Inside a Métis Community: Space, Collective Trauma, and the Impact of Colonialism


  • Ginevra Bianchini Trinity College Dublin



Indigenous Studies, intergenerational trauma, sexual violence, The Break, Katherena Vermette


With Katherena Vermette’s novel The Break (2016) as a case study, this paper analyses a narrative that portrays an attempt of an Indigenous Canadian community to reclaim its voice, identity, and space. The plot is centred around the reconnection with land and culture, while tackling the complicated topic of epistemic violence inside Métis Canadian communities. The novel’s title already frames the narrative and the importance of space in this story and in Indigenous cultures: indeed, the ‘break’ is the name of the land where the sexual assault takes place. This word is used to symbolize and anticipate the ‘brokenness’ that will define the narration: sexual violence creates a crack inside an individual, but also in society. On a more metaphorical level, the ‘break’ symbolizes a fracture that Indigenous communities have experienced in their personal and cultural histories and that has led to intergenerational cycles of violence. It is a metaphor of how Indigenous spaces and cultures have been shattered and violated, both physically and symbolically, by white colonialism. Throughout the story the characters are confronting the epistemic violence consequential to colonialism that has created a division within and between them, while they try to reunite with their own identities and one another through acts of ‘resurgence.’ Despite The Break is highly characterized by trauma and ‘brokenness’, this paper highlights how its powerful narrative deals with the possibility of healing from intergenerational trauma and of breaking cycles of violence that have been imposed on Indigenous communities.