A new book co-edited by a University of Winnipeg faculty member is the first of its kind to recount Winnipeg’s history exclusively through the impactful development and resistance work of Indigenous people and organizations.
I hope people in Winnipeg who don’t know about this history can take a look at it and recognize that this Indigenous leadership has been here for a very long time.
Dr. Shauna MacKinnon
Dr. Shauna MacKinnon, Professor and Chair of the Department of Urban and Inner-City Studies co-edited Indigenous Resistance & Development in Winnipeg, 1960-2000 with Kathy Mallett, a UWinnipeg alumna and community leader who was actively involved in many of the initiatives described in the book.
The publication explores the rich historical grounding of Indigenous peoples grassroots organizing developed through resistance and community work, and also traces Indigenous city development through the decades, encompassing generations of Indigenous community organizers.
The eight chapters of Indigenous Resistance & Development are:
- Preserving the History of Aboriginal Institutional Development in Winnipeg: Research Driven by the Community;
- Establishing and Indigenizing the Indian and Métis Friendship Centre: An Incubator for Indigenous Activism;
- Kinew and Payuk: Leadership in Urban Indigenous Housing;
- Indigenous Economic Development in Winnipeg;
- Indigenous Education and the Thunder Eagle Society: The Fight for Aboriginal Schools;
- The Indigenous Women’s Collective of Manitoba: DIBENIMISOWIN (We Own Ourselves);
- Indigenous Resistance and Development in Child Welfare: The Story of Ma Mawi Wi Chi Itata Centre; and
- Women Working Together: The Native Women’s Transition Centre
“I hope people in Winnipeg who don’t know about this history can take a look at it and recognize that this Indigenous leadership has been here for a very long time,” Dr. MacKinnon said. “We tend to think there’s been this resurgence, which there has been… but there has been a lot going on for a long time in terms of resistance and development and reclaiming Indigenous spaces.”
Recapturing local history
In 2011, Mallett approached Dr. John Loxley, then principal investigator of the Manitoba Research Alliance, a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council–funded research initiative that Dr. MacKinnon has been involved in for several years and now leads. She wanted to archive the history of Indigenous development and the many organizations in the inner city.
Video interviews were conducted with 40 people who’d been actively engaged between the 1960s and 2000.
Fast forward to 2017, Dr. MacKinnon showed some of these videos to students in her Intro to Urban and Inner-City Studies class and she received quite the response.
“A lot of the students in our department are from the inner city and many are Indigenous,” she said. “They were all really keen on the videos and familiar with the organizations that were talked about in the videos.”
However, they didn’t know the complete history of the organizations or the people in the videos.
“And, to me, that was quite sad. There were these leaders in the community that the next generation wasn’t aware of,” Dr. MacKinnon said. “So, I approached Kathy Mallett at the time and said ‘Hey, we should do a course to capture this.'”
After discovering that there wasn’t a lot written on the development of these organizations or the people who were engaged in the work, Dr. MacKinnon and Mallett decided to first revisit the videos and create a book.
While the pandemic delayed the release of Indigenous Resistance & Development in Winnipeg, 1960-2000, Dr. MacKinnon is pleased with the finished product and says she learned a lot during the research and writing process.
“I learned how prominent the role of the Indian and Métis Friendship Centre was in all of this. It was one of the earliest organizations back in the late 1950s and the first one in Canada,” she said. “It was really significant as a training ground and many people who were engaged in the centre back in its early days became some of the leaders in the community.”
New Urban and Inner-City Studies course
In conjunction with the book’s release, Dr. MacKinnon will be offering a new course in the 2023 Fall Term based on the book.
“I think it’s going to be a really good addition to our department’s curriculum,” she said. “But also, we’re looking at how we can make the course accessible to students who might not be full-time university students and to people living in the inner city and working in some of these organizations.”
She hopes young people will be exposed to these stories, want to learn more about the impact these important role models have had in the City of Winnipeg, and then share stories of the current generation.
“I’m really hoping somebody else picks up and starts to look at those stories after the year 2000,” Dr. MacKinnon said. “I’m hoping that emerges from this project.”
You can purchase Indigenous Resistance & Development in Winnipeg, 1960-2000 through Arbeiter Ring Publishing’s website.