Native youth and the city: storytelling and the space(s) of Indigenous identity in Winnipeg

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Sabiston, Les
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What does it mean to be Indigenous in the city? This question, expressing the experiences of a majority of Indigenous peoples in Canada today, is largely overlooked. Indigenous youth, who have grown up exclusively in the urban space of Winnipeg, with limited to no connection with the reserve or rural community of their families, define the contours of this thesis. My own personal and family history as having Cree-Métis roots in the Red River area as well as Scottish-English settler roots will tether along with the main narrative, if only to tell a parallel while also divergent story of the complex historical threads that inform many identities and collectivities today. In the days where Indigenous groups are struggling and fighting to maintain their histories and cultures against the legacy of colonialism that has been trying to rob Indigenous peoples of their history and culture for hundreds of years, the politics of identity are a highly charged scene where historical conflicts are waged. As lines are drawn, however, the complexities and richness of identity are often deadened at the expense of urgency and expediency. It is my contention that the youth tell us something about the complexity of individual and collective identity, living as they do in an environment that contains cultural, political, and material paths laid down by both traditional Indigenous and settler-Canadian historical processes. The youth remind us to ground our intellectual and political work in the everyday, the place where our bodies make sense of the world we live in. The practice of storytelling is a unique source of making sense of this world that is grounded in the everyday. I will utilize the storytelling practices of a wide range of authors, and will also seek to expand the practice of storytelling beyond its discursive, literary, and oral forms to that of embodied practice and movement, as well as a primary mediator or our relations with the land. Storytelling helps us see that the youth are on Indigenous land and articulating a dynamic identity that helps us (re)conceive the divisions between the rural/reserve and the city as well as see differently the historical continuities and discontinuities of Indigenous identities. Storytelling becomes the basis in this project for me to seek how our political and intellectual commentaries can become accountable to our everyday experience while also putting the everyday in to dialogue with the political and intellectual concepts we rely upon to guide us.
youth, gangs, city, urban, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Indigeneity, storytelling, space, identity