenous writers, scholars, and translators. In this paper, I argue that one way that Indigenous women poets do so is through the erotic which contests and transcends the colonial languages and connects to and takes root in Indigenous languages. I analyze selected poems by Melissa Begay (Dine), Tiffany Midge (Hunkapapa Sioux), Chrystos (Menominee), Tenille Campbell (Dene and Métis), Janet Rogers (Mohawk/Tuscarora), and Natasha Kanapé Fontaine (Innu) to see how the erotic and language are interrelated. This paper thus examines the potential of an Indigenous sovereign erotics across languages in Indigenous women’s erotica.




How to Cite

Brouwer, M. (2024). “I want to taste your language” : Sovereign Erotics and Language in Indigenous Women’s Poetry on Turtle Island. Transmotion, 9(1&2), 271–300. https://doi.org/10.22024/UniKent/03/tm.1099