The Indigenous Experience and Cultural Renewal, Decolonization, and Transformation in the Ottawa Area

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Matthew, Cheryl




This research is an ethnography of 30 people on Indigenous experiences, place-making and the cultural practices that are used to construct meaning and cultural renewal that leads to healing and decolonization in the Ottawa, Ontario area. The research explores the lives of those who reside in the city and have never lived in traditional territories, and those who continue to have roots there. These practices are observed through the lens of the three bodies of the individual, social, and body politic. Identity has moved beyond legacies of essentialized and bounded notions which in actuality are multiple and fluid. The study revealed themes of a continuum of experiences and practices including: territorialists who reside in the homeland; returners who have the Indigenous diasporic experience of longing for a homeland; learners who have been displaced from Indigenous communities for various reasons but have initiated cultural renewal; adaptors who have little to no connection to a homeland or Indigenous groups in the city; and urbanites who accept the city-as-home, often with multiple generations of residence in the city. The social body is enacted by Indigenous people who construct communities in cities through social practices such as welcoming others through physical places like Friendship Centres, universities, and social service organizations. Connections also occur in urbans hubs of activity through various practices such as cultural and arts events, ceremonies, and conferences. Cultural renewal is fundamental for the well-being of Indigenous people who have experienced decades of oppression as a result of the regulation of bodies, social actions, land and self-determination by the body politic. The cultural renewal of Indigenous people in cities creates space for healing, decolonization, reclamation, restoration, reconciliation and renewal.


Cultural Anthropology
Native American Studies
Canadian Studies




Carleton University

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