Spiralic Time and Cultural Continuity for Indigenous Sovereignty: Idle No More and The Marrow Thieves


  • Laura Maria De Vos University of Washington




By virtue of the way the young people in Idle No More were experiencing time through round dancing, we can understand how they were able to counteract or respond to the underlying assumptions of a Canadian national temporality of reconciliation that is linear and progressive, and which thinks of historical redress through the process of reconciliation as in and of itself an end rather than a continuing spiral. Not only is Idle No More’s focus on the spiralic (cyclical, but transformed for the moment rather than mere repetition) resurgence of cultural traditions and ancestral knowledges exemplary of a new generation’s experience of spiralic time, this experience of time is also better able to intervene in the national temporality of reconciliation. I argue that Cherie Dimaline’s post-apocalyptic YA novel The Marrow Thieves (2017) does similar consciousness raising work on radical relationality and Indigenous youth’s power to build their futures in the now. Through the novel's organizing principle of spiralic time which puts Indigenous youth at the center, it reveals this temporal aspect central to the Idle No More movement which otherwise might go unnoticed. Similarly to round dancing, which is about bringing a future into reality in the present through a connection with the past, and which in this way pushes back against the temporality of a progress narrative that the Canadian nation is aiming to push onto Indigenous people, The Marrow Thieves offers a counter reality to that of Canadian settler “progress” and “reconciliation”. Writing directly to Indigenous youth to invite them to see themselves as part of a continuing spiral of Indigenous presence going back to when time began and continuing into a time when they themselves will be ancestors, the novel emphasizes Indigenous youth’s central role in resurgence, within and beyond Idle No More.


Author Biography

Laura Maria De Vos, University of Washington

Dr. Laura De Vos is a lecturer in the American Indian Studies Department and the English Department at UW Seattle and in the American & Ethnic Studies Department at UW Bothell. They graduated from the University of Washington English Department in Seattle with the dissertation "Spirals of Transformation: Turtle Island Indigenous Social Movements and Literatures," advised by Dian Million (AIS) and Habiba Ibrahim (English). Born in Nicaragua from Belgian parents, Laura mostly grew up in Belgium. They received their MA in English Literature and Linguistics and their MBA in Cultural Management from the University of Antwerp, Belgium. They also did selected graduate course work in Gender Studies at the University of Utrecht, the Netherlands. Laura initiated and was the Research Assistant for the Simpson Center for the Humanities supported interdisciplinary research cluster "Developing a Graduate Certificate in American Indian and Indigenous Studies"; the resulting Graduate Certificate is now being offered (since January 2020). They are also an Assistant Editor for Process: Journal for Multidisciplinary Undergraduate Scholarship.




How to Cite

De Vos, L. M. (2020). Spiralic Time and Cultural Continuity for Indigenous Sovereignty: Idle No More and The Marrow Thieves. Transmotion, 6(2), 1–42. https://doi.org/10.22024/UniKent/03/tm.807