Housing First Nations:  Unlearning Colonialism

Opaskwayak Cree Nation 
Manitoba, Canada

In this studio lead by Chris Cornelius, founder of Studio:Indigenous, we sought to address the housing crisis at Opaskwayak Cree Nation (OCN) in Manitoba. By learning Indigenous ontology, we worked to break from the colonial mindset that has fueled systematic disenfranchisement of Indigenous peoples. To approach this issue, I focused on the theme of decolonizing the line and applied it to political borders, land, building, and representation. Looking at the work of Benjamin Chee Chee (Ojibwa) and other Woodlands style painters, I learned that the lines in these paintings rev eal a way of knowing that holds a sensibility of the land and allows for uncertainty, interpretation, and relationality.

My project proposes a land reclamation strategy that expands the OCN reserve borders to existing natural edges. This line could be a wholly different type of border, one where it is a place to gather, to live, and to steward; a place where housing aggregates to create communities that protect family trap lines and critical animal habitats, that harvest and watch over wild berry patches and the old growth forest. No line is ever neutral and, thus, the power to draw a line must be wielded with care, beauty, and culture.