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Kapītipis ē-pimohteyahk: aboriginal street youth in Vancouver, Winnipeg, and Montreal 1995

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kapitipis e-pimohteyahk: Aboriginal Street Youth in Vancouver, Winnipeg, and Montreal By Laurette Gilchrist B.S.W., University of Regina, 1980 M.S.W., Carleton University, 1 987 A THESIS SUBMITTED IN PARTIAL FULFILMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY in THE FACULTY OF GRADUATE STUDIES DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATIONAL STUDIES We accept this thesis as conforming to the required standard THE UNIVERSITY OF BRITISH COLUMBIA September 1995 © Laurette Gilchrist, 1995 In presenting this thesis in partial fulfilment of the requirements for an advanced degree at the University of British Columbia, I agree that the Library shall make it freely available for reference and study. I further agree that permission for extensive copying of this thesis for scholarly purposes may be granted by the head of my department or by his or her representatives. It is understood that copying or publication of this thesis for financial gain shall not be allowed without my written permission. (Signature) Department of (‘d OI d The University of British Columbia Vancouver, Canada Date d077, /95 DE.6 (2)88) Abstract “kapitipis e-pimohteyahk: Aboriginal Street youth in Vancouver, Winnipeg and Montreal” seeks to gain insight into life on city streets for Aboriginal youth: why they go to the street, how they survive, what kinds of services they are more likely to use, what changes they envision for services provided to them, and finally to recommend corresponding changes in service delivery and preventative measures. The primary interest is their perceptions of their experiences on the Street — as Aboriginal people — as much as possible in their own voice, and in such a way as to contextualize their lives in Canadian structural colonial history and in modern urban terms. Utilizing a critical case study method, in-depth interviews were conducted with nine youth, ages 14-20, currently involved in urban Street life and two people who have lived on the street in the past. To contextualize their experiences, several parents of street youth and street services personnel in Vancouver, Winnipeg and Montreal were interviewed, although with less depth. Each city has an Aboriginal population in excess of 35,000. The literature on street youth in general is growing, but a paucity of information exists on Aboriginal street youth experience in Canada, even though they are over-represented in the street youth population in most cities. By placing Aboriginal street youth in the larger context of mainstream society and the urban environment, and by highlighting the role of current and historical structural impacts, this research has been able to access a holistic view of their lives. The interviews suggest that Aboriginal street youth run to the streets for many of the same reasons as any other street youth, and once they get there their methods of survival are also somewhat the same as those of many runaways. Their cultural backgrounds, history, and structural conditions at point of origin are, however, different from non-Aboriginal street youth. These conditions make them subject to harsher conditions in state care situations (a common entry-point to street life) and on the street. Many experience overt racism, in addition to the stigmatization that street people encounter, in their everyday lives. The youth interviewed told of identity confusion and self hatred, dislocation from home and surrogate parent communities, difficulty in reunification, and ignorance about Aboriginal rights, history and culture. The nature of the relationship between Aboriginality and being a young street person is clearly established in that ethnicity was a salient factor in the antecedents to street life and in the conditions once on the street. Interviews with former street persons suggest that race and culture continue to be salient in the process of leaving the street and in staying off the street. III Abstract. Table of Contents iv List of Tables viii List of Figures ix Acknowledgements x Chapter 1. Introduction 1 Terminology 3 Urbanization and Aboriginal youth 4 The context of the study 10 Macro view: Colonial history 10 Street youth 13 Definitions and estimates 13 ii. Antecedents to street life 15 iii. Consequences of street life 18 iv. Issues of service delivery to street youth 22 Conclusions: Aboriginal street youth in the literature 24 Overview of the thesis 27 Chapter 3. Vancouver Reflections as an Aboriginal person Case studies 58 ETAH 59 History 60 On the streets 62 Racism 68 Culture and identity 72 Society 75 KAREN 79 History 80 On the streets 81 Racism 84 Table of Contents Chapter 2. Research methodology Impetus of the research Planning the research Research goals Case study method Carrying out the research Interpretation of the data Reliability and validity Constraints 28 28 31 33 35 40 42 44 46 56 51 iv Table of Contents, Continued Eg Culture and identity Society JOANNE History On the streets Racism Culture and identity Society MISSY: Former street person . History On the streets Back from the abyss Racism Culture and identity Society 85 86 86 88 95 99 101 104 105 106 111 113 115 119 Chapter 4. Winnipeg Case studies NOELLA History — Noella. TRAVIS History—Travis Society — Noella and Travis AXLE History On the streets Racism Culture and identity Society JEAN-MARC History On the streets Racism Culture and identity Society DALE: Former street person History On the streets Out of Darkness Racism Culture and identity Society 88 121 125 126 127 129 On the streets — Noella On the streets — Travis Racism — Noella and Travis Culture and identity — Noella and Travis. 130 130 133 134 136 138 140 141 142 145 146 147 149 149 152 155 157 160 160 161 162 165 167 169 173 v Table of Contents, Continued Chapter 5. Montreal Case studies NATASHA History On the Racism Culture Society CHARNELLE History On the Racism Culture Society streets and identity streets and identity 176 180 180 181 183 193 194 199 201 202 203 207 211 214 Street culture and myths about Aboriginal street youth 224 Street youth needs on the street 229 Survival — food, clothing, shelter 231 Street family as safety net 233 Services 235 ii. Safety — protection from institutions, caretakers, police, society 236 iii. Self-esteem and intellectual integrity— mental health, jobs, education, critical history, tribal self-esteem 237 Education 238 Employment 239 iv. Spiritual integrity — cultural aspects, tradition, spiritual nurturance, healing 241 Learning identity 242 Chapter 7. Policy implications Survival Addictions Exploitation Justice In Care Education Racism Culture Conclusion 245 246 250 253 255 257 261 265 267 270 Chapter 8. Conclusion 272 References 276 vi Chapter 6. Life on the street The guiding questions Research revisited 218 218 221 Table of Contents, Continued APPENDIX A... APPENDIX B. APPENDIX C... APPENDIX D APPENDIX E APPENDIX F APPENDIX G APPENDIX H APPENDIX I APPENDIX 285 287 290 291 293 295 296 300 305 307 VII List of Tables Table I. Percentage of People Who Maintain the Use of Their Language 6 Table II. Percentage of people (15+) Who Participate in Traditional Aboriginal Activities . . . . 7 Table Ill. 1992 Welfare Incomes 233 Table IV. Services for youth by type of service, duration of contact, intervention strategy and example of service 247 Table V. Cultural identity variations 269 viii List of Figures Figure 1: The progression of a negative life process of ending up on the street for Aboriginal street youth in greater than average numbers. Beginning at the east door with a macro view of colonial history (vision); at the south door with antecedents of dysfunctional relationships (relationship); at the west door with consequences in loss of respect (respect); and at the north door with inadequate street services (movement/action) 11 Figure 2: Four need categories beginning at the east door with survival (physical); at the south door with protection (emotional); at the west door with intellectual integrity (mental); and at the north door with spiritual integrity (spirit) (Absolon, 1993). Additionally, there is the social safety net that, by nature of the fact that they are on the street, has been ineffective in their lives 230 ix Acknowledgements The research for this thesis would not have occurred except for the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples. I was asked by the Commission in January 1993 to undertake a study on Aboriginal street youth at about the time that I was beginning research on my doctoral thesis at the University of British Columbia on another topic. My strong interest as a professional social worker in the welfare of children and as an Aboriginal person in Aboriginal street youth made me very much want to accept the Royal Commission’s invitation. This became possible when the Royal Commission released its policy on use of Commission research data for educational purposes. I had permission from the Commission to use the street youth study data for my thesis and from my supervisory committee at the University of British Columbia to change my topic. I am very grateful to both of them, for without the financial resources made available to me by the Royal Commission, research on this important but elusive topic would not have been possible. The pseudonyms of the street youth and former street youth who participated in this research are as follows (in order of presentation): Vancouver — Etah, Joanne, Karen, and Missy; Winnipeg — Noella/Travis, Axle, Jean-Marc, and Dale; Montreal — Natasha and Charnelle. Two sets of parents were interviewed in Vancouver and Winnipeg. All the agency personnel are greatfully acknowledged in each of the cities who took the time out of their busy schedules to assist us in our endeavour. They are too numerous to list. The research assistants consisted of Tony Winchester, B.A., M.S.W., in Victoria; Beverley Dag-Lopez in Vancouver; Marie Baker in Winnipeg; and Alysa Pramsmaa in Montreal. Finally, the thesis committee consisted of Jo-ann Archibald, Ph.D. (abd), Director of the First Nations House of Learning, U.B.C.; Dr. Jean Barman, Department of Educational Studies, U.B.C.; Dr. Deirdre Kelly, Department of Educational Studies, U.B.C.; and Dr. Celia Haig-Brown, Faculty of Education, S.F.U. I thank them for their extreme patience and their particular expertise. Jean Barman, who acted as my thesis supervisor, has been a source of great strength, motivation and very practical assistance. Without her special type of supervision this thesis would have been far more difficult. I have been gifted with excellent examples of exceptional supervision. Thank you all. x children walking the moon blind into oblivion lost with no excuse with no remorse beating the daughters torture force speaking with ignorance and greed teachers screaming on their knees subliminal messages on TV jesus loves you child pray child pray till you bleed shut up and take your place of disgrace in the line of conservative voice face it life is a bottomless day the human race is a dead race walking as zombies from nine to five rotting away with society’s lies surrounded in concrete walls with no will but to fall paving over insanity reflected maize of vanity cold dark ways in the screams and world of lonely streets day to day begging, preaching life’s beseech a buskers quote of a sinking boat rejected from our homes and wanted from our stolen wombs pushed to our door of doom a cold dark room of misery the ministry is looking down at you your unscrewed caged pet walking the circle of the moon etah 1993 xi 1Chapter 1. Introduction “kapitipis e-pimohteyahk: Aboriginal streetyouth in Vancouver, Winnipeg and Montreal” uses case studies to produce a critical descriptive interpretation of the experience of Aboriginal youth who have chosen, for whatever reason, to embrace life on the streets of three major cities in Canada. The title translates from Cree into “We walk all night.” This title was chosen because the youth in this study told us that during the day they could always find somewhere warm to sleep where they felt safe. During the night, however, when the temperature fell and when they had nowhere to sleep, they had to walk all night in order to keep warm and safe. The allusion to night walking also honours Etah’s poem, “children walking the moon,” at the beginning of the study. Utilizing a critical case study method, in-depth interviews were conducted with nine youth, ages 14-20, currently involved in urban street life and two people who have lived on the street in the past. To contextualize their experience, several parents of street youth and street services personnel in Vancouver, Winnipeg and Montreal were interviewed, although with less depth. Each city has an Aboriginal population in excess of 35,000. Why does social science, in general, and Aboriginal governments, in particular, need a sociological perspective on youth street life that is specific to Aboriginal youth? Social science shows a large gap in the literature on Aboriginal street youth experience and conditions. For Aboriginal people, the information is necessary because we are unique in Canada for at least three reasons. First, Aboriginal people are “people of the land.” We have no other homeland to identify with — we have been dispossessed in our own homeland. This implies not only our generalized sense of homelessness — not only inherent alienation due to our collective dispossession — but to inherent Indigenous rights associated with nation to nation treaties. This means our issues ought to be paramount in Canada and certainly we ought to have information about our children. Secondly, we have a unique world view that permeates our varied cultures and shapes our experience. Marginalization of Aboriginal culture leaves consequences for youth identity — they 2must grow up in a world where there is little to look back on with pride, referring to our obscured history and marginalized culture, and very little to look forward to in the future, when they are faced with current poor socio-economic statistics reflected in many Aboriginal communities. Aboriginal youth, then, many of whom have been brought up in two worlds, find it hard to understand the contradictions presented to them in foster care, institutional practice and social service delivery, on or off the street. Thirdly, our experience, historically and presently, is mediated by colonial policy and practice embedded in legislation which regulates and permeates our experience on a daily basis. The structural barriers embedded in colonial existence not only affect the colonized, they affect the colonial society and how they behave toward the members of the colonized group, especially its weakest members. The three conditions named above result in a perceived separateness from the norm of multicultural Canadian society, both from within ourselves, our nations and from the mainstream perspective. The remnants of colonialism, such as the Indian Act, the reservation system, and the over representation in social pathology statistics make us more visible, more overtly affected by and more vulnerable to structural, cultural and attitudinal racism. Presumably, then, street life would have different impacts on Aboriginal youth than on non-Aboriginal youth. We need, then, to explore how these three unique conditions manifest in Aboriginal street youth existence. Children and youth who do not have the benefit of parental or extended familial protection are society’s most vulnerable group. This applies to Aboriginal youth on the street. In a time of cultural renewal and movement toward self determination it is necessary to identify voids in our knowledge base about the conditions of those in need. We must also identify gaps in the social service delivery system. And finally, emancipatory treatment and prevention measures, expressed from an Aboriginal point of view, need to form the basis of solutions that address the roots of the post-colonialist problems in the entire Aboriginal community. 3Terminology First some discussion is warranted on concepts used in the analyses of Aboriginal experience. Colonization and decolonization are terms frequently used in commentary. Since colonization is the acquiring of lands which are governed by a “mother” country and where the colonizer’s culture, structures and attitudes are externally imposed, then decolonization is the reversal of the imposed governance along with reclamation of culture, structures and identity. Racism is another concept which is important to explain our experience as Aboriginal peoples. Racism encompasses the structural manifestation of the ideology that one race is superior to another (particularly based on colour differentiation) expressed in repressive policy, legislation, and institutions. Further, racism means the entire spectrum of the impact of race ideology: from the intra-psychic superiority it bestows on one race and the internalized inferiority embraced by the marginalized group; to the concomitant behaviours produced in both which result in the differential distribution of power, status and material goods to the privileged and the oppressed. Racism awareness in this broad definition is becoming aware of race ideology and its history, how it is manifest in the structures of modern society, the impacts on various groups, how it is upheld and perpetuated, and one’s personal position in the continuum from privileged to oppressed. Culture and identity are terms that I use to explore self image as an Aboriginal person. By culture I mean the entire expression of Aboriginal life produced by world view, environment, and community. This definition encompasses distinct outward manifestations in food, clothing, ritual, and art, for instance, and the inward expression in thought, language, symbolism, relationship and spirituality. Aboriginal identity is the condition of linking one’s being with a world view and the community it produces. For instance, a person may identify with an extended family concept, an idea that everything has a spirit, with distinct regionally prepared indigenous food items, or ceremonies, clothing, music, and art, all of which might be based on an underlying philosophy of the medicine wheel or the long house (depending on the culture). 4In this research the term “street youth” is used (Marlene Webber (1991) uses the term “street kids”). The youth are differentiated from “street people” or the homeless. The persons in this research are young people who have come from various circumstances and have been on the streets for varying periods of time and who fall between the ages of 14 and 20. Street people, on the other hand, would be persons over 20 years old and live in the downtown core, sometimes as homeless individuals, but often they inhabit the cheap skid row housing sprinkled in between the bars. Street people, then, would not be the concern of child welfare authorities or the young offenders’ act and would not necessarily qualify for Street youth services. The persons shown in “Life Down Here” (Smith & Smith, 1994), a film about Vancouver’s Aboriginal street life, could be called street people. The “homeless” again are differentiated by age and by the reasons some people find themselves without a home. Belcher and DiBlasio (1990) write about the difficulties in the definition and population assessment of homeless persons. Many stay with friends or they are in jail or mental hospitals. Many are simply economically unable to afford housing and some have made the back alleys their permanent home (similar to some street youth). The lines are blurred at the upper age range which was used in this study because homelessness, mental disability or illness, and severe addiction may be present (in any combination). For instance, there was an eighteen year old woman who was severely alcohol (and other drugs?) addicted and who also lived with older street men in the back alleys in the westend of Vancouver. Urbanization and Aboriginal youth Urbanization is the process of moving from a rural environment and adapting to an urban milieu. Most of the literature on urbanization includes migration under its umbrella. In 1900 13°I of the global population lived in urban centres, by the year 2000 this figure is expected to rise to 48% (Smith, 1991). A Native Council of Canada Socio-demographic Project Report states that the Canada-wide off-reserve Aboriginal population percentage has increased to 80°I (Valentine, 1993). Migration patterns vary and are affected by a number of variables including: the proximity of reserves 5to urban centres, the size of the reserve community, multiple forms of mass media that are delivered to the reserve and promote urban lifestyles, road access and the political and institutional development of the reserve community (Gerber, 1980). Aboriginal people face the immense transition to urban life for many reasons. Most often they seek resources such as employment, housing, education or health services that are not available in their home communities. Often people are leaving an economy unable to sustain them because of environmental degradation, underdevelopment and broken corporate promises. Sometimes women and children are forced off the reservation because of family violence. Aboriginal people also migrate to the city simply to follow a dream of joining in the prosperity of mainstream Canada. Many young children and youth enter the urban environment through the child welfare system, some as ex-foster children and ex-adoptees, and others as escapees from detention facilities. They gravitate to the city because their community ties have been broken or the city provides an excellent hiding place. In any case it is the only place to go. Yet others are progeny of urban reserves where an immense invisible gulf separates them from mainstream urban Canada. Ironically, the latter are underrepresented in the street youth population, according to street youth service personnel. Historically, the urbanization push is promoted by the political agenda of assimilation which has been the “central pillar to Canadian Indian policy” (Ponting, 1986:25; Armitage, 1995). Given that existing resources on the reserves are limited in their ability to employ, house and service growing populations, significant numbers of Aboriginal people feel their only option is to move to an urban centre. The advocacy of mass urbanization was central to the Hawthorn report of 1966 which pointed to the limited resource capabilities of the reserve communities and population growth as dominant factors in this trend. Frideres (1993) states that another significant catalyst was the post war transition from an agriculture-based North American economy to industrialisation. This shift 6forced Aboriginal people who depended on employment in agriculture to go to urban centres to seek employment. Beginning in the early sixties, then, migration to urban centres was significant; it then declined to levels comparable to non-Aboriginal populations by the mid-eighties (Siggner, 1986). The movement from the small towns and rural reservations to the large urban centres marks the decline of special status and the erosion of traditional cultural and community ties. This point is illustrated when we examine statistics on language maintenance displayed in table I. Table I: Percentage of People Who Maintain the Use of Their Language (Aboriginal Peoples Survey, 1993). Adults (15+) Children (>15) Inuit 75 % 67 0/ North American Indian On Reserve or Settlements 65 0/ 44 0/ North American Indian Off Reserve 23 0/ 9 0/ Métis 18 0/ 9 % The same comparison can be made with respect to people over 15 years old who participate in traditional Aboriginal activities. Again, it is clear that the move to urban centres is a potential threat to cultural maintenance. In short, if language and traditional activities are gauges to cultural maintenance, these charts graphically depict the potential dissolution of culture and tradition that results from migration out of reserves and rural settlements. The practices of people in Inuit communities, which are generally more isolated northern communities, and North American Indians living on reserves or settlements are in sharp contrast to the practices of those living outside these cultural enclaves. 7Table II: Percentage of people (15+) Who Participate in Traditional Aboriginal Activities (Aboriginal Peoples Survey, 1993). Inuit 74.1 % N.A.I. On Reserves or Settlements 65.2 0/ N.A.I. Off Reserve 44.8 % Métis 39.8 0/ Statistics on urban Aboriginal people are questionable for a number of different reasons, beginning with the definition of the membership of the Aboriginal population — this definition varies depending on the sponsors of the study. For example, some studies use statistics for registered Indians published by Indian and Northern Affairs and generalize to the population of all Aboriginal people. Additionally, in 1986 Statistics Canada made changes in their census taking procedures with respect to Aboriginal people; though the new questions around ethnic origins and identity are more descriptive, the procedural change does not allow for comparisons of years before and after the switch so it is difficult to chart the changes in urban migration. A comparison of the 1986 and 1991 census does show a consistent growth in urban populations of Aboriginal people in all three of the focus cities for this study: Montreal, Winnipeg and Vancouver. One other statistic that is telling for the 1991 census year is the mobility rates; for Aboriginal people 15 per cent of the population (15 years and older) moved in the twelve month period before the census taking as compared to 16 per cent of the total Canadian population. Of the Aboriginal people who said they did move in the past year, half of them moved within the same community. For Aboriginal children ages ito 14, only 13 per cent had moved within the year leading up to the census. In short, Aboriginal people presently are no more mobile than the general population (Aboriginal Peoples Survey, 1993). Another difficulty with obtaining accurate demographic information concerns the range of entrenchment within the urban centre. Frideres (1993) suggests that many Aboriginal people leave 8their home community more as a result of necessity than out of an attraction to the city; in short, they seek to exploit urban centres for meeting their employment, housing and education needs but maintain strong links with their home community. This observation is evident in Nagler (1971) and Gurstein (1977). Both authors present continuums that reflect the variation in levels of integration in, or commitment to, urban centres. For example, the transient or vagabond is at the low end of the commitment scale; people in this category are short term (one month) residents who are constantly in transit. The migrant or seasonal worker is the next category; this person is a longer term (six months) resident but maintains a high degree of social contact with people from their home community. The resident or transitional (two years) is more likely to be employed or engaged in an education program. The urban settler is a person who was born in the city or has lived there for more than two years and is accordingly more entrenched in the urban environment in terms of social contacts, employment, housing and use of services. The settler’s ties to the reserve are minimal; they may still feel committed but only visit their home community sporadically, possibly once or twice a year (Price, 1979). Successful urban adaptation is dependent on many socio-economic and cultural factors. These include appropriate job and housing location, and cultural adaptation, which in turn are dependent on urban societal receptivity to the Aboriginal person. In other words, the degree of racial barriers present for the individual or family are significant factors for positive urbanization. In much of the research racism is not taken into consideration, instead Aboriginal people are blamed for failed attempts. For example, Price (1979) writes: Successful urban adaptation depends on the personality and preparedness of the individual for urban life and on the nature of the town or city that the individual migrates to. Any poorly prepared individual from a rural background will undergo cultural shock and trauma on migrating into a city, unless there is an excellent system of institutions to receive and educate that person in urban culture. This individual preparedness can be somewhat predicted according to the evolutionary level of the societal heritage of the individual Indian. There are, of course, widespread non evolutionary elements that influence this preparedness as well, such as historical elements (e.g., length of White contact); ecological elements (e.g., urban proximity); and the urbanization of reserve life through the incorporation of reserves in nation- 9wide networks of transportation, communication, education, health services, and so forth (229). This study on Aboriginal street youth could easily focus on all of the categories as many of these youth are extremely transient, moving often between urban centres and reserve communities throughout Canada and the United States. They are also not a homogenous group: apart from the fact that these young people come from a multitude of Aboriginal cultures, they vary with respect to the bond they have with their cultural identity. Many have been wards of the state from a very young age so their ties to their home reserve were never established, others grew up in their reserve community and so their relationship is still very strong, as is their internalized experience of their cultural heritage. Beyond the length of time and the level of entrenchment in urban life, Aboriginal people face a multitude of challenges in making the transition to the city. Cultural differences exist between Aboriginal and mainstream cultures in addition to the rural and urban contrast in lifestyle. Research also consistently shows that accessing employment, though one of the leading reasons for moving to the city, is highly difficult. Barriers of racism, lower education levels and lack of marketable employment skills for the urban environment contribute significantly to this fact. As well, mainstream policy makers and analysts have assumed that Aboriginal peoples are a homogenous culture when in fact their cultural diversity is a major stumbling block to effective urban community development. Without a sufficient level of cohesion within the urban Aboriginal community there has been a lack of institutional development and ensuing service delivery to meet the needs of urban Aboriginal people (Frideres, 1993; Nagler, 1971; Zeitoun, 1969). A new trend in the 1 980s and 1 990s is the appearance of Aboriginal street youth in growing numbers (based mostly on estimates of people who work with them). Street workers, in particular ex-street persons, have experienced an incredible increase in the numbers of Aboriginal youth on the street and correspondingly a worsening of conditions for those who must survive on the urban street. 10 The urbanization literature addresses adult urban migration primarily and not the young people whose principal identifying factors are: they are without consistent adult supervision, they lack sufficient shelter, they must fend for a living on the street and so, inevitably, they become a part of the street culture. This study looks, with some depth, into the experience of Aboriginal youth on the streets of Vancouver, Winnipeg and Montreal. The context of the study A brief treatment of colonial history and review of general street youth research provide the macro vision of the Aboriginal street youth phenomena. This is followed by some discussion of antecedents to street life which in part describe street youth relationships with care givers and institutions (which precede or precipitate flight from supervised care). Thirdly, consequences of life on the street and fourthly services for street youth are summarily discussed. This discourse is illustrated in figure 1 to show a maldevelopment of a process circle that should be healthy. In a healthy cycle the west direction would be represented by vision, the south direction by relationships, the west by respect (and self respect) and the north direction by movement and action or appropriate solutions. i. Macro view: Colonial history Oral history indicates that in precontact times (and in more remote regions until quite recently) Aboriginal childhood and youth were preparatory phases for adulthood and elder status. These phases were parts of a cycle of life where children and youth learned from observation and mentorship through extended family behaviour and elder’s teachings to become responsible and respectful adults. The age range in this research (14-20) would have straddled the phases of prepuberty preparation and early adulthood/parenthood. With the advent and impact of colonization many changes have taken place which have predisposed many Aboriginal families to become negative statistics in the collage of Canadian national shame. 11 North LOSS OF RESPECT MOVEMENT/ACTION consequences to inadequate services street life at the street level West East MACRO VIEW OR DYSFUNCTIONAL VISION RELATIONSHIPS colonial history and prior to street life street youth in general South Figure 1: The progression of a negative life process of ending up on the street for Aboriginal street youth in greater than average numbers. Beginning at the east door with a macro view of colonial history (vision); at the south door with antecedents of dysfunctional relationships (relationship); at the west door with consequences in loss of respect (respect); and at the north door with inadequate street services (movement/action) (Absolon, 1993). 12 Contrary to popular belief Aboriginal/European relations remained reciprocal at least until the end of the eighteenth century. Aboriginal society did not instantly become dysfunctional upon contact with the European boat people. Although the force of the Christian vanguard has remained stable until today (many reserve communities are wrought with evangelical hegemony) there were long periods of interdependence produced by the fur trade and the French/British wars (Berger, 1991). In fact, this mutually beneficial era lasted 300 years (1492-1 800 approximately), 100 years more than the current state of siege. A third of the way through the nineteenth century became the demarcating point for clear policy changes toward segregation. (I do not use the terms acculturation, assimilation or integration because authentic expression of these processes have been consistently made impossible as a result of racial discrimination.) We are now experiencing an interface between a 200 year segregation era and the movement toward self-determination for Aboriginal people in Canada. Researchers (Frideres, 1993; Armitage, 1995; Bolaria & Li, 1988) breakdown eras of postcontact relations in many detailed ways. For the purpose of this discussion the broader eras of precontact traditional society, interdependence, segregation, and self determination are used. It is the latter two eras respectively which have produced higher than average vulnerability for Aboriginal children and youth, and to which we look for the underlying causes and culturally appropriate solutions. Armitage (1993 and 1995) gives an indepth historical and comparative analysis of colonial policy in Australia, Canada and New Zealand. In the book Comraring the policy of Aboriginal assimilation: Australia, Canada and New Zealand he shows how child welfare and educational assimilative policies have worked to the detriment of Aboriginal peoples and how Aboriginal self determination in these fields is attempting to correct the impact. From the passage of the Indian Act of 1876 until the 1960s child welfare for First Nations people in Canada was dominated by the policy of assimilation, which used educational methods to change the culture and character of their children. Church operated residential schools were the central institution used in this strategy. When the policy of assimilation was replaced by the policy of integration, the residential schools were replaced by the child welfare strategy in a second attempt to ensure 13 that the next generation of Indian children was different from their parents. Children separated from parents considered by child welfare authorities to be negligent or abusive were raised in foster care or adopted. In the current period of movement toward self-government many First Nations communities are taking control of their own child welfare programs to ensure that the next generation of Indian children is rased in their own communities and culture (Armitage, 1993:13 1). Street youth The street youth literature, which is gaining momentum recently, focuses on issues such as abuse, shelter, delinquency, gangs, addictions, gender, and service delivery. There is very little information on visible minority concerns in general and there is a remarkable void in research on issues specific to Aboriginal street youth. Brannigan and Caputo (1992) offer a model that is useful in organizing the street youth phenomenon; namely, they break the issues down into: definitions, antecedents, consequences, and institutional responses to the problem (31). This categorization is used to structure the review, beginning with the issues of definition and population estimation. Definitions and estimates A report sponsored by the Children’s Aid Society of Metropolitan Toronto is most helpful to conceptualize the heterogenous population of street youth and the issues that relate to their various categories. In this report McCullagh and Greco (1990) differentiate between five categories of youth under the umbrella term of “street kids” (ii). The first and largest group is comprised of children who are “running from.. .intolerable home situations”; for the most part they are running from different types of abuse or neglect. The second and smallest group is said to “run to ... adventure excitement and/or independence” without the consent of their parents or caregiver. The third category of street kids are called “throwaways” in the report. They are on the street as a result of parental rejection or their parents have consented to a “premature exit from parental care.” The next group is “overwhelmingly represented” on the street; this group runs from government care facilities (children’s aid or young offenders). This group is labelled “absconders from care” in the report. Lastly, Greco and McCullagh identify a group of youth as “curb-kids” who still may live at home or 14 in a government care facility but are very much involved in the street culture, they are children “of the street” as opposed to “on the street” in the words of Blunt et. al. (1992). They may run for varying lengths of time. Marjorie Robertson (1991) focuses on the issue of choice stating runaways “choose” to be on the street whereas homeless youth are “perceived to lack access to either their original or an alternative home” (33). Additionally, Kufeldt and Nimmo (1987 and 1987a) distinguish between “runners” who leave home for extended periods of time with no intention of returning and “in and outers” who run impulsively and for a shorter duration. Still another definition of street children is the one adopted by UNICEF, namely, “those for whom the street, in the widest sense of the word, including unoccupied buildings, and wasteland more than their family has become their real home, a situation in which there is no protection, supervision or direction from responsible adults” (Fyfe, 1985 in Blunt et al., 1992:3). This last definition is useful in that it opens discussion to the concept of a “home” that implies an entity beyond mere shelter (Bass, 1992; Belcher & DiBlasio, 1990). Baxter (1991) emphasizes the same dichotomy between “shelterlessness” and “homelessness”; she points to basic needs such as security, safety and community as integral to the concept of a home. The population size of street youth eludes researchers because of the transient and diverse status of these people. The youth often change their living conditions as a result of so many different factors ranging from climate to employment, poverty, incarceration, impulsive lifestyles or family discord. Another important confounding variable to consider when estimating street youth populations is that the age range of the youths in most studies is approximately twelve to twenty-one years. Mistrust of adults for various reasons, including abuse and mandatory reporting of a minor in potential danger, is consistently reported in the literature. Finally, the task of estimating the size of the population on a national scale is compounded when one considers that the major urban population centres represent only a segment of the youth who would fit the definitions in this review. 15 Rossi’s (1989) research in Chicago and Burnam and Koegel’s (1989) study in Los Angeles offer different approaches to census taking among adult urban street people. Rossi divided inner city core areas into census quadrants and conducted counts of each quadrant at a specific time. Burnam and Koegel estimated population proportions at different locations around the Los Angeles area and then created a random sample that reflects the estimated proportions thus deriving a representative random sample. This latter method was used in the study of East Village in Calgary in order to ensure a representative sample (McDonald and Peressini 1992). These strategies become problematic when youth are involved for many of the reasons stated above. In Canadian youth studies, McCarthy’s (1990) approach is most effective in youth populations; it involves contacting youth at a number of service agencies as well as meeting them on the street at known congregating areas and makeshift shelters throughout the city of Toronto. Few of the studies are able to claim representativeness in their sample at this time. More importantly, no studies have isolated information on the Aboriginal portion of their sample though some of the researchers have future plans of this nature. Many questions need to be answered: Do Aboriginal adolescents experience differences in comparison to other youths living on the street? Are they treated worse by the people they come into contact with? How do they react to street workers and other mainstream services that are available to them? Are culturally appropriate services available? Reflecting on the dual research goals of finding specific information about life on the street and of analysis sensitive to the impact of structural forces, we must ask questions such as: How is the historical background and present new forms of colonization and racism socially manifest when compounded with street conditions? We don’t know. This information is important at this time and has yet to be addressed in the literature. ii. Antecedents to street life Given the grim picture of life on, or of, the street put forth by most accounts, from academic to media perspectives, it is baffling to think that some of the young inhabitants have chosen it as the 16 most attractive of different options. Using the definitions given by McCullagh and Greco (1990) above, it is clear that, with the exception of “throwaways,” the youth may have chosen the street over other possibilities for a place to call home. Throwaways are the only group in this configuration that seem to be on the street by someone else’s will — even this premise is debatable when one considers their “choice” is between living with a rejecting adult and the possibility of finding a more accepting peer group “family” on the streets. Choice is particularly in question for Aboriginal children caught up in another culture. Further discussion on cultural displacement and adoption breakdown is presented in chapter seven. There are a variety of analytic approaches to the street youth phenomena and each perspective sheds light on the forces that precede and influence a young person’s flight to independence of this nature. For example, McCarthy (1990) offers four different approaches to explain runaway behaviour, beginning with the approach which focuses on individual pathology. The emphasis in this approach is on the psychological and behavioral disorders of the youth. Briefly, the authors adopting a psychoanalytic approach concentrate on finding dysfunction within the individual to account for their decision to live on their own. Critics fault this approach with blaming on the victim for structural inequity and social tragedy. Another perspective McCarthy examines is the “pathological family approach.” Under this heading the studies consistently find that many of the youth are on the street because it is the best option available to them. For the most part McCarthy’s account filters down to “a disturbed parent child relationship” which is usually fuelled by one or more forms of abuse — physical, mental, emotional or sexual — and may be directed at the youth themselves or another parent or sibling in their immediate environment (reflected by: Janus et al., 1987; Webber, 1991; Social Planning Council of Winnipeg, 1990; Kufeldt and Nimmo, 1987 and 1987a; McCormack, Janus and Burgess, 1986; Powers, Eckenrode and Jaklitsch, 1990; Fisher, 1989). It is this abusive or violent relationship that precipitates the youth’s decision to seek refuge. This approach can also be criticized for 17 blaming the family for societal problems. The corollaries to this metaphorical theorem is to blame the tribe and then to blame the race. The third approach presented is what McCarthy (1 990) labels the “sociological approach.” The studies under this heading focus on antecedent factors that are “societal or environmental.” A downturn in the economy is one example, another may examine socio-economic backgrounds of runaways. In this case parents cannot afford to keep a young person in their care and they are encouraged to leave. A final approach that is less prominent in the literature is called the “healthy individual approach” in McCarthy’s analysis. Here the youth is considered to be psychologically hardy enough to leave a situation that is unhealthy for the sake of self-preservation. For instance, if a child is being abused in a foster home or institution, the street may be their only alternative for escape. Of these four perspectives, the sociological is best suited for the examination of Aboriginal issues as it allows for a structural perspective which is capable of incorporating variables such as race, history, economic marginalization and government policy in the analysis, thus avoiding blaming the victims. Of the remaining three frameworks the healthy individual and the focus on family breakdown are also of use, though less so, and finally the personal pathology approach is of little use as it fosters dissecting symptoms instead of focusing on the societal structures that are the root of those symptoms. A similar caution about misdirecting research with homeless populations is voiced by Gary L. Blasi (1990) and reflected by Marybeth Shinn and Beth C. Weitzman (1990) who state, By focusing on what is wrong with “the homeless,” however, we risk following the classic steps of blaming the victim: identifying a social problem, studying those afflicted to determine how they differ from the rest of us, defining the differences as the cause of the problem, and setting up humanitarian programs to correct the differences (Ryan, 1 971: 8). Efforts to identify the health and social problems of the homeless persons have distracted us from studying and countering the growth of poverty, the erosion of welfare benefits, the destruction of low-income housing, and other contributors to homelessness that are not characteristics of individual victims. The field has fallen prey to the risks of diverting attention from underlying causes and reinforcing stereotypes about the population group (2). 18 In an Aboriginal context, any analysis that does not account for the historical and present day structural inequities that influence Aboriginal people is prey to a similar type of error — sustaining instead of deconstructing colonial attitudes and policies. Doubtlessly, there is a need for some critical descriptive data on the exact nature of the lives of Aboriginal youth who are on the street. An analysis that relied solely on structural forces would obscure the reasons why these youth run and how they experience street life once they are there. iii. Consequences of street life The literature varies as to the length of time that young people spend on the street though most studies report that much of the homelessness is sporadic. McCarthy’s (1990) study revealed that only 32.1 percent of his sample were on the street for six months or less and approximately 42 percent were on the street for between six months and three years. In sharp contrast a Winnipeg study reported 96 percent of their sample was on the run for six months or less in their last run. Fisher’s (1989) study of runaways reported that 72 percent of the youths were away for less than three days. In the American literature there is an estimate that the average run was over six months (Kryder-Coe, Salamon and Molnar, 1991:39). Here again, Kufeldt and Nimmo’s (1987; 1987a) division of the population between the runners of longer duration and the youths who are sporadically homeless or “on the run” may be useful to account for the variance in the estimates of duration on the street. The consensus in the literature is that life on the streets is extremely harsh, and the repercussions of living there vary and are closely linked to the duration of one’s existence there (Brannigan and Caputo, 1993; Webber, 1991). Most consequences result from the attempt by minimally educated, inexperienced, vulnerable (in a multitude of ways) and desperate adolescents to survive in a society that has dimensions which at once glorifies youth and then preys upon it. Needless to say, the prognosis is not good. The McCullagh and Greco study (1990) outlines a “street life profile” that includes the following nine points: lack of education, lack of conventional 19 employment skills, high incidence of transience, poor physical health, substance abuse, mental health problems, conflict with the law, vulnerability to violent exploitation and a dominance of peer relationships that seek to compensate for the lack of family and school relations that support most adolescents’ needs for relationship (iii-iv). Though this profile has the potential to foster stereotyping — glossing over the specific in favour of generic labels — its intent is to convey an abbreviated picture of street life that can be used to give direction to a more indepth analysis of the issues. One can look at unemployment, resulting from insufficient education and experience, and the ensuing poverty as fundamental to the reality of surviving the streets. Poverty is a force that underlies most of the other survival issues; it is also one of the prime antecedents to illegal acts such as drug selling, theft and prostitution. Consequently, this powerless population is open to a barrage of abuse from so many different sources including adults and other youths (McCarthy and Hagan, 1991; 1992a; 1992b; Webber, 1991; Kufeldt and Nimmo, 1987; Lau, 1989, McCullagh and Greco, 1990). Studies consistently examine health issues with respect to homeless youth. Among the health issues researched, the most prevalent are: physical and mental health, AIDS, substance abuse related inquiry and the interrelationships that exist between these and a host of other factors that affect one’s well-being. At the most basic level, surviving on the streets without proper nutrition, shelter and medical services is in itself cause for poor health. The physical stresses of this environment are further compounded by the dangers of violent abuse perpetrated by adults and desperate youth preying on vulnerable young people — in total these phenomena inflict a heavy, and potentially fatal, toll on the physical well-being of young homeless people (Fisher, 1989; Webber, 1991). Though careful not to label homelessness as a mental health problem in itself, there are mental health impacts of being homeless or as a result of the traumas that precede leaving home. These impacts may include various forms of abuse, family breakdown or forced separation from the parental home, as well as the daily traumas associated with living on the street. For example, major 20 depression, post traumatic stress disorder and suicide attempts are all more pervasive in homeless adolescents (Robertson, 1991; Janus et al., 1987; Powers, Eckenrode and Jaklitsh, 1990; Blunt et al., 1992). Some of the potential roots and self-reported symptoms are articulated by the McCul lagh and Greco (1990) report: ...the childhood histories of street youth are characteristically marred with physical and sexual abuse, family dysfunction, and parental rejection. Such experiences are ‘invariably accompanied by emotional abuse’. Street youth report high levels of poor self-esteem, self-worth and feelings of powerlessness. This is evidenced by high incidents of self-mutilation and suicide attempts (iii). The threat of AIDS is a phenomenon that all sexually active adolescents must reckon with. Homeless youth are at greater risk as they have a higher prevalence of intravenous drug use and exploitation in the prostitution industry to varying degrees. Researchers also find that the threat of contracting AIDS amongst this population is further compounded by: poverty, lack of information about the nature of the disease, lower literacy rates, lack of access to sufficient health care, low self- esteem, and a low sense of self-efficacy with respect to taking steps to protect oneself when necessary (Kaliski et al., 1990; Caswell and Green, 1988; Johnston, 1992). Policy makers and service providers face the challenge of designing prevention strategies to accommodate the special needs of this high risk group. Finally, aside from the very serious threat of AIDS resulting from intravenous drug use, the health related information focuses specifically on substance abuse as it is considered to be rampant in this group. Webber’s (1991) research highlights the use of drugs as a coping tool for kids on the street. She states that, More than typical adolescents, street kids are beset with oppressive problems, both those they bring from home and those they acquire in the street. They have more than the average need to escape. Killing the pain of their existence — getting high as a get-away — is the most compelling lure drugs offer. Addictions develop naturally out of the vulgar business of living in the street because some kids can cope with what is being done to their bodies only by being out of their minds. Drugs offer the illusion of being off the street while you are still on it .... Not only are street kids tied up in more complex psychological knots and practical conundrums than are average teenagers and therefore more susceptible to drugs, but they also live in an environment saturated with these hazardous substances. If alcohol and drugs 21 tantalize many ‘normal’ kids, they magnetize troubled kids chasing a magical escape (225). Webber goes on to outline some of the predisposing factors that foster youthful addictions including: “low self-esteem, serious home or school problems, early use, a family history of addiction, parental conflict, feelings of helplessness and hopelessness, and physical and sexual abuse — in other words, the runaway mould” (225). In many Aboriginal communities escape through addiction is a significant social problem which has been repeatedly studied by social scientists. The pervasiveness of addictions on the street and the profile of predisposing factors offered by Webber above are factors to be examined in this study without simply dissecting symptoms but with the goal of revealing the underlying dynamic of those symptoms — addictions or otherwise. Finally, there is research that has focused on the issues of delinquency and law-breaking in general, and more specifically, on gang culture. To some extent gang literature elucidates issues that may be applicable to Aboriginal street youth because the analysis often includes some recognition of structural dimensions of race, racism, class, and/or poverty in addition to the delinquency perspective. For example, Short (1990) presents a lucid explanation of cultural and economic marginalization, and its relationship to gang activity. Specifically, the gangs are an attempt by young people to take part in the youth culture that is not accessible to them through the “legitimate” institutions of the dominant culture. Davis (1988) echoes this perspective, labelling it “economic survivalism” (30), and highlights the “Los Angeles police’s racism and brutality” (28) against black communities in their massive anti-gang campaign. Davis is critical of the clampdown on gangs as it skirts the deeper issues of racism and poverty that are at the root of gang phenomena. There is a growing body of literature that analyzes the attempts of culturally and economically marginalized youth to adapt to North American urban society through gang activity, the inter- and intra-community impacts and the institutional responses to the youths (Davis, 1988; Huff, 1989; Moore, 1985; Short, 1990; Vigil, 1983; Zatz, 1985). In this body of research may lie some important tools for 22 understanding Aboriginal communities in the urban environment as they face barriers similar to those faced by the black, Chicano and other ethnic minority communities of the United States. iv. Issues of service delivery to street youth There is no doubt that the population of street youth is replete with barriers to effective service delivery. Consider, for example, that the client population is approximately twelve to seventeen years of age and that a high proportion of them are running from some type of abusive situation, a care agency or perhaps a detainment facility— thus, there is a general mistrust of adults (who are obligated to report underage youths who they feel may be vulnerable to danger). For example, in the proposed safehouse sponsored by the Children’s Aid Society of Metropolitan Toronto, the policy states that “Parents and/or guardians and/or police would be informed of the youth’s admission in accordance with legislative guidelines” (McCullagh and Greco, 1990:vii). Given the knowledge that they will likely be sent back to where they ran from, it is doubtful that young people would seek out such a service. Mainstream agencies which provide services that seek to provide a safe haven are criticized as often contributing to the problem of abuse. Zingaro (1987) asserts that conventional child care facilities are guilty of repeating the experience of violation through control and intrusion into the lives of the abused children they seek to help; this dynamic is compounded by practitioners “requiring model kinds of behaviour and self-disclosure in return for service” (70). A significant portion of the youth who find themselves on the street are “absconders from care” (McCullagh and Greco, 1990:ii). SpecifictoAboriginal runaways is the fact that services are simply not culturally sensitive to their needs and so many flee to the streets as preferable to institutional living (Native Women’s Transition Centre, 1991). Brannigan and Caputo (1993:83-84) offer a very useful continuum of services for street youth that characterizes the increasing levels of intrusiveness and length of contact for clients who use them. The continuum begins with prevention services that have minimal contact with the youth and seek to educate them about the potential hazards of street, for example, in school presentations and 23 media campaigns. Crisis intervention, which is still generally short-term but more intrusive, seeks to stabilize clients who may be immersed in crisis, for instance, shelters or help lines. Of a more sustaining nature are the maintenance services which offer a place for clients to meet their basic daily needs of food and shelter (hostels, needle exchanges, and soup kitchens). Next on the continuum are the transitional services which seek to help young people get off the street. These services entail a longer-term commitment and a more intrusive relationship with the service providers — for example, longer-term shelter, literacy programs and addictions counselling. The fifth category is labelled incapacitation, which is meant to encompass incarceration by law enforcement and health officials for the sake of preventing the individual from harming themselves or others — i.e. young offenders’ facilities and psychiatric wards of hospitals. And finally, the authors point to the rehabilitation type of services that are “aimed at re-integrating young people into the community” (84). These services are, for the most part, involuntary and provided by the corrections and criminal justice system, for instance, probation services and life skills programs. Alongside the above continuum the authors put forth another continuum of formality that can be applied to all of the services outlined for further descriptive value. Both of these tools of analysis are helpful to differentiate the many services that street youth can potentially come into contact with. More concretely, of the front-line, short-term, services that do work for meeting street youths’ needs most have a necessary element of access and flexibility. Namely, the services have to be offered in an accessible part of the downtown core, open twenty-four hours and offer clients a chance to meet their basic needs of shelter, food and clothing with a minimum of intrusive questioning. Also, some agencies offer counselling, support, information and referral (for issues of abuse, shelter, substance abuse, education, health, medical or legal) for those who need it. In addition to these short-term and emergency types of services, street youth also express a need for longer term services such as job training, stable housing and alternative education programs (Zingaro, 1987; Native Women’s Transition Centre, 1991; McCullagh and Greco, 1990; Social Planningy 24 Council of Winnipeg, 1990; McDonald and Peressini, 1992; White, 1992; Bermingham, 1992; Truscott, 1992 and 1993). Conclusions: Aboriginal street youth in the literature Social scientists are at an early stage in the evolution of research conducted on street youth. Overall one can see a progression in attempts to derive more sophisticated and thorough studies that will suitably address the needs of this population. To date all of the research has been conducted on the population of street youth in general — none of the studies located has singled out Aboriginal youth. Accordingly, there is no information on population size, issues of racism or cultural identity, or service agency utilization by Aboriginal youth. There remains any number of significant foci for future study with Aboriginal street youth. In fact, for the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples’ study that provided the impetus for this thesis the literature search encompassed refereed academic and popular literature, data networks (such as dissertation, sociology, psychology and social work abstracts, ERIC — Education Resources Information Centres — and the American Indian Institute), and word of mouth networking with key informants in the areas of academic and professional service delivery to Aboriginal populations, streetyouth, and homeless people in general. There were absolutely no studies found on Aboriginal street youth specifically. Only one video documentary, made by the National Film Board in 1988 entitled No address, which focused on homeless Aboriginal people in Montreal, was found (Obomsawin, 1988). There are other movies and documentaries based on street youth in general but nothing with an Aboriginal focus. Other documentation of Aboriginal youth can be found by culling information from major studies. For example, in the Marlene Webber (1991) book, Street kids, there are a number of anecdotal references and verbatim personal accounts of young Aboriginal peoples lives on the street. Similarly, personal accounts can be found in Without reserve by Lynda Shorten (1991), and Inside out: An autobiography by a Native Canadian, by James Tyman (1989). These sources give the reader some insight into the pertinent issues that separate Aboriginal people from other populations. There 25 are sometimes graphic personal portrayals of the effects of racism, colonial government policy, destructively short-sighted child welfare policy and practice, the repercussions of the residential school system, poverty, recovery and renewal. But these accounts, though growing in their numbers, are still few and they are limited by lack of focus on the issue of homelessness or life on the street. In the Winnipeg (Social Planning Council of Winnipeg, 1990) and Calgary (McDonald and Peressini, 1992) studies on homeless populations there is a division that identifies ethnic origin but the authors’ analyses stop with a small chart that outlines the type of ethnicity and the proportion of the total sample. This information does not break-down Aboriginal populations by cultural groups. In the Winnipeg study the authors go as far as to say that Aboriginal youth are overrepresented based on national population figures (two percent of national population versus four percent in their study). But even this information is not reliable as the study did not have a representative sample — few studies do. Brannigan and Caputo (1993) give a cursory account of the unique nature of the issues facing Aboriginal youth in their literature review section but they offer no studies to back up their remarks. These authors have future plans to focus research on Aboriginal youth populations. One document that has emerged partly from the information in the Winnipeg study is a proposal for a safe house called Ni Tin Away Ma Gun Antat (My relative’s house) for Aboriginal children and youth in the inner city (Native Women’s Transition Centre, 1991). This safe house opened in 1994. This is a good example of a culturally relevant service targeting Aboriginal youth. Other sources of information that focus on homeless Aboriginal people in general (implying adults more than youth) can be found in the form of reports and conference proceedings — for example, A place to call home: A conference on homelessness in British Columbia (Fallick, 1987), the Canadian Council on Social Development’s report entitled Homelessness in Canada: The reort of the national inQuiry (McLaughlin, 1987), and finally New Dartnershis — Building for the future 26 (Lang-Runtz & Ahern, 1988). Though these reports offer a marginal focus on the needs of Aboriginal people, they are important for their structural perspective. They emphasize the role of issues such as poverty, self-government, and cultural differences that must be addressed by any program that seeks some form of amelioration for Aboriginal people. Specifically, the University of British Columbia conference (cited above) offers a skeletal, point form examination of some issues that contribute to homelessness. The Social Development report and the New Partnerships conference also point to structural barriers but much of the focus is on adult and rural populations as well as housing and shelter — issues less immediate to the lives of urban youth. From all of these accounts one must attempt to glean information that offers insight into the lives of Aboriginal youth who are living on the urban streets. The question remains, in an effort to deconstruct colonial interpretations and attitudes, what in past studies is useful for an Aboriginal perspective? All of the research to date is clearly insufficient to accommodate the specific needs of Aboriginal street youth and so our approach must reflect this great lack, but also build on it. It is useful to know, firstly, that there are no other studies so this research, for the most part, must begin at the beginning. It is also useful to know that there are many Aboriginal youth living on the streets and it is very important to understand the level of desperation that brings these youth to the point of exploiting themselves, in a variety of ways, to survive. One other significant finding is that these youth are most often running ‘from” something to the street — we need to clearly articulate what young Aboriginal people run from. In the Ni Tin Away Ma Gun Antat (1991) proposal the authors state that a proportionally higher number of Aboriginal youth are in the child welfare system and there is a shortage of culturally appropriate services; thus, many of the Aboriginal street youth may be running from the mainstream institutions that are unable to provide services sensitive to their needs. We also know that analysis that leaves out issues of race, poverty, colonization or that overlooks the experience of life on reserves or in urban ghettos is, at best, minimally suited to our needs. 27 Overview of the thesis The next chapter describes the research process. I also reflect on the methodology with emphasis on what it was like as an Aboriginal person doing ethnographic research on this difficult subject. Chapters 3, 4, and 5 form the heart of the thesis. The case studies introduce us to nine (two of them are treated as a couple in one case study) Aboriginal youth who currently live on the street in Vancouver, Winnipeg and Montreal, and two former street youth who are street survivors from Vancouver and Winnipeg. The sixth chapter examines the patterns and themes that emerge out of these ten case studies about life on the streets. Chapter seven focuses on policy implications and the last chapter concludes the thesis. 28 Chapter 2. Research methodology Chapter two describes how this study was conceptualized and lays out the methodology used to research Aboriginal street youth in the urban environment in Canada. The emphasis in this chapter is on the process by which the research received its impetus, was carried out and then interpreted. I also talk about the research’s reliability and validity and about the constraints to the study. Finally, I reflect on how the research affected me as an Aboriginal person. The conceptualization, the way which this study came about, and how it came to be done, is inextricably linked with my values as an Aboriginal person and my life experience as part of an oppressed group in Canada. Therefore, as a critical researcher, I begin a scholarly discussion on methodology with something as personal as my socialization as an Aboriginal person. Again at the end of the chapter I will come full circle and reflect on this person in this research. Impetus of the research An image from my childhood, which has stayed with me all of my life, explicitly places me within the framework of Aboriginality, of colonial oppression, and of the multitude of negative statistics and images that abound about Aboriginal people. Therefore, entering the world of Aboriginal street youth was for me a true case of “But for the grace of the Creator, there go I.” I am approximately eight years old, sitting in the back of a horse drawn wagon with seven of my siblings and cousins. My grandfather is in charge of the reins. My father is sitting next to him. It is a clear dark night and the stars are out in full force. I had watched with interest earlier that day as the moose carcass was cut up and carefully laid at the bottom of the wagon box and meticulously covered with pine branches, then with cardboard boxes, and finally with blankets. Now we are on our way back home from a hunting expedition under the cover of night. As I sit huddled in a blanket up behind the adults, my grandfather began to discuss, in Cree, with a distinct tinge of bitterness (this was uncharacteristic of my grandfather) that it was a crime that children had to be used to hide the game “illegally” killed in order that we could survive. 29 I learned that night of the confiscation of land, the laws that prohibited leaving the reserve to hunt for food, the residential schools that took away the children, the police function of social control through brutality, and the encroaching cultural values that would threaten to destroy us. I learned simple logic in the statement, “They came to my country, they should speak my language.” I learned that our collective condition was because of some inherently unfair philosophy and behaviour, and not at all the way things had always been. And most importantly I learned that this was not a fault that existed within us. In forty years I have not seen evidence that any part of the revelation of that night was wrong. A critical analyst was born that night. The term critical, Thomas (1993) states, describes both an activity and an ideology. As social activity, critical thinking implies a call to action that may range from modest rethinking of comfortable thoughts to more direct engagement that includes political activity (17). Thomas’s definition fits the sense of accountability that remains with me now. My experience on the reserve of watching my grandfather interact with a world that denied naturally accessible and common sense human rights — without English or any “recognized education” — with a stoic determination and dignity instilled in me the principle of systematically including a critical analysis on colonization or to at least make certain that it be allowed to emerge out of research with Aboriginal people. The impact of my grandfather’s teachings (and after that night I asked many questions for many years) have also reinforced the importance of oral transmission of holistic information, particularly in the language of the people. Hence I have insisted on leaving in as much text of the youths’ stories as possible (in their way of speaking) and their centrality in this research. The research process began inadvertently when in early January 1993 I received a call from one of the research directors of the urban perspectives sector of the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples inquiring if I would be interested in applying to do research on Aboriginal street youth in major urban centres in Canada. My immediate and emphatic response was, “No.” The picture that 30 came to mind was quantitative research, looking for numbers of youth on the street and administering a questionnaire, collating data, inputting it onto computer and placing the results into tables. This type of research on Aboriginal street youth, in my view, could not access the pain of separation and loss due to institutional intervention, of the traumatic impact of racism, of identity confusion (which most of us experience off the Street) ifl addition to life and death survival issues. Some research, the media and a common sense visual count tells us that Aboriginal youth are overrepresented at least in the skid row prostitution industry in Canada and I saw no point in confirming that statistic. On further discussion it became evident to me that perhaps what they wanted was not incompatible with what I might be willing to do. I did, however, qualify that I would not go in and rape these children again, not even under the guise of research, and that if I did anything at all it would have to include assisting the youth to tell their own stories. A preliminary proposal to do qualitative research on Aboriginal street youth in Vancouver, Winnipeg, Toronto and Montreal was accepted by the Commission after I had been selected from a competition. (Subsequently Toronto was dropped from the study because the research assistant became ill. I also believe the emotional impact of the research process became overwhelming in this case.) My function would be to oversee the entire study from figuring out which paradigm and mode of research would be most suitable, to the design of the study and any instruments used in the research, to designing and carrying out the training of assistants, to interpreting, reporting the data, and formulating the recommendations. Funding was provided for a principal researcher/project manager, and later because of time constraints, for a research assistant to carry out library searches and policy examination, and for four (which later became three) research assistants to conduct the interviews with the street youth in each of the major city sites in the study. It was decided that this arrangement was necessary because this type of study could potentially be a full time job for one person for at least two years and I was employed in a tenure track faculty position with the School of Social Work, University of Victoria, 31 at the time the study was initiated. All persons on the research team were directly contracted through the Royal Commission. Therefore we were, each of us, private contractors. (This aspect of the study was later to have an impact on the question of researcher safety and participant selection alluded to later in the chapter). Planning the research The first task was to write out a budget for a study which would gather data from different constituencies on the street level, for training and travel, and for the extended time needed for writing the report. It was decided that the participants would receive a one time allowance of one hundred dollars in recognition of their need and their work with us. No notices to attract participants on the basis of this allowance were used and the subsidy was given to the youth at the closure of interviews. For practical reasons related to time constraints and to my teaching load at the University of Victoria, the decision was made to hire Aboriginal research assistants to conduct the interviewing in each of the cities and another on site in Victoria to assist with library searches. During the planning phase I read Street kids: The tragedy of Canada’s runaways (Webber, 1991) and the format of case study research was solidified. The story telling format would provide a way to assist Aboriginal youth to voice their own concerns. I decided that a training session was needed in order to combat the isolation of the research assistants, to uniformly distribute the rationale for the study and the ethical principles established by the Royal Commission, and to get to know the assistants (two of whom were not known to me before the research began). In order to minimize the possible segmenting effect that a diverse team might produce, and with a near completed literature review in hand, I led an intensive three day training session with all team members. This included senior research co-ordinators from the Commission. This took place after the design issues had been identified and the guiding questions had been formulated. I made every effort to ensure that the research method would be uniformly conveyed to the research team so that differences could emerge from the text of the interviews and not through varied process. The 32 training period facilitated team interaction and communication, sharing of strategies for interviewing distrustful youth, and the maintenance of cultural integrity. In addition I visited the research sites once in the contextual information gathering stage and twice again in the interviewing stage. Telephone contact was ongoing and as needed. I stayed extensively involved with all parts of the information searches and the conceptualization of ideas for any part of the Royal Commission study to be drafted by anyone else. My main concern was to keep cultural and sociological integrity in the study. I explicitly wanted one point of view — with the exception of any research used for comparison purposes. The non-Aboriginal team member examined the literature from the perspective of a Canadian mainstream society. Subsequently I reconceptualized and edited his work from an Aboriginal perspective. All materials have been reconceptualized for the thesis. Four sets of participants were targeted in the study. * The main corroborators are Aboriginal youth in the 14-20 age group who by definition live on the streets. That is to say they see street culture as a major reference point in their lives. * Ex-street people who were at one point “street youth” were interviewed in order to make comparisons of conditions for street youth “then” and “now,” and to see the similarities and differences of experience. * For contextual information We interviewed two sets of parents whose children had gone to the streets. This gave us some insight as to the reasons for running from these parents’ point of view, and views on strategies for repatriation and prevention. * Advocates in street specific agencies and programs (for example, needle exchange, street workers, sexually transmitted disease clinics, special police units, Aboriginal specific street youth programs) were interviewed for contextual information about Aboriginal utilization of services, percentage of Aboriginal youth using agency services, approximate numbers of 33 Aboriginal street youth in various cities, culturally appropriate services and numbers of Aboriginal street workers, and major issues for Aboriginal youth as they perceive them. The emotional impact of reading the literature on homeless street youth, poverty, violence, and the terrible statistics of damaged and abused Aboriginal youth (in general) influenced me to include a debriefing period to take place at the end of the interviewing phase. This was planned for the beginning of July 1993 in Vancouver, British Columbia. I also asked the research assistants to keep a field journal (appendix F). I did this for two reasons: first to provide an outlet for the emotional impact of the research endeavour itself; and secondly to provide recorded details of the street environment, interview circumstances and indepth description of the participants. I felt that both the debriefing session and the journals were necessary to place the collective experience of the researchers into the research process and to bring closure to the data gathering phase. This would also be the beginning of the interpretation of the data. Research goals How to approach a study of Aboriginal youth on the urban streets given literature that had little information on this population was the focal question at the beginning of the study process. Therefore, the decision was made to construct a body of information out of a broadly based perspective from the point of view of the youth. The existing literature became a backdrop to the missing pieces of the puzzle. The definitions and the major characteristics of running behaviour were utilized as comparison to the experience which Aboriginal youth shared. In this study a main goal was to contextualize Aboriginal street youth within the colonial structural environment. Many social scientists have written about the unequal social status of Aboriginal people in Canada (Frideres, 1993; Bolaria & Li, 1988; Engelstad & Bird, 1992; Wotherspoon & Satzewich, 1993, for instance) and many more have written about the impact of this inequity (Ryan, 1971; Manuel & Posluns, 1974; Cardinal, 1977; Djao, 1983; McKague, 1991). 34 Freire (1974) also reminds us of the oppressor/oppressed dialectic and the social and psychological impacts of this contradiction. The opening for colonial contextualization from the case studies was facilitated by open ended questions on perceptions of marginality and questions about history and culture. I believe that Aboriginal persons facilitating the process also widened that opening. Many of the youth would say, in the interviews, that they felt more comfortable sharing with an Aboriginal person because they felt that their backgrounds and culture would be more clearly understood. Another goal was to set carefully the course for future research endeavours and policy development with Aboriginal street youth: therefore the following overriding sociological questions guided the process: * What are the most significant life experiences that have impacted on the current situation of street youth? * What are the greatest challenges facing street youth today? * What are the most critical forces/institutions that influence the thinking and behaviour of street youth? * In what terms do street youth define their social, cultural and spiritual needs and how do they perceive the effectiveness of services available to meet those needs? * What or who do the street youth of today model themselves after, and what factors shape and influence this process? To build a broad picture of the experience of youth in the study, therefore background face sheets (appendices D and E) were used to gain information as well as current living situations. In order to access information that spoke to treaty status, Métis and Inuit street youth issues, the decision was made to try to interview status and non-status youth in Vancouver, Métis youth in Winnipeg and Inuit youth in Montreal. The goal of accessing fairly distinct Aboriginal representation in each of the cities was, for the most part, successful. This type of sampling was necessary because we wanted to know more about the physical, intra-psychic and “cultural” conditions of each of the 35 distinguished categories in one of the cities. In some instances we were unable to access the preconceived formula because we were dependent on street workers to select participants. Nevertheless the first criterion for selection was group identification (within a specified age range). Every effort was also made to get a fair gender balance; an age range representation; participants who were homeless versus those using shelters and other facilities; and examples of various types of running and street behaviour. It was only after the ideal combination of representation (for Royal Commission purposes) was set out in theory that the street workers were contacted. The anxiety caused by the “ideal sample is discussed later in the chapter. Another goal was to access information on street workers and street service utilization. Did the youth access services? If not, why not? What kinds of services were preferred and why? Questions were asked about whether the youth had contact with Aboriginal street workers. How did they feel about this topic? In this endeavour we hoped to get information on availability of Aboriginal services and whether the youth felt these were a necessity. Finally, the goal that was foremost in mind was to impart respect for the youth in sharing knowledge about the research process, and through language, research terminology (“street youth” instead of “street kids”), and behaviour. Chrisjohn and Young (1993) write about the importance of Aboriginal persons’ rights to participation in authentic research and of access to technical knowledge in the research process. In the effort to proceed with respect in the entire research process I often refer to “we” as a team of researchers through the text of this thesis, although I take full responsibility for its content. Case study method Social science has been criticized for its wont of producing irrelevant and conceptually flawed research in the Aboriginal community (Chrisjohn, 1986; Hampton, 1988). There is, however, a more practical and radical summation of this sentiment in the simple statement written by a mainstream social scientist, 36 in a conversation with Art Solomon, a Native Elder, who asked, somewhat rhetorically, whether I would tolerate my own methods, or passively accept my interpretations, if I were a member of a Native community (Warry, 1990:61). Art Solomon’s question is a sign of the times in the Aboriginal community. The social science research industry is being held accountable as it has not been in the past. Therefore research must not only be accountable for scientific standards, it must be culturally appropriate, practical, and emanci patory. After deciding that orality, youth telling their own stories, street culture and Aboriginal culture, and history and oppression were important and necessary components to be supported in the research, I decided to use qualitative critical case study methodology (Leenders & Erskine, 1989) incorporating an ethnographic stance (DeCastell & Walker, 1991; Thomas, 1993). Critical ethnography not only provides description of a culture (as most conventional ethnography does) but allows for a particular kind of analysis and interpretation. “Critical ethnography,” also, Thomas (1993) says, is grounded empirically in explicit prior evidence of a variety of debilitating social conditions that provide the departure point for research (33). As stated before there is an abundance of research on the degraded social conditions, unequal treatment and marginal ization of Aboriginal people in Canada. There is ample reason to believe that Aboriginal youth would suffer the consequences of generations of abuse in the present. Critical ethnography is, therefore, useful as a potential way to analyze Aboriginal street youth behaviour, not as successive acts of individualized deviance, but as a response to society’s violence upon them — as an act of resistance (Thomas, 1993:51). Thomas (1993) gives a list of six “guideposts for continual examination of research and reflection on purpose” of the research. They include ontology, topic selection, method, data analysis and interpretation, discourse and reflection (33). Ontologically, as stated above, there are structural and cultural arrangements which oppress some people but are not ordinarily visible (for example, gender, race, sexual orientation). Topic selection in this case came about by a one time opportunity 37 from the Royal Commission; however, it was my special interest in the field (I now work in Aboriginal child welfare research and development) which induced me to accept the opportunity. The discussion on method follows, and the data analysis and interpretation, discourse and reflection will be discussed presently. The model most suited to the needs of the situation was a critical case study approach using descriptive/interpretive design. This method of research is characterized by specificity of focus with respect to the phenomenon or case under study, and by depth of description combined with interpretation of the data from various sources. The method is holistic and exploratory in nature and it is capable of incorporating a variety of disciplines, using a range of techniques for collection. It is ‘heuristic” as it seeks the illumination of otherwise unknown or little understood dynamics to the reader (Merriam, 1988; Reinharz, 1992; Leenders and Erskine, 1989). All of these traits make this model suitable to the needs of this study. Specifically, qualitative case study methodology and critical ethnography are based in interpretation, which is particularly significant to the study of homeless Aboriginal youth as their lives express, in many ways, symptoms of structural barriers such as racism, poverty, and the impact of colonization. All these conditions are integral to any interpretation of their reality. (A structural examination would look to the structures of society, for instance, the Indian Act, the Child Welfare Act, the school system, the reserve system, and social marginalization for explanations of overrepresentation in social pathology statistics, rather than in the individual personal weakness of those involved.) That is to say that Aboriginal children are more at risk because of the way which the entire Canadian society is arranged. Blasi (1990), Shinn and Weitzman (1990) and Webber (1991) echo the need for a structural perspective to avoid blaming the survivors of marginalization and oppression. Case study research is a method of studying social phenomena though the thorough analysis of an individual case(s). The case may be a person, a group, an episode, a process, a community, 38 a society or any other unit of social life. All data relevant to the case is gathered from various sources, and all available data is organized in terms of the case. In this study the research team interviewed street youth, ex-street youth, parents of street youth, street services personnel and I have included the perceptions and recommendations of the research team in various ways. I have also taken into account street youth literature and policy that impacts on street youth. The case study method gives a unitary character to the data being studied by interrelating a variety of facts to a single case. It also provides an opportunity for the intensive analysis of many specific details that are often overlooked with other methods. A critical ethnographic stance allows for a conceptual treatment of the data that goes beyond a positivist and/or liberal ideological stance. DeCastell and Walker (1 991:18) call this getting a brain and not just an eye. For instance, by asking open-ended questions on fear, shame and anger, we were able to access information about cultural identity and the impact of racism. These dimensions are seldom sought by researchers nor are they easily quantifiable. The case study approach offers a method that is able to focus on the complex reasons for ending up on the street and the conditions (culture) once youth are introduced into street culture. We wanted to gain insight into availability and utilization of mainstream and Aboriginal specific street services that provide on-going services and could potentially facilitate repatriation into home communities and implement prevention strategies for future generations of troubled youth. Case study research is more complementary to the oral traditions of Aboriginal people and it offers a particularly disadvantaged population of Aboriginal youth an opportunity to give voice to their experiences and to give us insight into their lives before apprehension, experience in care or in custody, life on the run, and finally making a home on the street. We will see that some youth go into great detail about city life, reserve life, and about cultural involvement or lack thereof. They tell about positive close relationships with functional grandparents (and extended family) and they share the horrors of exploitation by adult care givers. In other words the case study offers voice to 39 a most powerless group. It is, then, “interpretation in context” (Merriam, 1988:10), within which the participant has the opportunity to direct the process through sharing their story. Case study method is capable of drawing from many disciplines (Yin, 1984). As well as critical ethnography (‘in their own voices,” Thomas, 1993; Hammersley and Atkinson, 1983/1 990)) this study incorporates elements of psychological methods (the study of individual human behaviour (Merriam, 1988:25)); and sociological methods (“...attend to the constructs of society and socialization” (26)). The major strength of critical case study research in this context is the combined meaning of the experience for the youth, the researcher’s interpretation and the fieldwork (16-19). The street youth project, then, has the potential of shedding light on the little known phenomena of Aboriginal street youth culture and identity. Appendices A, B, and C contain a complete list of the questions that served as guidelines for the interviews. These questions were formulated after the research on methodology and much of the contextual/background reading was completed. They are broadly broken down into four areas: 1. Demographic information — from face sheets and from disclosed material during interviews; 2. History — personal experience at home, in care and in institutions and their impact; 3. Street life — history and present conditions, and street services utilization; 4. Future aspirations and hopes for improving present conditions. Within these broad categories, section three guides the participant to talk about why they ran, the emotional impact of their history and present conditions on the street. The questions are open-ended so that within the context of sharing on the topics of shame, grief, and fear the participant had the opportunity to speak openly about a wide range of topics. They were able to identify abuse, exploitation, special or differential treatment on the street, racism, emotional issues such as loss, and identity and cultural issues without being directly confronted with specific questions on subjects which are hard to place into context if a direct question is asked. 40 Carrying out the research The chronology of events in the research process were as follows: * Design of the study and literature review, preparation for training and formulating question areas; * Training, and site visits before the interviews were to take place; * Contextual information gathering — the researchers went out into the field and visited youth street services personnel — exploring the city, participating in needle vans, riding with youth detail, visiting and interviewing street workers and co-ordinators of services; * Interviewing — contact with the participants, street youth, ex-street youth, parents of street youth and street services workers: * Debriefing — healing circle and talks; * Writing the research report — data analysis and interpretation from transcribed interviews, use of tapes, extensive consultation with research assistants, and use of contextual material; * Reconceptualization of report into a thesis. Many of these elements are discussed further in subsequent sections of this chapter. As a group of Aboriginal researchers the team needed to be cognizant of the precarious position that we occupied in this study. We were inquiring into issues that were very close to each of us as individuals and as Aboriginal people. At the same time we needed to avoid particular traps of social science research that can predispose the interpretation of the data. For instance, an overemphasis on the psychological characteristics could take us into a “blaming the victim” trap (Ryan, 1971), and solutions resulting from this perspective could further individualize the youth and alienate them from their reality, peers, culture and communities. Therefore a macro analysis that would take into consideration individual characteristics, history, culture and the society which has spawned street youth was critical. This approach might be expressed in the following manner: 41 * To place street youth, including behaviour patterns and individual motivations, within a larger context (social structures of society); * To contextualize street youth personal situations within the larger socio-economic framework of urban society; * To stress that the institutions, agencies, legislation, government policy, etc. impact on and constrain the behaviour, motivations and social interactions/relationships of street youth. That is, people never act in a vacuum, and rarely do anything solely out of individual motivation; * And to use historical developments (Indian Act, Indian Affairs, urban migration, the reserve system and lack of educational and employment opportunities, other government policy [i.e. residential schools etc.]) to form the context/background of street youth behaviour. The time lines were set as follows: * January - April 1993 — Design of study, library search, and training development; * May - June 1993 — Contextual information gathering, site visits and interviewing participants; * July 1993 — Debriefing; * September - March 1994 — Data analysis and interpretation, additional site visits in some cases, and writing the research report; * December 1994 - January 1995 — Revision of the research report. * January - August 1995 — Reconceptualization of the report as a thesis. During the entire time from the training session in April 1993 until well into the interpretation of data, there were many telephone contacts with all of the research assistants. First there was on-going support for the research assistants while they were engaged in the interviews with the youth. On one occasion I had to stay on the phone with a research assistant as a participant was trying to forcibly enter her apartment. She had been dealing with stalking behaviour (this interview 42 and the person’s participation in the study had to be discontinued because of extreme intoxication and threatening behaviour). On many occasions the research assistants just needed to vent feelings of despair and anguish at the conditions on the street. Secondly, there were many times when I had to check and recheck incidents reported by the youth on the tapes and to ground my interpretations. Interpretation of the data Perceptual description of Aboriginal youth on the street was not the goal in this research. DeCastell and Walker (1991) state that this type of recounting of culture “naturalizes, dehistoricizes, and renders seemingly unalterable, the situation that the ethnographer reports” (18). We were looking for the underlying causes for the overrepresentation of Aboriginal youth on the street and the strengths present in street culture with which to build recommendations for the prevention of further suffering. The task was to conceptualize Aboriginal street youth behaviour taking into account personal histories, attitudes reflected in service utilization, racial oppression and cultural strengths (Thomas, 1993:5 1). Jim Thomas (1993), for example, reveals the role of “symbolic identities” in his study on prisoners — with race as the indicator. Racism in prisons occurs not only because of discriminatory practices, but also because one’s race connotes and denotes sets of meanings that define how one “does time.” The label nigger is more than just a hostile epithet. It also carries connotative conceptual baggage and implications for social interpretation and policy. Race becomes a metaphor that conveys pictures about how prisoners should act in dealing with the “niggers” to whom the images pertain. Racially imbued images take on the character of social myths by creating accounts, normative judgments, and actions directed toward a subordinate culture. The myths reproduce power relations by creating and consolidating icons that reinforce stigma, define societal responses, and establish the boundaries between the sacred dominant groups and profane subordinate ones (52). Race as a concept results in the differential distribution of power and privilege and mediates how Aboriginal youth live on the street. This became evident time and again in the case studies. In the data analysis and interpretation in this research there was always the danger of glossing over Aboriginal street youth issues by the constant comparison to mainstream street youth. 43 Secondly, the danger of romanticizing their uniqueness was inhibiting. The greatest obstacle, however, was the fear of descending into the extreme depths of despair, depression, hopelessness and helplessness with them. For all of these reasons the risk remains of underestimating the depth of Aboriginal street youth loss and pain, the urgency of their searching, and their craving for peace. The analysis of street youth responses to the guiding questions was a complex task because at times there were contradictions that surfaced. Thomas (1993) states that “sometimes the gap between what the accounts described is sufficiently interesting that the accounts themselves can become the focus of analysis” (38). For example, why does Noella (Winnipeg) consistently avoid references to differential treatment? She reports that she does not perceive any differential treatment of herself in any context, in other words there is no racism (answer to direct question). Then she goes on to describe overt racist behaviour toward herself (and other Aboriginal people) in different contexts. The avoidance and denial, on the one hand, and the eventual disclosure of overt differential treatment, on the other, is a discrepancy which is of interest in this case study. Her life circumstances are very similar to the other youth in this study. After the data collection was completed, there was, as mentioned earlier, a three day debriefing period so that the research assistants could share their experiences and perceptions. Categories, themes, similarities, differences and unique circumstances, particularly with differences in the demographics and sociology of the urban centres in question, were identified and noted. Since we were dealing with different municipal and provincial regulations, our debriefing was helpful and the sharing was integral to the analytical task. The analysis then took shape through the use of field journals, extensive telephone contact and visits to research assistants, feedback from research assistants on drafts of the case studies and the final draft of the research report, tapes, transcripts, a literature review on street youth, newspaper articles, videos, contextual information (interviews with street services personnel), a review of policy and social work practice which involves Aboriginal street youth, and multiple visits to each city with 44 tours of frequented areas with research assistants and street workers in needle vans and mobile emergency services. Primarily, the narratives spoke for themselves. There had been one common expectation between myself and those who interviewed the youth. This was before the interviews but after the training and much reading on the subject of Street youth. Upon entering the research process, we as researchers each began to have our own agendas (stuff we wanted to make sure got said), and an urgency and distrust that the youth would be able to articulate what we had come to know, through our own experience or by entering the underground of street life, were urgent needs. As the interviews were completed, and the transcripts and tapes were reviewed, we realized that no one could have articulated the complexities of street life and the needs of Aboriginal street youth better than they could. They had surpassed our naive and secret presumptions about their intelligence and ultimately their needs. We unanimously agreed that their experience and maturity deserves its primacy in this study and that they deserve our respect for their tenacity and survival skills. They demonstrated pride in their survival skills and revelled in the knowledge that most of us would perish faced with their daily challenges. Reliability and validity In the Aboriginal street youth case study research the goal was to ensure that the findings could be recognized by the participants wherever possible by getting feedback from them. Because of street youth transient lifestyle and running behaviour, however, this was extremely difficult to obtain. In lieu of youth feedback the research assistants were repeatedly consulted on the recognizability of the youth participants in the case studies. They were satisfied that the participants were accurately described and that the youth experience, as told to them, was authentically portrayed. Reliability is enhanced by several methods. The first is triangulation, which is using 11multiple methods of data collection and analysis ... (Kirby and McKenna, 1989:172).” This research used 45 contextual information, open-ended interviewing of parents and advocates, indepth case studies and elements of participant observation. Anthropological, psychological and sociological analytical approaches were combined in the analysis. Detailed discussion of the underlying elements of the study, explanations of the context of the data collection, any identifiable biases toward the people being studied, and the basis for selecting participants (172) are included in the study. Finally a detailed description of the decision-making process, exactly how the study was done, how the data was collected, and the choosing of themes all become integral parts of the study (173). Longitudinal or repeated study, or participatory methods (where the participant is involved in the research from beginning to end) used for enhancing validity were not possible because of street youth transience and monetary and time constraints. So far as possible to allow for a participant-driven process an introductory interview was included to facilitate trust building. Participant rights and our responsibilities were laid out and the research process was explained in as much detail as possible. The youth were given the opportunity to review the type of questions they would be expected to respond to and in some cases the participants took the questions away with them prior to the first taped interview. The interviewers went to the participant’s environment and interviewed them in places where they felt comfortable. For instance, Etah refused to leave the street environment and reviewed the questions over several days. Dale similarly invited the interviewer into his home after the second interview. And others went to the interviewer’s home after introductory interviews. The youth were offered the opportunity to review their input and a question was asked if there was anything they wanted to add which had not been directly asked or indirectly been given opportunity for. The youth were informed and offered the opportunity to review the contents of the study when a draft was completed: however, none were available when that time came. Triangulation was used once again by utilizing three separate interviewers and more than one method of confirming data (Merriam, 1988:169). The debriefing session (which was taped) 46 facilitated a collective approach to creating themes and detailed feedback was sought. More than one level of peer review were in place for feedback of a technical nature. And the researcher’s biases are explicitly accounted for in the last section in this chapter. A multicase analysis, predetermined sampling (for example, the attempt to get predominantly Métis representation from Winnipeg) and question areas, and collective determination of themes were used in order to ensure that if similar experiences began to emerge this was a result of participant dialogue and not a result of process inconsistencies. In the present critical case study analysis of Aboriginal street youth the initial purpose was to tell their stories and the more practical business of evaluating, assessing, and information gathering with respect to the concrete conditions and services for them. The ethnographic narratives were intended to be the substance for affecting policy and subsequently appropriate service delivery. Upon repeated examination of the transcripts of the tapes, the contextual information (from all sources), and the research assistant journals, there was no reason to believe that the youth were telling anything except what had actually happened to them. The narratives did not show significant inconsistencies in the outcome. The indepth “thick description0 nature of case study analysis allowed for exploration of difficult topics such as the relationship of Aboriginality and street youth experiences. Constraints As well as the strengths of case study research listed here, this study has weaknesses that require acknowledgement. A drawback, in working with the data, of having three separate assistants to conduct the interviews with the participants with significantly different interpersonal communication styles, was noted. This condition may have resulted in a wide range of response patterns due to different abilities to gain trust and establish a comfort zone with the youth within a short time period. For instance, one interviewer encouraged uninterrupted story like sessions while guiding the story with short quietly stated question areas, whereas another interviewer actively became engaged in a question and answer periods (with frequent interruptions). The different styles 47 made compiling the case studies difficult and demanded the full use of taped interviews as well as transcriptions. However, the information gleaned by the process was not significantly different in content. Another difficulty with the diversity which the team presented was the different ways of working with written materials, recorded reactions and documenting interviews with agency personnel. This ranged from extremely comprehensive, meticulous, and organized to sparse, undated, and disorganized. For instance, one research assistant interviewed (and recorded) an exhaustive list of street-related personnel and had all of them sign consent forms, while the others interviewed fewer workers with little or no documentation. (Consent forms for agency personnel were not required.) Needless to say, when one is working with thousands of pieces of information, an organized, well documented data pooi is very helpful. Sensitivity in the introductory period of the interviewing process was a critical stage in the research (Leenders & Erskine, 1989). Webber (1991), in her book Street kids: The tragedy of Canada’s runaways, discusses distrust of social workers as a major obstacle to be overcome in entering into a collaborative relationship with street youth. In training the research assistants I concentrated on the interviewing process, on trust building and on developing an information base about street life from the literature review and from interviews with street services personnel. Although sensitivity is clearly an asset, and it also helped that all of the research assistants who were interviewing at the street level were Aboriginal people, we still needed people at the community (street) level who already had the trust of the youth. Potentially it could take several months or years to enter the trusted circle of people who have been repeatedly betrayed. The distrust of authority figures (especially anyone involved with the government) by alienated street youth is well known and understandable. The interviewer first had to become somewhat comfortable with the street and its culture, secondly to gain the trust of street agency workers, and finally to begin the near impossible task of establishing a transitory but stable 48 relationship with the youth themselves (who are very transient in the summer). Each depended on the other. Street workers, (some of them) themselves street survivors, who had seen occasions of futile and personal gain exploitation of street people by researchers, were reluctant to see the charade continue. They were extremely cautious about referrals. In more than one case the worker refused to allow a second researcher (myself) to meet the participant. It was decided that I would not attempt to “come along” since I was not involved in the entire interview process. Perhaps, due to this caution, we may have been referred to youth who could “handle it” — so to speak. Although there was no evidence that Etah (Vancouver) was referred by workers to other researchers, she indicated previous experience with interviews. In addition to the primary obstacle of distrust from participants and street workers, a secondary drawback was having to depend exclusively on the street workers for referral of participants. This meant that we could not say for sure how or why particular persons were chosen for participation in the study and this aspect was not discussed in the interviews. Nor could we make sure that we did not have all the same type of street youth in each city, for example all outgoing, relatively self-assured youth who were perceived as easy to interview, or conversely tough enough to withstand a probing endeavour. It also meant that we were unable to fulfil the idyllic representational scheme that we had begun with. For instance, we could not demand four people of Métis ancestry from Winnipeg and four people of Inuit background from Montreal. While every effort was made to fulfil this goal we had to take whomever street workers provided. Male/female representation in individual cities was skewed; however, overall a close to proportional representation was achieved. A more practical reason for choosing to go with the more conservative method of participant referral was concern for the research assistants’ physical safety. The street is not an inviting place to be, even in the daytime. At night the scene is treacherous. At the best of times the street is 49 depressing; at its worst it is dangerous. The research assistants put themselves at considerable risk in order to become familiar with the street, to accompany street agency workers on their rounds, and to meet potential collaborators. Since private contractors are not insured under Royal Commission benefits they could not be asked to place themselves in jeopardy. As noted earlier, we had at least one instance of stalking by a would-be participant of the project. Agency staff were, at times, reluctant to discuss their involvement, or lack thereof, with Aboriginal street youth. These agency representatives became defensive on any mention of underutilization of their service by Aboriginal youth or racism within the street youth industry. Overall, however, agency workers were co-operative and gave us great insight into youth street life and utilization of street services. There was a problem with the original age range chosen as parameters for the research. Although we raised the age of the participants from 12 to 18 to 14 to 20 (with Travis in Winnipeg as an exception because he and Noella are treated as a couple), most are under 18 years which is under the legal age of consent in all of the provinces. This presented a problem with respect to informed consent and legal guardianship. We were informed that the participants could give consent to participate in the study (with the younger participants we also requested parental consent). Laws are in effect, however, that mandate social workers, teachers and other public and social service workers to report the abuse of a minor to criminal justice or child protection authorities. In Manitoba, for example, The Child and Family Services Act (1985-86, c.8 — Chapter C80) statutory reporting requirements state: Duty to report: 18(2) Notwithstanding the provisions of any other Act, subsection (1) applies when where the person has acquired the information through the discharge of professional duties or within a confidential relationship, but nothing in this subsection abrogates any privilege that may exist because of the relationship between a solicitor and the solicitor’s client (22.1) 50 Since abuse is probable in the lives of street youth, we had to inform participants that any unreported abuse of a minor would be reported to appropriate authorities and that a child at large, known to the research assistant, would have to be reported (and in one instance it became necessary to report a runaway youth). Therefore youth may have been afraid of the repercussions of disclosure of abuse, may have been protecting a significant adult person who was abusing, or may have been afraid of pimps or drug dealers. They would ostensibly be resistant then to discussing current and on-going abuse and of being on the run. This appears to be the case particularly with the younger participants. A drawback of a technical nature occurred because the Commission hired the persons that transcribed the taped interviews, and while this meant that I did not have to worry about this aspect of the study, a problem with this arrangement occurred. Considerable time was required to read and reread the transcripts and to check them against the tapes, because large pieces of the interviews were left out of the transcripts. Transcribers, for instance, might leave a note on the transcript, “Note: skipped part — rambles on” (Jean-Marc, p.24, transcript 2). Other times no note was left. This made the interpretation of the interviews difficult. Other obstacles originate from monetary and time constraints which are common drawbacks in research. The writing stage, which involved ten case studies from lengthy transcriptions and hours of interview audio-tape, was a lengthy and arduous process. I decided that as much detail as possible would be left in the case study report and that every effort would be made to make the voice of the participants the focus of the study. In keeping with this goal only those issues, policies and services that were directly mentioned in the case studies were analyzed. For the report to the Royal Commission I resisted the urge to intellectualize or to treat Aboriginal street youth experience like an academic subject in favour of insisting on the primacy of Aboriginal street youth voices. The thesis incorporates a mainstream academic context into the study. 51 The two and a half months allotted for research assistants to do data collection in the field was insufficient for the type of agencies and quality of contact with participants required in the study. Rather six months was needed for them to gain the trust of alienated youth, to meet the challenge of exploring the terrain of the street youth, and to get interviews with street workers who are undervalued, overworked, underpaid, and who are at the same time protective of their children. The numerous agencies and government departments that touch the lives of street youth are complex, competitive and overextended — without exception. In many instances it took many telephone calls and missed appointments to get in to see a busy counsellor or co-ordinator. The time constraints were more noticeable in the relationship building and termination stages of the interviews. Corresponding to the constraints caused by the short timeframe was the project budget. An extended budget would have afforded more time for contextual information gathering, choosing our own collaborators, extended timeframes for interviews, relationship building and closure time. Secondly, the issue of researchers spending extended periods of time with extremely destitute youth with no means to recover expenses could have been avoided. Thirdly, more large urban centres, such as Calgary and the maritime city of Halifax, could have been added. Reflections as an Aboriginal person A second instance from my childhood is salient in reflecting on the research process that touches on Aboriginal culture and identity. I had the opportunity to closely observe two distinctly different manifestations of cultural self-esteem within my extended family. I was raised by my parents in very close proximity (although not in the same house) to my grandparents; therefore, I had daily access to both generations. First I must add that geographically my reserve is situated too far north for the early agricultural contact with White people, and too far south to be very affected by the fur trade. Because of this location, and because of extensive racism in the area, we were pretty much left alone for a long time. My grandparents did not speak English nor had they gone to 52 mainstream schools. They were, however, respected pillars in the community. My mother, on the other hand, had been taken to the residential school from ages 10-16. I began to observe, early in life, the difference in personal and cultural pride between the two generations. My grandparents exhibited a strength of character and cultural pride (in any setting) which was exemplary and nearly absent in my mother. She would instead make statements to us (children) which indicated she did not like our Indianness. Her self-esteem was poor particularly around White people. She felt inadequate. This became a constant source of pain and curiosity. Although I resolved that I must look to my grandparents for strength and simply tolerate my mother’s difference, I did not know until much later in life that my mother’s resocialization in residential school and subsequent domestic and very punitive, hard labour with a White family were the probable cause for our suffering. Nevertheless, observing and analyzing colonial impact vis-á-vis Aboriginal culture and identity became an early passion. Thomas (1993) states that there is a fine line between “going native” and “going over to the other side.” This was an ever present caution in the research process. “Going native” means to lose one’s identity in the culture under study; “going over to the other side” means to “to give up our scientific persona and substitute the norms of the new culture for the canons of science” (48). Since I was an Aboriginal social worker in the process of research with Aboriginal street youth there was a triple affinity. First, I am professionally involved in social change primarily with Aboriginal children. Secondly, I am of the same cultural background, and thirdly I have the same societal marginal status. It helped that research assistants conducted the actual interviews and that I have always been distanced from street life. There was, however, an interesting phenomena with my explicitly political stance. For the last twenty years of my work and studies in working directly with racism and the impact of colonization, and having been covertly (and sometimes overtly) ostracized by both mainstream and Aboriginal institutions for being critical, I was now hired because of my personal and political 53 perspective. I had explored the impact of research on my community. And I was cynical. When the research had begun in earnest I became frightened that, after all my intellectual and emotional exploration of Aboriginal issues (particularly with children) and critique of research paradigms, I could not do these children justice. This made an already emotionally difficult proposition near impossible. My fear was very disconcerting, after all, I was tough as nails in my own resistance to (things like) being treated like a “token Indian” in academia. For instance, “after I had acquired my graduate degree” I received a call from a sociologist to come to a class to come and tell them about the “traditional Aboriginal family.” Assuming this would be the sum total of Aboriginal content in this course, I answered curtly, “You must have the wrong number, I can only discuss how it was destroyed.” (In any event, I went and gave a history of colonization and racism and its impact on the family.) This and many other instances of resistance were and are valued parts of my identity as an Aboriginal person. Now I was to be on the same side of the struggle and it meant maybe nothing would change. I would rather be a street worker than engage in an act of futility. The tension between actively working for social change and remaining “scientifically objective” was a cultural as well as a political and academic dilemma. Culturally, for me, to remain objective in an encounter is to come without spirit — without substance. You cannot be trusted. This contradiction needed to be resolved. Critical case study analysis is the reporting of the subjective experience of participants through specificity of description, and is no less “scientific” or “objective” with the explicit inclusion of the researcher’s perspective or bias — politically or culturally. “Objectivity,” in this sense, “simply means taking the intellectual risk of being proven demonstrably wrong” (Thomas, 1993:1 7). I was less afraid of the intellectual risk. Because of the paucity of relevant information in the social sciences, the great distances between sites, and the part-time nature of the research, I found the process very isolating and emotionally arduous. The compilation of the case studies, which took countless hours of working 54 with tapes and transcripts, was extremely painful. I cannot say how many times I cried everytime I approached further work on the case studies. It was never easy. As a team of Aboriginal researchers the process was equally difficult. We had to cope with the grim reality that unfolded before us in the field. This was extremely difficult emotionally. We were faced with the culmination of abuse and oppression in our own image — in our children. For many of us this experience brought back images of our own abuse and oppression in the city — in our own country. At the end of the data collection phase, we gathered in Vancouver in order to share our experiences. We first conducted a traditional healing circle with all of the research team present, we needed to debrief the sorrow, pain and helplessness that we were feeling. We told our stories, we cried, and we supported each other. All of us experienced anguish at entering the lives of destitute Aboriginal street youth and leaving, not knowing if anything would be done in time to alleviate the suffering in the lives we had touched. One researcher stated that she simply sat down on the curb and cried a number of times. Others wrote messages of despair in their field journal. Others yet came face to face, in the voice of the youth, with their own identity and cultural issues. Some interviewers were called derogatory names by the youth which indicated their distrust in Aboriginal people who appeared to have sold out to mainstream society; that hurt deeply. Others needed to express the extreme disgust upon entering the world of the exploiter of Aboriginal children. In the end, we gained extreme respect for the survivors of Canadian society’s collective abuse. Our lives were profoundly changed by our experience. Having begun our process of healing we set upon the task of descrambling our data. Categories, differences, similarities, and trends were identified. Cities were closely scrutinized. Where were the major hot spots and why? Where were the Aboriginal ghettos? What difficulties were experienced in the field? All became a part of the final product. Another indicator of self-identification in the research process is shown in a paper entitled “Aboriginal communities and social science research: Voyeurism in transition” (Gilchrist, 1994) 55 which I presented at an international conference for WUNSKA (a national network of Aboriginal social work educators). There I examine research methods vis-á-vis cultural values and history and the obstacles the practice of research presents to the Aboriginal community. In this process I had to analyze classical social science methods and juxtapose these with my values as an Aboriginal person. Some of these cautions were taken into consideration in the street youth research context. The value free objective underlying conventional research method indicates (in an Aboriginal context) that a researcher does not show respect by acknowledging the possible sources of prejudgment or imposition of interpretation. Everyone is socialized in context and comes with attitudes and symbolism that are mediated by race, class, culture, sexual orientation, ability and gender. It is a matter of respect, integrity and accountability to identify oneself and one’s position in the greater scheme of things. Ahistoricity engendered by most research does not pay homage to the ancestors or orality and obscures the totality of life experience. Individualization of subjects disregards the Aboriginal cultural value of the collective, therefore, cultural relevance is compromised. In this research I am accountable for these values. “kapitipis e-pimohteyahk: Aboriginal street youth in Vancouver, Winnipeg and Montreal” was conceptualized and carried out from the beginning with respect for the participants, for the research assistants, for myself, for the process itself, and for those who provided this opportunity. How did this research process affect me as an Aboriginal person? It has concretized some of my cultural and political theoretical ravings about research. I know what I will and will not do, and I know why. I am further resolved to create social change, not only out there where the need is most obvious, but in our knowledge production. Among us, traditionally, the scholars are the servants of the people. The ‘People’ reign supreme, by virtue of their right to approve or disapprove actions in all areas of life, and by reason of their prerogative to protect individual and tribal rights. And let the scholars spend ‘their very lives’ and energies to the service of the people (Costa, 1970 in La Framboise & Plake (1983)). 56 Chapter 3. Vancouver The city of Vancouver is the third largest in Canada and currently has the highest real estates value in North America. It is on a peninsula, located in the southwest corner of mainland British Columbia, surrounded by Burrard Inlet, the Strait of Georgia and the Fraser River. Metropolitan Vancouver has an area of 2787 square kilometres while the city of Vancouver itself is only 114 square kilometres. The populations of Vancouver and Metropolitan Vancouver are 477,872 and 1,602,500 respectively. The climate in Vancouver is quite mild, the summers are warm and dry and the winters are quite rainy with annual precipitation of approximately 1257.7 mm, which is mostly rain in the winter. The temperatures range from an average of 2.8 degrees celsius (27 degrees fahrenheit) in January to July temperatures that average 17.2 degrees celsius (63 fahrenheit). Vancouver attracts many people because of its mild climate and natural beauty and diversity — for transient people the climate allows them to live in relative comfort with minimal shelter (The Canadian Encyclopedia, 1988). Major industries include: tourism, the port, natural resources (logging, mining, agriculture, fishing), manufacturing, services, finance (international banking centre and head offices for provincial industries, banks, government, and other financial institutions) and film making. It is also a major North American port so it has extensive economic ties with the other countries of the Pacific Rim (Vancouver Board of Trade). Cox (1993) stated that the total population of people reporting Aboriginal origin in British Columbia has risen by 33% since 1986 — from 126,625 to 169,036 in 1991. Just under 80% of those people live off-reserve (Valentine, 1993). In 1991 the population of Aboriginal people was approximately 2 per cent or about 25,000 people in the city of Vancouver (Aboriginal Peoples’ Survey, 1991). Now there are 42,795 people of Aboriginal decent in the city, the third highest Aboriginal urban population in the country (Valentine, 1993). There is a high density of reserves 57 and Aboriginal communities in and around Vancouver. The area along the mainland coast to the northwest and interior regions, up through the Fraser River valley and much of Vancouver Island is heavily populated by Aboriginal people, who have relatively easy access to the city. The Executive Director of the Urban Representative Body of Aboriginal Nations Society (usually called URBAN Society) of Vancouver, Tim Michel stated that they represent 38 Aboriginal organizations and he estimates there are 90 organizations altogether (provincial, federal and grassroots) in Greater Vancouver area (70 in Vancouver alone). Michel believes that the Aboriginal population census statistics are incorrect and that approximately 120,000 - 150,000 live in Vancouver, North Vancouver, Surrey, Richmond and other surrounding areas (including reserves). In Vancouver the eastside is heavily populated by Aboriginal people and other minorities. Poverty, unemployment, housing shortage, crime and high welfare tolls are concentrated in this area. Forty-eight women have died violently in the Vancouver downtown eastside in the last 11 years, seventy-five percent of whom were Aboriginal women (Huaka, 1993 a & b). A 1990 city health report stated that women in the area can expect to live nine years less than women in the whole metropolitan area (Gram, 1993). Although the Granville Mall area of Vancouver gets most of the media attention because it is a gentrified area, and it is where the stereotypical street youth (i.e. punks and skinheads) hang out, mostly White street youth frequent the Mall. Most Aboriginal youth are situated on the eastside. “Kids in the eastside are more poverty stricken and destitute” said a director of a street youth facility. Vancouver has an estimated 400-450 street youth, approximately 60 percent of whom are Aboriginal youth. The Social Planning Council estimated 300-400 in 1990 (Social Planning Council, Vancouver, 1990). If you add all categories it is more like 1200 (part time, entrenched, yuppie weekenders and curb kids) street youth that reside in Vancouver, particularly in the summer. Street youth in general come from everywhere in Canada (27% from lower mainland; 30% rest of B.C.; 39% elsewhere in Canada; 6°I Vancouver homes according to the Social Planning Council of 58 Vancouver, 1990) and very few come from within the city. Missy, a former street youth from Vancouver, stated that there are a number of Aboriginal youth who are intergenerational street people. In some instances the daughter is on one Street corner and the mother is on the other. Three other areas that street youth hang out at are: Downtown south consisting of several blocks around Seymour and Davie Street, Seymour Street and Richards Street (“the stroll”); Downtown eastside consisting of Hastings Avenue and Main Street, Hastings up to Victoria Street; and Mount Pleasant consisting of Broadway Avenue on either side of Fraser Street. Case studies The street youth in Vancouver who participated in the study were selected with the assistance of a street youth worker at Downtown Eastside Youth Activities Society (DEYAS) which is situated near the intersection of Hastings and Main in Vancouver. This district is where the skid row bars stand like worn out soldiers all in a row, and where most of hard core street people of Aboriginal ancestry spend much of their time. Etah, Joanne, and Karen, perhaps, each present an atypical image of what we think of as street youth. They each are unique in their background circumstance, their journey into street culture, and in their current situation and levels of development. There is no evidence that the youth represented in this study from Vancouver know each other. Etah and Joanne seem to hang out in roughly the same areas which range from the Granville Mall, the westend and less so in the eastend of Vancouver. They are highly transient and move from city to city, and they both have an exterior punk style. This is where the similarity ends. Etah is a nine year street resident who is dedicated to her lifestyle with protest determination. Serious and cautious, she more closely resembles the stereotype of “street kid,” the one who has embraced the mind in perpetual survival mode — one who would find it a compromise to submit to easy street in a society that is dying of greed. Joanne, on the other hand, is a happy-go-lucky young person, a more immature two year visitor on the street, a young woman who hangs out in the downtown 59 Granville area with a group of teenagers and who is in transition into an independent living situation. Joanne laughs easily and does not exhibit the fatalistic outlook that is evident with Etah. Karen is another story. She is removed from much of the youth peer related activity. She is flirting with hard core skid row life. Karen’s older siblings are veterans of Vancouver’s Hastings and Main district and her street peer group are older (skid row bar waiters and waitresses). Karen often “stays” at downtown hotel dwellings with friends. She disappears for weeks into the void of urban downtown poverty. Etah and Joanne do not describe this phenomenon as a main reference point. They have chosen to join a street family consisting of non-relatives who are also street youth. They are highly transient and can look after themselves. Karen who is two years younger, as far as we know, has not left Vancouver. ETAH It’s like an instinct to a child when they’re born. They get born into a world of wrath and to protect that child instinct of themselves, the innocence of themselves, they start building their walls so that all the hatred will bounce right off them and so they become very arrogant and everything becomes really lonely (p.1 5, transcript 2). Etah is a 17 year old young woman born on a reserve near Calgary, Alberta. She is of Tsuu Tina ancestry and a nine year very street wise, highly transient veteran of the streets in various cities in the United States and Canada. She had just arrived from New Orleans, Louisiana, the week we made first contact. In early June 1993, when the first interviews took place, Etah was “squatting” in an abandoned house near Stanley Park in Vancouver, by the end of our dialogue she had moved to another squat, by herself, in the downtown area. She survives by dumpster diving, table scrapping and panhandling and she receives an independent living allowance from welfare. As the street youth worker had described, Etah arrived for the first interview looking like what might be described as a typical young “punk” type person of the streets. She had pierced rings in her nose, eyebrows and several in each ear, and she wore many rings on her fingers, which were topped off with numerous bracelets and necklaces. She was carrying an army knapsack and her 60 clothes were very tattered and very dirty. Her long dyed green hair was shaved on the top of her head. This style, she related later, reflects her distinctiveness. Etah is highly intelligent and needs very badly to stay in total control of her complicated life. She demands to have the guiding questions a couple of days before the actual interview so that she can think about her response. Even then, she insists that the interviewer not ask anything that is not on the sheet in front of her. In her likable and courteous manner she tells the interviewer not to put words in her mouth as she recites, in a semi-monotone but melodious voice, the events of her life. Even though Etah was nervous and spoke quite fast at the onset of the interview she became talkative, however, there remains a distinct feeling that she is not telling you everything. Perhaps she did not want to implicate those close to her. Characteristically, she declined an invitation to go to the interviewer’s house in favour of staying on her “own ground.” The interviews took place in parks that she frequented and McDonald’s restaurant on the Granville Mall. In this environment she seems fearless and “at home.” She elegantly places her knife (her protection) on the table as she eats voraciously with her fingers and ends the feast by stocking up on the condiments available in the restaurant. During the contact for this research, however, Etah would betray a very real vulnerability. For instance, she reveals, When I do things like this [referring to interviews with researchers], I have a way of going through things without showing much emotion, just trying to deal with the problem and then all the feelings will come out a lot later from now. So it usually works out (p.5, transcript 2). Later on in the interview she lets slip that she uses a medical clinic for “anxiety attacks” among other things. History well so I pretty much thought that I was a factory child with nineteen brothers and sisters, but I know none of them (p.7, transcript 1). Etah is the eldest of nineteen half brothers and sisters from various combinations of blended families. She doesn’t say where her mother (also Aboriginal) is from, only just that her mom had 61 “just run away and ended up on the reservation with my father ... and here I am.” (She is referring to her status Aboriginal biological father.) Then my mother took off a while after that and I have about 19 brothers and sisters from there on. My father got married to several different wives on his side and ended up just having them, and my mother ended up on one side with another man and just ended up having a whole bunch of kids. I have about three brothers and sisters on my mother’s side and about 16 brothers and sisters on my father’s side. I am kind of in the middle and I don’t have any brothers or sisters that have been born of the same mother and father (p.1°, transcript 1). Etah and her mother left the reserve when Etah was five years old. After four(ish) tumultuous and mobile years (the reserve, Richmond, Maple Ridge, Edmonton, Burnaby, Vancouver) with her mother Etah, having quit school in grade six, moved into the “child in care” system for a brief period, and then onto the “freedom” of the street. There has been no contact with her mother and maternal siblings in a few years, nor has she met most of her paternal half siblings. Etah met her father in the last two years, still a resident of the reserve. “I don’t usually call him father,” she qualifies her salutation, “If I wasn’t doing this report ....“ Her meetings with him are half remembered hazes of alcohol delirium. “Whenever I met him I’d get drunk for a couple of days and wake up in a different city.” On her trips to the reserve Etah has met an array of relatives on her father’s side. An uncle, her grandmother and a new half sister (born May 25, 1993) are named as significant people in her life. Although the reserve does not enter as a possible place for a future home, Etah never indicated a distaste for the reserve setting or the people there, nor did she glorify them. I know my uncle on my father’s side — my father’s brother, I know my grandmother, I know a lot of the uncles and aunts but I have a really hard time remembering them cause I just been to the reservation a couple of times and when I was there, there was a big full room of people. A whole bunch of people came out to me and basically said, ‘Oh, I knew you when you were a baby,’ she stopped and gave me a big hug and I didn’t remember their names. Supposedly I met about 50 people on my father’s side that I was really related to and don’t know any of my mother’s brothers or sisters or grandparents or any people like that except her. I know one of my sisters [on mother’s side] (p. 10, transcript 1). 62 Although the contact with her “father’s” family is fairly tentative, Etah will return to the reserve to see the new baby. This seems like a scene that will be repeated again and again until she does remember everybody’s name. On the streets Survival is a pretty easy thing physically. Mentally, survival is pretty hard but you go it on a day by day basis, if you are patient (p.3, transcript 3). Etah relates that the first time she ran she was five years old. “I ran all the way to the front bush ... The first time I was on the streets was when my mother left my father and she lived on the streets for a while and I was pretty lost.” Etah describes her journey toward confirmed street life beginning at the age of nine with an incident in her single parent Vancouver home. When I was about 9 years old, it was Christmas Eve and a lot of things were adding up to my anger and I had said something and a lot of things were adding up to mother’s anger. I had said something and it really offended her, so my mother and that’s basically how I got on the street. I ended up getting picked up by the police and being put back into the [foster] home for about a period of 4 weeks. After that, I got into a fight with my mother about going to school because I was really sick and so we got into a fight and I got really angry. It ended up where she phoned the police and on my way to school I got picked up by about 3 cop cars. I got put into a group home where I ran from .... The third group home a was very manipulating group home. I felt pretty much boxed in and really used because their children that they were supporting them a lot more than they were supporting us which is understandable because it was their own flesh and blood. But what wasn’t understandable was the fact that they were taking on the responsibility of other lives and using the money that they got from us to support their own children. And in that way it really made me angry so I would do things to the point where it would piss them off so that they would kick me out, so that I would have to be running from the police so I can just live without being chased. They kicked me out expecting me to run back to my mother and I ended up not running back to my mother and going downtown .... (p.3, transcript 1). The interim between arriving on the street and meeting her mentor “who brought me back to a squat “was described like this: When I got on the streets I went pretty much from building to building, living in laundromats and eating what I could and then I met a girl and I went out to a different part of the street where I cleaned up peoples’ houses because I thought it would be nice because they were letting me live with them. And I slept between there and China Creek Park on Broadway. And I lived with them for a long time and then ended up downtown and from downtown I ended up squatting and have been squatting ever since (p.1, transcript 1). 63 Although Etah states that she was not running from anything in particular, except that: I did not like where I was before and I didn’t like the cages that I was put in from school, I didn’t like the levels that I was categorized to be, the judgement that I was given. I didn’t like having the lifestyle that I had and the streets seem a little bit more free than the place that I was (p.3, transcript 1). Etah was disillusioned with society’s norms and she needed freedom. Etah does not explicitly state why she did not return to her mom. A statement later in the interview, “I had a great fear of older men,” may or may not indicate a possible exacerbating factor in problems between mother and daughter. Etah has been highly transient (or should we say, well travelled) and has experienced life on the streets in Vancouver and Victoria in British Columbia; Toronto, and Snake Island, in Ontario; Montreal, Val D’or (group home), and Amos in Quebec; from Seattle, Washington to New Orleans, Louisiana, and all points in between. Much of this travel is with friends from the street and sometimes she travels alone. She makes the method of travel sound so simple, “hitchhiking and riding the rails.” Her travel wise method of keeping her head about her and relating to people on a person to person level has kept her safe. Survival on the streets, Etah says, is not a physical matter so much as survival of the mind, as she nonchalantly describes physical survival. Well, I dumpster dive a lot, which means that I go into dumpsters and rummage around — find what I can, leave what I can’t use. I go into establishments and drink coffee and whenever somebody finishes and leaves, and they leave a little bit of food behind, I kind of swipe it, eat it, do that till I finish with my hunger. Either that or somebody will come downtown with a little bit extra money and buy me something to eat ... or I’ll panhandle until I can make enough, sometimes I go down to drug street ... and get meal tickets ... I go out and get food that way ... I basically wear the same clothes for about a year and then once they’ve disintegrated off my body I’ll find a new set of clothes somewhere — rummaging around in different dumpsters, different squats, I’ll find something — wear that for another year, until they disintegrate (p.1 1, transcript 1). Physical safety and warmth are a never ending preoccupation with homeless people. The city offers some refuge from the weather at strategic orifices, from which the city exhales its warm 64 stale exhaust, and in its decayed cavities. Etah describes the squat and some of the conditions they encounter in them in this way: The squat is basically an abandoned building that nobody is really using, so we use it. Cause we have really pretty much no where else to go. It shelters from the rain. On the odd chance you run into a lot of people — you run into a lot of weird mistakes. But after a while you get pretty much cautious and you take precautions. Basically squat lice ... there are a lot of things going on right now at squats, like squat rats and stuff like that. I remember somebody asking me saying like, ‘Somebody owns that, somebody pays money for that.’ Pretty much money to me is just toilet paper so, then nobody really owns anything ... only what they got inside their heads you know. If there is something that you need you have to pay money for it. I mean there are a lot of kids out there that are on the streets that need a place to go and sleep and if it’s there they are not going to do it [pay for lodging] because it’s not provided for them, you know (p.6, transcript 1). I basically go between ... I’ve gone between more than two squats because I’ve travelled a lot and run into a lot of different squats and basically going to abandoned buildings, live there secure, get electricity by getting candles, getting water from jugs and bringing them back to the squat and securing it .... Let’s see, in the United States, when I was travelling I slept a lot by the railroad tracks in a cardboard box. I went also to Arizona ... lived in a cardboard condominium which is put together with cardboard and wood, and you can basically make it into a tree house. I’ve slept on moving trains, I’ve slept on the side of the road, just basically surviving, I’ll sleep in the forest like on the island. I will usually sleep by the camp fire — get a tree or a tire just put it over amongst the trees. Basically I’ve been into some really neat squats. They were fourteen stories high, we had keys to get in, they were so well put together — a lot of people lived there. If they tore that place down they took a lot of peoples’ homes away. Squats are kind of a lot more, of a person on the street’s, home than I think anybody else’s home because it has a lot more emotions and a lot more feeling in a squat than any other (p.1 1, transcript 1). I remember one time in the winter I was living in a squat and it was really cold and I didn’t have any blankets. Well, I had this bag that a place called S.K.I.D. gave to me and it had kind of a blanket in it but it wasn’t really that big and I got really cold. I went out to the mall and it was opened and I walked in and I was just going in there to warm up and I got kicked out. I was really upset because I was so cold and I didn’t have any money. A lot of things like that have happened and not much you can do about it except you try to do as much as you can (p.3, transcript 3). Etah is knowledgable about AIDS and birth control. Since leaving a two year relationship (some time ago) she says she has been celibate and she has tested negative for AIDS. In that relationship “who I was married to — not under the law” Etah became pregnant with twins. She describes the relationship and her ordeal: He’s practically the last person I got together with. A significant person I shared a great deal of my life with him and I ended up getting pregnant with him to the point where I was 5 months pregnant. I was in a town that was really alien to me and 65 didn’t have any ID so I was also in a town called Amos where they don’t really have any services for people on the street. I ended up having to live off of dry bread that we got out of the garbage and dried donuts from Tim Horton’s (that they threw out) and I got really sick and lost one of the children in my stomach. The city, well the province of Quebec, decided that it would biodegrade inside my stomach so they weren’t going to take it out and that really didn’t make me feel comfortable and as the days passed on I knew that I would have a very hard time taking care of a child, so I moved back to Vancouver for a period of a month and gave my child away figuring that it wasn’t ready to come in into this world, but it was still ... the child the two children that were inside my stomach were a great significance in my life as well, cause they were there, they were alive. Also, Edward took care of me when I couldn’t take care of myself, didn’t ask for anything in return, he didn’t do anything that I didn’t want him to do. And we shared a lot of life together and that’s why he was a significant person in my life (p.8, transcript 1). Etah indicates a cautionary attitude towards drugs and addiction, although she uses alcohol. I’m pretty much drug wise ... I see a lot of people getting into drugs because it’s a different reality from the reality they live in — it’s kind of like a fake happiness till they can find their happiness — if they ever find their happiness (p.2, transcript 3). In her travels Etah encounters an enormous amount of drug abuse and has herself used many drugs “when I was younger.” Upon returning from her last trip to the United States (early June, 1993) she heard that three people she knew had died of heroin overdoses and five other friends had seriously overdosed. Death and dying, from drug overdose, suicide, violence and abuse related causes, are no stranger to Etah. She laments that her friend was “really sad and really angry” and relates his experience to many others on the street who don’t know where to direct their rage. Etah’s comment on her friend’s passing goes deeper than the hopeless statement about happiness being “at least” possible in death, she completes her thoughts by extending her scathing criticism to the entire human race. If they are dead at least they might have a chance at happiness because, you know, it’s really hard to get happiness in a world as rotten as this and it’s not even the world that is rotten. I’d like to say it’s white trash, but I know it isn’t just white trash. I think its just basically that the human race is the most dangerous species on this planet (p.14, transcript 2). 66 It is very likely that Etah is in the early stages of mourning for the people whom she calls her “street family.” And it is also likely that a similar scenario is too familiar to Aboriginal people, far above the average of any other ethnic group, in Canada. The massive assaults on the dignity of Street youth in general, and Aboriginal street youth in particular, are but the precursors to the inevitable magnetic force of the drug addiction and suicidal behaviour on the street alluded to in Etah’s story. Etah relates examples of how she is ridiculed for trying to sing for money on the streets, where catching a ride is taken to mean you are willing to sell yourself, where she’s been asked to help recruit “little Aboriginal runaways” (girls) into prostitution, and about an Aboriginal male friend who became a prostitute at age 11. We cannot appreciate the cutting edge of being pushed out of a truck in the middle of the Golden Gate Bridge, being denied a place to sleep (in a squat), or being laughed at for trying to make an honest dollar in favour of the ever forceful demand for sex. I almost got ran over and then these other people picked me up and gave me a ride across [the bridge] because I wouldn’t give him a blow job ... ‘This is the United States girl, you’re going to have to suck me off before you get money out of my pockets’ (p.3, transcript 3). is the reply to almost any attempt to satisfy street youth needs for survival in some legitimate manner. “They just can be so fake, lustful and greedy, they just turn into these little bugs,” she states about her tormentors. Prostitution, although Etah thought about it once and it still plays a part in her life in that she knows many people who are working in the industry, does not hold the attraction for her that it does for others. She is “not materialistic” and she sees through the promises of love and protection. To resist prostitution in a lifestyle where hooking is one ready means of survival — on a continent where the society is predatory towards young beautiful Aboriginal females — is a sign of most admirable courage. Etah evokes a sense of extreme sadness when she talks about the soul deadening effects of prostitution on the women and men she knows who are involved in the sex 67 industry. She describes her work in watching out for little girls, of taking them under her wing (back to her squat), with determination. basically [they were] asking me to be an apprentice pimp. I was really pissed off and basically I kept an eye on him to make sure he wasn’t doing this. But you can’t keep an eye on every single person on the street and he ended up doing it. I ended up sheltering little girls that ran away from him .... (p.1, transcript 3). She says that she has been exploited “only” in that at times she has panhandled for someone, “when I was younger ... but I always got something out of it.” Etah does not refer much to contact with the criminal justice system, although she relates that she landed in jail in Louisiana for vagrancy for a couple of weeks. And she describes being beaten by the cops and being protected by a Street worker, however, she does not refer to on going criminal activity or charges. Extended street family and a sense of “home” on the street is everything to Etah. “I guess a street family is about the most loved family I think a person can have because there is understanding and there is friendship.” She names sisters, brothers, a daughter, street workers, an older street (Aboriginal male) person, and her dog among her extended street family. About extended family and street culture surrounding “the family” on the street, she says: I’ve never really even known them very well [her biological family] ... When I got on the street I met people that I would consider family because they were more of my family than the family that I ever had (and they were real). They were somebody that I could depend on (although I didn’t) ... somebody that I could understand somebody that could understand me, somebody that could depend on me. We pretty much have been together for the last couple of years and we lived together, travelled together, ate together, slept together, did things ... just about everything that we do, we do together. And this is kind of like a family — the kind of family that none of us have ever really had. They’re people that I pretty much know that I am going to know for the rest of my life and I would consider them more of my family than any other family that I ever had so, in that way, I call them my sister and my brother. I also have a daughter who got on the street when she was really really young — too young to take care of herself and a young girl brought her down here she didn’t know me very well but she knew that I’d squatted and she asked me if I could take of her [the little girl]. I accepted the responsibility and I’ve had the responsibility for a year and a half now — taking care of her — making sure that she knows how to survive, live on the street. She basically calls me mom. I basically call her my daughter ... because she met me before I knew her, she used to watch me skate when she was really young (p.7, transcript 1). 68 Etah is philosophically simultaneously attached to and detached from her street family, probably because she’s never sure if she’ll see them again and this is an extension of her cautious attitude. “I never really say goodbye — just see you later — cannot really say forever, cannot really say never.” Etah’s stoicism is expressed in the statement: I’ve seen a lot of people commit suicide. When I was young I use to try to commit suicide a lot. I found the good ways to die and the bad ways to die and now suicide to me just seems like an easy way out — giving up to what I’ve been fighting all my life — [I’m] trying to succeed in a life not death. You know if I die [this way] in this life, what am I going to do in the next? Or I mean if I die what good am I? What good am I going to do? ... to try to change the things that I hate, it’s just giving up (p.14, transcript 2). Learning to survive on the street has taught Etah many lessons. When I hit the street I had a fear of being beat up. I had a fear of the unknown but those things I pretty much learned. I don’t fear violence anymore ... pretty much driven off the unknown. I do it cautiously. I don’t have much fear, but I have paranoia and as I kept saying — ‘paranoia will destroy you, but until then it will keep you safe.’ I see a lot of other people that are really scared around me (p.1, transcript 3). Racism I see a lot of racism against Natives but nobody is really racist against me [among friends on the street] unless I tell them that I am Native (p.4, transcript 2). I experience a lot of racism ... Yeah, it includes a lot of violence (p.12, transcript 2). The two above, seemingly paradoxical, statements from Etah’s interview are the parameters with which she relates a mixture of rage at the overt racism she experiences, awareness of the ignorance in mainstream intolerance for difference, a partial recognition of the dynamics of internalized racism in oppressed people, and a mature outlook on making a difference with open communication. What she is saying is that she must hide her Aboriginal background or suffer the consequences. Etah, however, being who she is does not have the luxury of self denial and hence avoidance of violent episodes is difficult. “When I see racism on the street I feel so much hatred and I usually end up confronting them on it and most likely violent things happen. How do I cope with it? That’s how I cope with it.” 69 Etah describes a street world, at least the terrain that she chooses to occupy, where racist Nazi youth are ever present. Skinheads and punks do not get along very well (as Joanne will later tell us). In Vancouver the Granville strip is shared by the two opposing forces. Etah describes many confrontations when she has to stand up for herself against White supremacist youth groups. But even some close non-Aboriginal friends with whom she travels, upon discovery that she is Aboriginal, express the “normal” hatred of Aboriginal people. They suddenly see her differently. Then there are the “ordinary” White power groups. I don’t necessarily get a lot of racism but I have to deal with a lot of racism. For instance, there’s groups that come out from suburban places and come downtown and promote their hatred and go around and point people out and beat them up for no reason. It’s just a game, it kind of intimidates and maybe that person [Aboriginal street youth] will turn into a Nazi. Because if you can’t beat them you might as well join them (p.2, transcript 2). The intimidation and resignation (and joining the White power groups) expressed in the above passage actually happened to Etah herself. She describes the shame she now feels when she goes to certain squats in Vancouver and she is faced with racist writings on the walls which she authored at the age of twelve. It’s just that my brother was White power — he was half Indian so it already made sense to me too. So I was shameful about that, when I was twelve, I was promoting hatred in very small ways like saying I was ‘White power’... one of the squats that I go to still has writing of this on the walls (p. 17, transcript 2). It appears that many Aboriginal youth are seduced into White power movements. Etah and other Aboriginal street youth in our case studies corroborate the recruitment of Aboriginal youth into White power groups. Membership in these racist youth groups demands the denial of Aboriginal heritage and culture and fosters self-hatred of Aboriginal identity. I was categorized as a ‘White parallel’ .... I’ve seen a lot of people that are like me, as in, half Native/half White and some of them have popped out Native and some popped out White (definition of White parallel). A lot of my friends, a long time ago, were Nazis although they were Native, and they just denied the fact that they were Native .... (p.3, transcript 2). Then there are those Aboriginal youth that cannot be mistaken for any other ethnic. 70 I have a friend named Rick who is Native-Indian and I guess after dealing with this numerous times plus everything else, he just became so angry that he just beat up everybody around him and now he is in jail (which would be good for him because he was drinking a lot during that time) (p.6, transcript 2). The victimization and criminalization of Aboriginal youth, when they try to defend themselves or they explode past the boundaries of tolerance as a result of racist assaults, is the 1 980s and 1 990s version of the removal of Aboriginal children and youth from their place in the Aboriginal community. The Criminal Justice Inquiries in Manitoba (1991) and Saskatchewan (1992) remind us that racism in the schools and on the street are complemented by the racism embedded in the criminal justice system. Criminalization and delinquentization of Aboriginal youth is a systematic form of cultural genocide in Canada. It is difficult to imagine how an obviously Aboriginal child would escape racist victimization in the public school system. Fisher and Echols (1989) corroborate that racism in Vancouver schools is rampant and that multicultural solutions do not work. It is equally difficult to imagine an Aboriginal child who would passively accept, that is without rage or hopeless resignation, this racial harassment, except those who can hide their identity (an equally destructive psychological coping mechanism). It is, therefore, understandable that in some regions of Canada 7 out of 10 Aboriginal male youth between the ages of 12 and 17 will be incarcerated at least once before they are 20. This type of institutionalization (which inevitably leads into involvement with the child welfare and criminal justice system) is the equivalent of residential schooling and the 1960s scoop by ministries of social service. The public school remains the number one breeding ground for early racist attacks on Aboriginal children. Etah recalls verbal abuse and injustice to both herself and her sister. I got verbal abuse in a lot of ways and a lot of manipulating ways. I got asked if I needed a psychiatrist because a little boy ripped up my shoes and pissed on them and I went to school the next day in barefeet because I didn’t have any shoes and because my mother didn’t have enough money to buy me any shoes ... and there was no justice for that but I got told I was mentally disabled and the principal was going to help me with this everyday after school with talks. There was another time where a class was laughing and I got picked up by my hair and dragged across the 71 room because I was laughing .... My sister got slapped across the face for not reading the right words and giggling about it. Just basically unjust ... (p.11, transcript 3). The usual response was to blame the victim. Etah punctuates her stories with “and nothing was done about that.” Etah ends the dialogue on education by being thankful for the little knowledge that she has been able to use. However, she says, “But what I had to go through to get it ... I’m really pissed off about that.” Etah talks about the racism in Quebec where she experienced racism for being an English speaker. I was living in Montreal for a period of two years and I was also living in Val d’Or and because I spoke English I got a lot of racism ... a lot of stores upped their prices on me ... and a lot of neighbours used to throw things at me and curse at me in French. Edward wouldn’t let me go outside because he thought that I would get beat up or raped because I was English and later on that day I heard that somebody got burnt alive because they were English (p.15, transcript 2), Then she goes on to describe violent racist incidents against Black people, “... they got moved out because they were black.” “Les cristes d’anglais.” In comparing the United States and Canada, Etah relates, “You get a lot more racism cause people haven’t accepted as much (Aboriginal people) as they have in the States.” Closer to home — referring to her father she says, “My father was a very angry person, he hated White people” and it is this debilitating anger she is referring to as she goes on. I remember I was in Winnipeg and I went into a washroom and it had all these things against Natives. Like, you know, Natives are just rubbing alcoholic drunks, you know blah, blah ... And I guess if a Native looks at that and looks down on themselves, maybe they might start drinking because of it (p.4, transcript 2). I think a lot of Native-Indians ... when they do drink too much ... they drink because we are human garbage cans to society, and there is a lot of stress, and a lot of non understanding, a lot of ignorance which suppresses all of us .... Native Indians yeah, I think there is a lot of racism against them because I don’t think people understand them (p.6, transcript 2). An incident at the very onset of the interview — an old man walked by the interviewer and Etah and remarked that they should “go get their cheque” — disturbed the interviewer a great deal. 72 Yet Etah calmly indicated this happened to her “a couple times a day.” She replies to the question “How did that affect you when he said that rather horrible remark?” Well, pretty much, it would have bothered me a great deal a long time ago, but now it does not affect me too much. Because I can see that he doesn’t really understand me or understand where I am coming from. What I think he meant by saying that was basically that I should go and get a welfare cheque, clean up my act and get a job, clean my hair, get new clothes, live like him, be like him, be who he is — because I am not up to standards in his world, up to standards with who he is. Because I am who I am, I am a disgrace to him. It doesn’t make that much of a big impression on me, as it would have done a long time ago, because I like who I am and I have clothes, I have food, I have shelter. I can walk my ground in a lot of ways that he couldn’t. A long time ago I would have probably spit on him and started cursing at him but not now I just ignore him ... in the same way he ignores me (p.1, transcript 1). Etah has joined and participated in anti-racism groups and demonstrations. She has a clear perspective that “Racism seems like pure ignorance and fear,” and has become a vocal activist. Her wisdom and critical knowledge allow her to transcend the daily assaults to her psyche (because she is Aboriginal and a street person). Culture and identity I’m very proud to be an Aboriginal person, because that’s basically who I am. I’m proud of who I am. I am a Native woman (p.4, transcript 3). “I mean Aboriginal culture has to do with the life in you. Just a whole world into itself,” Etah astutely surmises, as she refutes her paternal uncle’s statement that to be Indian one must practice the culture. There is something my uncle said, you know, ‘You are not a true Indian unless you are Indian.’ Like you follow the culture then you are an Indian. Even a White person can do that. To be an Indian, you have to be a true Indian. It’s not a status thing, it’s not a piece of paper, it’s a spiritual thing, an emotional thing, a mental thing, a physical thing (p.7, transcript 3). When asked if she practised any Aboriginal culture, she again confidently replied, Well, I practice my own and if it corresponds with Aboriginal culture then I guess yes. A lot of things that I was told about some of the medicines that the Aboriginal people use in some ways are respected because of my great grandfather. I’ve heard of his ways, sometimes I’ll use some of his ways and sometimes I’ll use some of my own. But if I’m in his house then I’ll use his [way] out of respect of him. [What did you do when you were at home?] Well, I at home so I guess so. [Would you 73 practice if any kind of ceremony or service were available?] Well, if I wanted yes. And if I didn’t, then I wouldn’t. I’ve gone to drummings, I’ve gone to summer dances, I’ve gone to a lot of them, a lot of gatherings (p.4, transcript 3). Etah demands to assert her Aboriginal identity in her own way and she is confident that she knows what that is, although that identity is clouded by circumstances in her life. When my mother took me away from my father, I was just a baby, and she got married to a trucker who is White and they had another child. I believed that he was my father. I didn’t know that I was Indian and he lied to me, my mother lied to me. I was lied to for about 5 years of my life. All the gifts that my [biological] father sent to my mother to give to me — when I was old enough to handle them — were all burnt and thrown in the garbage or pawned off. There was a big cord of his hair that was really sacred but was just thrown into the garbage as if it was garbage. There is a necklace that my mom seemingly held on to, for some odd reason, to give to me. There is necklaces, there is jewellery (of the Indian art), there is feathers, there is beads and they were all thrown out or pawned out. And the only time that I actually knew that I was actually Native-Indian was when my father came to visit me one day. They just couldn’t keep it back any longer because I looked kind of different from the rest of them .... I was uncomfortable and I was really pissed off because I was uncomfortable and because I shouldn’t be made to feel uncomfortable around my natural born family. I was really pissed off at those people that lied to me (p.14, transcript 3). In the interview it became evident that Etah continues to feel the loss of the opportunity of cultural exposure through her paternal side of her family. They actively practice Aboriginal culture. The effects of the estrangement from her father’s side of the family is compounded by the fact that her mother did not practice any Aboriginal culture. “She distanced me in a lot of ways, she wouldn’t get in the Aboriginal things but would try to push me into it ....“ Yet Etah, in fact, exhibits many of the core characteristics of Aboriginal values. For instance, she talks about respect for the land, “nobody owns anything,” spiritual inclinations of Aboriginal people, love of nature, and respect for elders as tangible values that are missing in mainstream Canadian society. Etah also reveals a comfortable sophistication, in knowing not readily known intricacies of deeply cultural knowledge and behaviour, in simply stating “I’ll go to a sweat ceremony, if it’s there, but I don’t go too often because you have to be ready to go to one.” Only a person who has an authentic connection with the values and intent of the sweat ceremony would show the respect and understanding reflected 74 in Etah’s simple statement. Etah also expresses the need for Aboriginal street youth to have access to their history and culture in city schools. Going to school, we need a little bit more on Aboriginal street youth and I mean this is a bilingual country, right? It’s between French and English, and Aboriginal doesn’t come in anywhere in there. I mean a little bit of the knowledge of who they are and where their places are .... So I think they need to talk a little bit more about the Aboriginal culture (p.7, transcript 3). A strong Aboriginal identity would be hard to maintain with the daily reminders of Aboriginal conditions in the city, at least those available to Etah. She has not met any Aboriginal street workers in her travels. I see a lot of Natives on Hastings Street, usually drunk or using heroin. Up on the Granville Mall I don’t usually see very many Native street youth. I see the occasional straight youth down there, males occasionally. Females I see a lot more often, they usually work in the street prostituting. I run into a lot of Métis, a lot of half Indians and they are usually are really, really cool and some of them maybe not. There’s usually a balance between them (p. 14, transcript 3). Even so, Etah takes heart from seeing “Aboriginal people who are very proud looking” but also acknowledges the effects of internalized racism reflected in her past. I can picture a lot of Aboriginal people disliking being Indian in school. Just because when I was younger I looked Indian, I felt disliked, you know. People used to ask me if I was Italian or Chinese. I was never really Native and Natives just seemed rather distant to the rest of the world, not really there at all. It depends on what culture they follow. If they try to be like every other person in the world then you know for sure (not liking to be Indians) (p.5, transcript 3). It is evident that Etah is at times confused about her identity and culture. She has had little exposure to Aboriginal culture in the city, and most of her street companions are non-Aboriginal. Somehow, however, through her own personal integrity, through reflective survival of racism, and through personal memory and discovery, she has remained true to her Aboriginal persona. In a sense she takes that part of herself for granted. “A lot of people on the reserve just forget it, I’m just like that,” When asked about who she would like to be like, Etah answered: Someone I’d like to be like? I don’t want to be anybody but myself. That’s one thing that another school said, they said I could be anybody and I kind of wondered why they had a problem with me being me ... What’s the problem with just being me (p.11, transcript 3). 75 Society I just want to say that society just thrives off of stealing goodness out of things I can’t even understand it because they are so blind (p.4, transcript 3). Throughout the interview sessions Etah was entirely coherent and consistent with her critique of western societal values. “Everyone is so lonely,” she laments. She vehemently rejects mainstream consumer madness: the sexual predatory male culture; the spiritual emptiness driven by the concrete environment and the “9 to 5” machine-like behaviour expressive of consummate greed; and above all of the school function of enforced socialization into this culture. She expresses sadness and shame for being part of a society that she rejects. “Being human is shameful in itself.” We’re already unkind, untruthful, we’re living in a world of lies, a world of concrete, we contradict ourselves everyday, everyone seems really destitute to what they really need, the desire of need and it’s not even a need for materialistic things. It’s a need for the mental, because we’re basically deprived of life. We just live in our cages day to day. The sadness that I see on the streets with every single child that comes to the streets alone, trying to keep the happiness — just trying to get through another day of chemical waste, wasting another day instead of actually going out and trying to learn something and it takes him a long time before they actually come to that conclusion and accept that awareness of what’s going on (p.13, transcript 2). Etah’s distrust of mainstream avenues of “help” in handling psychological problems shows in the statement: The people I do talk to about it — it won’t be a parent, it won’t be a priest, it won’t be a teacher, won’t be social workers — won’t be a priest (I just wanted to make that clear) (giggle) ... it might be an elder (p.16, transcript 2). When asked if she uses employment services she whips back, “Employment services, I don’t use because I don’t think I should be a slave ... but I think I do a lot more work on the streets by myself, for other people on the street and for myself, than I do in any kind of employment ....“ Etah believes that the compulsively structured work requirement in society is “the government’s” way of controlling people. It is deadening spiritually. It is little wonder why Etah refuses educational and employment counselling. She profoundly disagrees with the ideological foundations of both. She instead would like a system of trading “something for something.” 76 It doesn’t seem right, you work, and work, and work, and then you pay taxes, and more taxes, not doing anything that I like to do. Working 9 to 5 not really doing anything except for being a machine to society (p.1, transcript 2). Etah is self-taught. She goes to libraries and is knowledgeable about current societal and environmental issues. Would she consider going back to school? Etah replies that, “Educational services, I don’t use because I can usually go to the library and educate myself a lot more than a school can probably educate me.” Her answer shows how irrelevant curriculum appears to those children whose background, culture and lifestyle are not represented in school material. I’ve got my grade six education ... I hated grade five and I went to many different schools, repeated the same grades. I did correspondence but it didn’t work out. I was really pissed off ... I was sick of being taught like a machine, I was treated like shit. They didn’t have anything to teach me except for a conservative world and a conservative place which I didn’t really think that I really need any knowledge of(p.1°, transcript 3). Etah says that Aboriginal street youth need education with regard to survival on the street and especially, “How to fight the law.” Preferably this education ought to be done by Aboriginal people with street experience. Etah is almost arrogant as she answers the question: How would you prevent more Aboriginal youth from coming on to the street? I’m not going to answer that one. I’ve no problem on the street. I don’t think that street youth are bad, it’s not the street youth. What I do think is bad is the levels between the rich, the working class, the conservatives and the poor .... What I can’t get is something in the mind, and I can get a lot more of that than any other rich person that has money to thrive off in their destitution [of spirit], but they swim around. I don’t think that there is a problem with street youth or any kind of street. If there is it’s a problem that they create within their heads that they are poor, and that they need something, and it’s true that they do need something, but I don’t think that they’re going to get it from food, I don’t think that they’re going to get from clothing, and I don’t think that they’re going to get from shelter. There’s a possibility that they might get it from the culture of the Aboriginal people or the understanding of themselves in the world around them. But I don’t think that there is a problem with street youth. I think that a lot of people look at them and want them off the street so that they don’t have to deal with them daily, so that they don’t have to walk down the Street and see them, so that they don’t have to go on the buses and smell them, or they don’t have to look at them. If they don’t have to feel their guilt with it in their heads that it actually happening or that it’s actually an issue in this world. That there are actually people on the streets that have to live out of garbage or live off their scraps of things that they don’t eat, the things that they don’t wear, the 77 things that they don’t need, the things that they throw out. I think that those are the people that don’t want the people on the streets. I think that a lot of people that are on the streets just live and if they want to get off the streets, then they’ll get off the streets. If they don’t, then they won’t (p.8, transcript 3). In other words she is saying that the presence of street youth is a societal problem and that they shouldn’t have to comply with being made invisible just to satisfy middle-class guilt. She wants the problem, beginning with Canadian societal values, to be solved instead of applying the band aid of more government services. Etah consistently, as do most of the youth in this study, refused to (even indirectly through us) advise or communicate with “the government.” She indicated that she didn’t want to discuss anything about government people, and that she didn’t really believe that they would or could do anything to relieve conditions on the street. At one point Etah, quite simply says that she would only talk to a government person face to face, and only “about themselves.” Etah is consistently defiant when asked if she would consider returning home. She starts and ends this question with “Well, I’m already at home here ... I’m pretty much at home here.” I don’t consider myself poor, I pretty much consider myself the richest person on this planet because I get what I need when I want it (p.8 transcript 3). The only time Etah shows any sense of peace is when she is talking about being with nature — mid-thought she changes her aura. When asked what would make her life easier, she says, “no buildings, just land, not so many tricks (johns), manipulations, grief, no god, no hierarchy, no class, no racism.” I once felt really alone, when I was really young and I felt so alone sometimes. I thought it was my own loneliness but I came to the conclusion that everyone was too scared to actually get together and do things ... but I don’t feel lonely anymore I’ve got the trees and I’ve got animals that I can talk to and that’s a lot better thing than to talk to a human being (p.15, transcript 2). But the idea that I have a spiritual connection with the trees and the animals and it’s really depressing that I have to travel so long to get to that (p.11, transcript 2). She is referring to the month long travel to return from Louisiana to Vancouver, more specifically to Denman Island where her soul is free. 78 Etah is a complex young woman: who on the one hand is a hardened street person and on the other is a brilliant critic of a society whose values she refuses to comply with; who cynically chooses a pseudonym that spells the word HATE backwards (she insisted on the spelling), and yet ultimately exhibits the unmistakable spirit of a sensitive nature loving writer in the bud. Immediate survival of the body, soul and psyche are always at the forefront of priorities for street youth. Aboriginal street youth like Etah must face the “normal” challenges of survival on the street as well as the barriers of racism and cultural starvation. It is no wonder that planning turns only to more disappointment and a fantasy of escape to some utopian existence. I don’t like planning something that hasn’t happened yet. I don’t like looking into something that hasn’t happened yet. I can only work with day by day basis, like you know, if I want a better world, I have to be a better person and I’m doing that right now as I live for a day to day lifestyle ... experiencing and being aware of things around me. In the future I would hope that I would be living where there is no society, where there is no government, where I could just be with the land and live off the land and the land live off me — cause I’m getting really tired of the rest of it (p.12, transcript 3). Etah, the seventeen year old young woman who is just beginning her adult life, and who repeats the phrase “when I was younger,” is an old soul trapped in a young body and into a life- eroding lifestyle. With her superior survival skills, spiritual inclinations, critical societal analysis, and considerable poetic abilities, Etah is a potential asset to her street family as an advocate and street worker. It appears, however, that Etah will someday migrate permanently to her beloved islands somewhere off the coast of British Columbia — to live as a reclusive artist. In the meantime, the immediate is pressing on her mind, “Right now I have a home wherever I go.” The idealism fades with, I have a home and it’s a squat and it’s going to be blown up at the end of the month. I’ve been living there for the last four years (on and off). I’m the only person that lives there. I’ve got a lot of sentimental value in that place. I don’t get to [give] any consent, they’re just going to put a big bulldozer through my front door (p.10, transcript 3). 79 KAREN The reason why I ain’t on the streets no more is because I found out for myself that I have people at home that care for me and love me and don’t want to see me get hurt. So, I decided to stay home (p.1, transcript 1). Karen is a fifteen year old non-status young woman of Nis’ga/Haisla heritage, who has been on the street for two years. She is a person who spends most of her time on the streets, she spends short periods of time at home and then returns to the street. Karen’s last jaunt onto the street lasted three months. She is under her parents’ care but has just recently (one month ago) gone to stay with (to babysit for) an adult female friend. According to the woman she stays with it is highly probable that she will go back to the streets as soon as she is no longer in danger of being caught and brought back to parental custody. The interviewer explained the process and Karen took a couple of days to think about whether or not she would participate in the study. Karen was very hard to interview. Karen is of small build, has long brown hair, doesn’t wear make-up and is wearing reasonably clean jeans and a plain sweat shirt. Her mother told us that five out of her ten kids suffer from Fetal Alcohol Syndrome. Although not formally diagnosed, Karen is thought to be one of them. She talks slow and quiet and she is very shy, even with her shyness she seems vulnerable and introspective, she fidgeted and seemed very uncomfortable. Her mother relates that something profound has happened to Karen that she is not disclosing. [Mother’s statement] Two months ago Karen disappeared for three weeks. No one saw her. Adolescent Street Unit hadn’t seen her for weeks, either ... not sure but something happened to her because Karen doesn’t want to go to Granville street anymore. She ran for a while and then finally came home after that ... someone tried to ‘suck’ Karen into prostitution or did some trick because she was picked up drunk and put into detox (p.1, parent transcript). Since she has been home she has been very withdrawn and scared. She is a possible survivor of gang-related abduction and a forced sex industry statistic. The interview was held in a quiet room at the DEYAS office, the fact sheet was filled in and the interview began. Karen is extremely nervous and had a difficult time answering the open ended questions, at first she simply answered yes or no. She is definitely a person of few words. Karen 80 asked for breaks frequently, and a half hour into the interview, she asked if the interview could be continued on another day. Even then Karen said it was difficult for her to talk because she is a quiet person and “doesn’t like to tell really personal things to people she doesn’t know.” The final interview was done at the interviewer’s house. Karen was tired and depressed, she tried very hard to complete the process. History I tried to get some attention from my own mom, my brothers, some of my uncles and my sisters. I tried to get enough attention from them, but they won’t even give me attention, so, I’d run ... that’s it ... I have flashbacks of what my cousin has done to me, and I couldn’t talk to no one about it, so I’d run (p.1, transcript 1). Karen was born in the north coastal region of British Columbia, to a Nis’ga mother and a Haisla father, who have been married for twenty-five years. Her family moved to Vancouver when Karen was two weeks old. Therefore she identifies with Vancouver as her home. The family constellation consists of mother, father, three brothers and six sisters. But, sometimes they [my parents] go [up North] to go visit some of their cousins or whatever up there and my mom calls up there, so ... My mom would talk to her brothers or sisters and my dad would talk to his brothers or sisters (p.6, transcript 1). Well, my family, there’s 10 kids in the family, and I got three younger ones (p.3, transcript 1). Five children and two grandchildren remain at home with the parents. Three of Karen’s sisters have also been on the street for various lengths of time. All of Karen’s schooling was taken, to grade eight, in Vancouver. After being out of school for over two years, she plans to return to school in the fall of 1993. I just don’t want them [siblings] to end up like I did and my three other sisters. I hope they can do their best in school because I didn’t do very good in school. I dropped out and I been out of school for almost three year now. I went to three schools. I went to Gladstone... Hastings. I graduated from elementary...and Van Tech. And that’s it (p.3, transcript 1). Karen retells the story of abuse at the hands of a male cousin, who was the favourite nephew of her parents and who lived with them, while she was living at home. This, she says was the event that resulted in her escape from home. 81 He’d go out during the daytime and he’d come back at night time real drunk and wait until everyone’s gone to bed. Me and my two other sisters, Lois and Sarah [not real names], were sharing a room at that time, and I had a king-size bed. And Lois and them were scared of the dark that time, so they’d sleep with me and they thought they were safe that way. And when everyone was in bed, he would come upstairs and start to fondle me. He’d play with my hair first, then he wanted me to lay on top of him and he’d try and take off my pyjamas and all that. My pyjamas was a one-piece suit and he would kiss me on the cheek and all that. And when I told him ... he’d ask me if I’d tell anyone this. At the time, I said no, and I thought it was okay for him to do it. When I was 11, he was still doing it and he’d go out every night and he’d get drunk. He’d wait until everyone’s in bed, he’d wait for a half-hour or so and then he’d come upstairs and try and get into my room and I always had a butter knife in the door, like wedged into the door, so he couldn’t get in. Then he went into my brother Donald’s room, climbed out the window, then he went onto the roof, he went around and he’d try to get into my side, bedroom, through the window. One night I couldn’t sleep so I stayed up until four and finally, I realized that he was hurting me and so, when I was 13, I finally told my mom and my mom said that was not okay for him to do it, that he was hurting me. I knew at 13, it wasn’t okay for him to do it. Then he’d go off to his friend’s place to hide there. At the time when I was 10, I thought it was all my fault. I went to court for this and I haven’t gone back to court for awhile, because I wasn’t ready and I still ain’t ready yet. So....l brought it to court a long time ago. And that’s it. And I get flashbacks on it, and that’s why I run away (p.8-9, transcript 1). Karen did not only run from home she had people to run to, people who would protect her. She was familiar with the street through her sisters. On the streets I just kill time, I’d walk around. I’d go to Carnegie and all that. I’d go on Hastings and then I’d go to Granville and walk around there ... and see all my friends around Granville. That’s about it (p.1, transcript 1). Karen describes herself as a person who has been on the street off and on for two years. The longest time she spent on the street continuously was three months. I’ve been on the streets for two years. I’d go home, I’d stay on ... I’d go to the streets for a week or so, then I’d go home (p.1, transcript 1) ... for food, I went down to ASU [Adolescent Street Unit] and got meal tickets, and when I didn’t have a place to stay, my friends would offer me a place to stay, so I went with my friends. That’s it (p.1, transcript 1). Karen tells how she managed to get to the downtown Vancouver streets. She makes it sound so simple. Well, my mom and them gave me spending money and I’d save it up, then I’d wait till everybody’s sleeping and I’d take the bus to the SkyTrain and get off the bus and 82 go onto the SkyTrain and take it down to Granville or Main Street station ... I stayed in hotels with my friends (p.2, transcript 1). Sexual abuse from her cousin was only partly instrumental in making her run, according to her mother. Alcohol abuse was also a factor. Karen however says she does not use alcohol. Karen spent time at the Youth Detention Centre for seven days at a time (2-3 times) for shoplifting. Karen lists her sisters, friends and a male waiter at the Balmoral as significant people to her on the street. “He gave me money whenever I needed it and he gave me food. Well, he said, if I’m ever in trouble, if I ever need a place to stay, he gave me his home phone number and his pager,” she says of her odd couple relationship with the much older protector. She describes an aimless existence on the streets mixed with dodging youth street workers. Well, I would spend more time on the streets than at home [during the two years on and off the street]. Then one day, Barbara, the street worker, met me at one restaurant and she told me to phone home and tell my mom and them that I was okay, t