Organizing for Power in a Stolen City

Review of Owen Toews’ book Stolen City

Growing up in the northeastern suburbs of Winnipeg, a common occurrence for my family was driving over the Disraeli bridge. As soon as Main Street became visible, the doors of our rusted blue hatchback locked with an authoritative click. It was moments like this growing up that taught and reinforced spatial, political, and cultural separation. Words were rarely used by my parents to express what exactly these moments meant, and even more rare was an understanding of why this was an almost weekly occurrence in my life growing up. While I attended Chief Peguis Junior High, named after the Saulteaux Chief Peguis, we learned little of the history of Indigenous peoples on the prairies. Even Peguis himself was rendered a brief footnote in our social studies class: we were taught that he provided help to the settlers, preventing starvation, and part of his nose was bitten off in a fight. How Peguis and his people could provide such crucial aid to settlers was never discussed. Nor were Peguis’ protests over the theft of unceded lands ever mentioned. The existence of walls around history became self-evident with time, but the spatial borders in Winnipeg were omnipresent. The Red and Assiniboine rivers, more than simply geographic features of the city, are clear natural borders that separate neighbourhoods in Winnipeg.

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