Reclaiming the Red River: Creating Metis Cultural Spaces in Winnipeg

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Gaudry, Adam J. P.
Metis , Indigenous Governance
Urban spaces are an increasingly common indigenous reality, and while urban spaces often involve great social and geographic distances from traditional communities, many urban populations have built vibrant communities in cities. This thesis will examine the creation of Métis cultural spaces in Winnipeg, Manitoba, as a community building strategy. It is situated in thirteen in-depth interviews with Métis community builders conducted in Winnipeg over the Summer of 2008. The Winnipeg Metis community is rhizomatic in makeup, situated not in geographic locations, but in the networks of instantaneous and spontaneous social interaction of community members and institutions—elders, political organizations and governance structures. Rhizomatic space is a form of social organization, which emerges out of everyday social life, and because it is only observable during the brief instances of human interaction, it is nearly invisible to outsiders and thus difficult to colonize. It is also a primary means by which Métis people are reclaiming space in their traditional homeland on the Red River. This paper theorizes an alternative tactic to resistance through a decentered form of political organization, grounded in the community and its organic institutions. It proposes that the everyday creation of social and cultural spaces in urban centres is an effective way to build urban indigenous communities with minimal interference or involvement of the State, and that this develops more or less organically without the need for bureaucratic oversight. The paper concludes that the everyday creation of rhizomatic space is a highly effective means of community building and resistance.
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