Indians Wear Red
Colonialism, Resistance, and Aboriginal Street Gangs
Winner of the 2014 Alexander Kennedy Isbister Award for Non-Fiction.
With the advent of Aboriginal street gangs such as Indian Posse, Manitoba Warriors, and Native Syndicate, Winnipeg garnered a reputation as the “gang capital of Canada.” Yet beyond the stereotypes of outsiders, little is known about these street gangs and the factors and conditions that have produced them. “Indians Wear Red” locates Aboriginal street gangs in the context of the racialized poverty that has become entrenched in the colonized space of Winnipeg’s North End. Drawing upon extensive interviews with Aboriginal street gang members as well as with Aboriginal women and elders, the authors develop an understanding from “inside” the inner city and through the voices of Aboriginal people — especially street gang members themselves.
While economic restructuring and neo-liberal state responses can account for the global proliferation of street gangs, the authors argue that colonialism is a crucial factor in the Canadian context, particularly in western Canadian urban centres. Young Aboriginal people have resisted their social and economic exclusion by acting collectively as “Indians.” But just as colonialism is destructive, so too are street gang activities, including the illegal trade in drugs. Solutions lie not in “quick fixes” or “getting tough on crime” but in decolonization: re-connecting Aboriginal people with their cultures and building communities in which they can safely live and work.
About this Author
Elizabeth Comack is a professor of Sociology at the University of Manitoba. Over the past three decades she has written and conducted research on a variety of social justice topics. Her most recent work is Coming Back to Jail: Women, Trauma, and Criminalization. Elizabeth's current research projects stem from her involvement in the Manitoba Research Alliance's SSHRC Partnership project, "Partnering for Change: Community-Based Solutions for Aboriginal and Inner-City Poverty." Elizabeth leads the Justice, Safety, and Security stream of the project.
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