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Kapītipis ē-pimohteyahk: aboriginal street youth in Vancouver, Winnipeg, and Montreal Gilchrist, Laurette Apr 17, 1995

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kapitipis e-pimohteyahk: Aboriginal StreetYouth in Vancouver, Winnipeg, and MontrealByLaurette GilchristB.S.W., University of Regina, 1980M.S.W., Carleton University, 1 987A THESIS SUBMITTED IN PARTIAL FULFILMENT OFTHE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OFDOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHYinTHE FACULTY OF GRADUATE STUDIESDEPARTMENT OF EDUCATIONAL STUDIESWe accept this thesis as conformingto the required standardTHE UNIVERSITY OF BRITISH COLUMBIASeptember 1995© Laurette Gilchrist, 1995In presenting this thesis in partialfulfilment of the requirements for an advanceddegree at the University of British Columbia,I agree that the Library shall makeitfreely available for reference andstudy. I further agree that permissionfor extensivecopying of this thesis for scholarly purposesmay be granted by the head of mydepartment or by his or her representatives.It is understood that copying orpublication of this thesis for financial gainshall not be allowed without my writtenpermission.(Signature)Department of(‘d OI dThe University of British ColumbiaVancouver, CanadaDate d077,/95DE.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 theysurvive, what kinds of services they are more likely to use, what changes they envision for servicesprovided to them, and finally to recommend corresponding changes in service delivery andpreventative 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 astocontextualize 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 inthe past. To contextualize their experiences, several parents of street youth and street servicespersonnel in Vancouver, Winnipeg and Montreal were interviewed, although with less depth. Eachcity has an Aboriginal population in excess of 35,000.The literature on street youth in general is growing, but a paucity of information exists onAboriginal street youth experience in Canada, even though they are over-represented in the streetyouth population in most cities. By placing Aboriginal street youth in the larger context ofmainstream society and the urban environment, and by highlighting the role of current and historicalstructural 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 samereasons as any other street youth, and once they get there their methods of survival are alsosomewhat the same as those of many runaways. Their cultural backgrounds, history, and structuralconditions at point of origin are, however, different from non-Aboriginal street youth. Theseconditions make them subject to harsher conditions in state care situations (a common entry-pointto street life) and on the street. Many experience overt racism, in addition to the stigmatization thatstreet people encounter, in their everyday lives. The youth interviewed told of identity confusionand self hatred, dislocation from home and surrogateparent communities, difficulty in reunification,and ignorance about Aboriginal rights, history and culture.The nature of the relationship between Aboriginalityand being a young street person isclearly established in that ethnicity was a salient factor in the antecedentsto street life and in theconditions once on the street. Interviews with former street personssuggest that race and culturecontinue to be salient in the process of leaving the streetand in staying off the street.IIIAbstract.Table of ContentsivList of TablesviiiList of FiguresixAcknowledgements xChapter 1. Introduction1Terminology3Urbanization and Aboriginal youth 4The context of the study 10Macro view: Colonial history 10Street youth 13Definitions and estimates 13ii. Antecedents to street life 15iii. Consequences of street life 18iv. Issues of service delivery to street youth 22Conclusions: Aboriginal street youth in the literature 24Overview of the thesis 27Chapter 3. VancouverReflections as an Aboriginal personCase studies 58ETAH 59History 60On the streets 62Racism 68Culture and identity 72Society 75KAREN 79History 80On the streets 81Racism 84Table of ContentsChapter 2. Research methodologyImpetus of the researchPlanning the researchResearch goalsCase study methodCarrying out the researchInterpretation of the dataReliability and validityConstraints2828313335404244465651ivTable of Contents, ContinuedEgCulture and identitySocietyJOANNEHistoryOn the streetsRacismCulture and identitySocietyMISSY: Former street person .HistoryOn the streetsBack from the abyssRacismCulture and identitySociety858686889599101104105106111113115119Chapter 4. WinnipegCase studiesNOELLAHistory — Noella.TRAVISHistory—TravisSociety — Noella and TravisAXLEHistoryOn the streetsRacismCulture and identitySocietyJEAN-MARCHistoryOn the streetsRacismCulture and identitySocietyDALE: Former street personHistoryOn the streetsOut of DarknessRacismCulture and identitySociety88121125126127129On the streets — NoellaOn the streets — TravisRacism — Noella and TravisCulture and identity — Noella and Travis.130130133134136138140141142145146147149149152155157160160161162165167169173vTable of Contents, ContinuedChapter 5. MontrealCase studiesNATASHAHistoryOn theRacismCultureSocietyCHARNELLEHistoryOn theRacismCultureSocietystreetsand identitystreetsand identity176180180181183193194199201202203207211214Street culture and myths about Aboriginal street youth 224Street youth needs on the street 229Survival — food, clothing, shelter 231Street family as safety net 233Services 235ii. Safety — protection from institutions, caretakers, police, society 236iii. Self-esteem and intellectual integrity— mental health, jobs, education, criticalhistory, tribal self-esteem 237Education 238Employment 239iv. Spiritual integrity — cultural aspects, tradition, spiritual nurturance,healing 241Learning identity 242Chapter 7. Policy implicationsSurvivalAddictionsExploitationJusticeIn CareEducationRacismCultureConclusion245246250253255257261265267270Chapter 8. Conclusion 272References 276viChapter 6. Life on the streetThe guiding questionsResearch revisited218218221Table of Contents, ContinuedAPPENDIX A...APPENDIX B.APPENDIX C...APPENDIX DAPPENDIX EAPPENDIX FAPPENDIX GAPPENDIX HAPPENDIX IAPPENDIX285287290291293295296300305307VIIList of TablesTable I. Percentage of People Who Maintain the Use of Their Language 6Table II. Percentage of people (15+) Who Participate in Traditional Aboriginal Activities . . . . 7Table Ill. 1992 Welfare Incomes 233Table IV. Services for youth by type of service, duration of contact, intervention strategy andexample of service 247Table V. Cultural identity variations 269viiiList of FiguresFigure 1: The progression of a negative life process of endingup on the street for Aboriginalstreet youth in greater than average numbers. Beginning at the east door with amacro view of colonial history (vision); at the south door withantecedents ofdysfunctional relationships (relationship); at the west door with consequencesin lossof respect (respect); and at the north door with inadequate street services(movement/action) 11Figure 2: Four need categories beginning at the east door with survival (physical);at thesouth 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 onthe street, has been ineffective in their lives 230ixAcknowledgementsThe research for this thesis would not have occurred except for the Royal CommissiononAboriginal Peoples. I was asked by the Commission in January 1993 to undertake a study onAboriginal street youth at about the time that I was beginning research on my doctoral thesisat theUniversity of British Columbia on another topic. My strong interest as a professional social workerin the welfare of children and as an Aboriginal person in Aboriginal street youth made me verymuch want to accept the Royal Commission’s invitation. This became possible when the RoyalCommission released its policy on use of Commission research data for educational purposes. I hadpermission from the Commission to use the street youth study data for my thesis and frommysupervisory committee at the University of British Columbia to change my topic. I am very gratefulto 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 researchare 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 ofparents were interviewed in Vancouver and Winnipeg. All the agency personnel are greatfullyacknowledged in each of the cities who took the time out of their busy schedules to assist us in ourendeavour. They are too numerous to list.The research assistants consisted of Tony Winchester, B.A., M.S.W., in Victoria; BeverleyDag-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 FirstNations 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, Facultyof Education, S.F.U. I thank them for their extreme patience and their particular expertise. JeanBarman, who acted as my thesis supervisor, has been a source of great strength, motivation and verypractical assistance. Without her special type of supervision this thesis would have been far moredifficult. I have been gifted with excellent examples of exceptional supervision. Thank you all.xchildren walking the moonblind into oblivionlost with no excuse with no remorsebeating the daughters torture forcespeaking with ignorance and greedteachers screaming on their kneessubliminal messages on TVjesus loves you childpray child pray till you bleedshut up and take your placeof disgrace in the line of conservative voiceface it life is a bottomless daythe human race is a dead racewalking as zombies from nine to fiverotting away with society’s liessurrounded in concrete wallswith no will but to fallpaving over insanityreflected maize of vanitycold dark ways in the screams and world of lonely streetsday to day begging, preachinglife’s beseecha buskers quote of a sinking boatrejected from our homesand wanted from our stolen wombspushed to our door of dooma cold dark room of miserythe ministry is looking down at youyour unscrewed caged petwalking the circle of the moonetah 1993xi1Chapter 1. Introduction“kapitipis e-pimohteyahk: Aboriginal streetyouth in Vancouver, Winnipegand Montreal” usescase studies to produce a critical descriptive interpretation of the experience of Aboriginalyouth whohave chosen, for whatever reason, to embrace life on the streets of threemajor cities in Canada. Thetitle translates from Cree into “We walk all night.” Thistitle was chosen because the youth in thisstudy told us that during the day they could always find somewherewarm to sleep where they feltsafe. During the night, however, when the temperature fell and whenthey had nowhere to sleep,they had to walk all night in order to keep warm and safe. The allusionto night walking alsohonours Etah’s poem, “children walking the moon,” at the beginningof the study.Utilizing a critical case study method, in-depth interviews were conducted with nineyouth,ages 14-20, currently involved in urban street life and two people who havelived on the street inthe past. To contextualize their experience, several parents of street youth andstreet servicespersonnel in Vancouver, Winnipeg and Montreal were interviewed, although with less depth. Eachcity has an Aboriginal population in excess of 35,000.Why does social science, in general, and Aboriginal governments, in particular, needasociological perspective on youth street life that is specific to Aboriginal youth? Socialscienceshows a large gap in the literature on Aboriginal street youth experience and conditions. ForAboriginal people, the information is necessary because we are unique in Canada forat least threereasons. First, Aboriginal people are “people of the land.” We have no other homeland to identifywith — we have been dispossessed in our own homeland. This implies not only our generalizedsense of homelessness — not only inherent alienation due to our collective dispossession — but toinherent Indigenous rights associated with nation to nation treaties. This means our issues ought tobe 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 ourexperience. Marginalization of Aboriginal culture leaves consequences for youth identity — they2must grow up in a world where there is little to look back on with pride, referring to ourobscuredhistory and marginalized culture, and very little to look forward to in the future,when they are facedwith current poor socio-economic statistics reflected in many Aboriginalcommunities. Aboriginalyouth, then, many of whom have been brought up in two worlds, find it hard to understand thecontradictions presented to them in foster care, institutional practice and social service delivery, onor off the street.Thirdly, our experience, historically and presently, is mediated by colonial policy andpractice 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 thecolonial society and how they behave toward the members of the colonized group, especially itsweakest members. The three conditions named above result in a perceived separateness from thenorm of multicultural Canadian society, both from within ourselves, our nations and from themainstream 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 affectedby and more vulnerable to structural, cultural and attitudinal racism. Presumably, then, street lifewould 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 protectionare society’s most vulnerable group. This applies to Aboriginal youth on the street. In a time ofcultural renewal and movement toward self determination it is necessary to identify voids in ourknowledge base about the conditions of those in need. We must also identify gaps in the socialservice delivery system. And finally, emancipatory treatment and prevention measures, expressedfrom an Aboriginal point of view, need to form the basis of solutions that address the roots of thepost-colonialist problems in the entire Aboriginal community.3TerminologyFirst some discussion is warranted on concepts used in the analyses of Aboriginal experience.Colonization and decolonization are terms frequently used in commentary. Since colonization isthe 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 imposedgovernance along with reclamation of culture, structures and identity. Racism is another conceptwhich is important to explain our experience as Aboriginal peoples. Racism encompasses thestructural manifestation of the ideology that one race is superior to another(particularly based oncolour differentiation) expressed in repressive policy, legislation, and institutions. Further, racismmeans the entire spectrum of the impact of race ideology: from the intra-psychic superiority itbestows on one race and the internalized inferiority embraced by the marginalized group; to theconcomitant behaviours produced in both which result in the differential distribution of power, statusand material goods to the privileged and the oppressed. Racism awareness in this broad definitionis becoming aware of race ideology and its history, how it is manifest in the structures of modernsociety, the impacts on various groups, how it is upheld and perpetuated, and one’s personalposition in the continuum from privileged to oppressed.Culture and identity are terms that I use to explore self image as an Aboriginal person. Byculture I mean the entire expression of Aboriginal life produced by world view, environment, andcommunity. This definition encompasses distinct outward manifestations in food, clothing, ritual,and art, for instance, and the inward expression in thought, language, symbolism, relationship andspirituality. Aboriginal identity is the condition of linking one’s being with a world view and thecommunity it produces. For instance, a person may identify with an extended family concept, anidea that everything has a spirit, with distinct regionally prepared indigenous food items, orceremonies, clothing, music, and art, all of which might be based on an underlying philosophy ofthe 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 “streetkids”). The youth are differentiated from “street people” or the homeless.The persons in thisresearch are young people who have come from variouscircumstances and have been on the streetsfor varying periods of time and who fall between the ages of 14 and 20.Street people, on the otherhand, would be persons over 20 years old and live in the downtown core,sometimes as homelessindividuals, but often they inhabit the cheap skid row housing sprinkled in betweenthe bars. Streetpeople, then, would not be the concern of child welfare authorities or the youngoffenders’ act andwould 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 somepeople find themselveswithout a home. Belcher and DiBlasio (1990) write about the difficulties in thedefinition andpopulation assessment of homeless persons. Many stay with friends or they arein jail or mentalhospitals. Many are simply economically unable to afford housing and some have made the backalleys their permanent home (similar to some street youth). The lines are blurredat the upper agerange which was used in this study because homelessness, mental disability or illness, and severeaddiction may be present (in any combination). For instance, there was an eighteen year old womanwho was severely alcohol (and other drugs?) addicted and who also lived with older street men inthe back alleys in the westend of Vancouver.Urbanization and Aboriginal youthUrbanization is the process of moving from a rural environment and adapting to an urbanmilieu. Most of the literature on urbanization includes migration under its umbrella. In 1900 13°Iof the global population lived in urban centres, by the year 2000 this figure is expected to rise to48% (Smith, 1991). A Native Council of Canada Socio-demographic Project Report states that theCanada-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 reserves5to urban centres, the size of the reserve community, multiple forms of massmedia that are deliveredto the reserve and promote urban lifestyles, road access and the politicaland institutionaldevelopment of the reserve community (Gerber,1980). Aboriginal people face the immensetransition to urban life for many reasons. Most often they seek resourcessuch as employment,housing, education or health services that are not available in their homecommunities. Oftenpeople are leaving an economy unable to sustain them because of environmentaldegradation,underdevelopment and broken corporate promises. Sometimes women and childrenare forced offthe reservation because of family violence. Aboriginal people also migrate to the city simply tofollow a dream of joining in the prosperity of mainstream Canada.Many young children and youth enter the urban environment through the child welfaresystem, 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 anexcellent hiding place. In any case it is the only place to go. Yet others are progeny of urbanreserves 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 servicepersonnel.Historically, the urbanization push is promoted by the political agenda of assimilation whichhas been the “central pillar to Canadian Indian policy” (Ponting, 1986:25; Armitage,1995). Giventhat existing resources on the reserves are limited in their ability to employ, house and servicegrowing populations, significant numbers of Aboriginal people feel their only option is to move toan urban centre. The advocacy of mass urbanization was central to the Hawthorn report of 1966which pointed to the limited resource capabilities of the reserve communities and population growthas dominant factors in this trend. Frideres (1993) states that another significant catalyst was the postwar transition from an agriculture-based North American economy to industrialisation. This shift6forced Aboriginal people who depended on employmentin agriculture to go to urban centres toseek employment.Beginning in the early sixties, then, migration to urban centres wassignificant; it thendeclined to levels comparable to non-Aboriginal populations by the mid-eighties(Siggner, 1986).The movement from the small towns and rural reservations to the largeurban centres marks thedecline of special status and the erosion of traditional cultural and communityties. This point isillustrated when we examine statistics on language maintenance displayedin table I.Table I: Percentage of People Who Maintain the Use of Their Language (AboriginalPeoples Survey,1993).Adults (15+) Children(>15)Inuit 75%670/North American Indian OnReserve or Settlements 650/440/North American Indian OffReserve 230/90/Métis 180/9 %The same comparison can be made with respect to people over 15 years old who participatein traditional Aboriginal activities. Again, it is clear that the move to urban centres is a potentialthreat to cultural maintenance. In short, if language and traditional activities aregauges to culturalmaintenance, these charts graphically depict the potential dissolution of culture and tradition thatresults from migration out of reserves and rural settlements. The practices of people in Inuitcommunities, which are generally more isolated northern communities, and North American Indiansliving on reserves or settlements are in sharp contrast to the practices of those living outsidethesecultural enclaves.7Table II: Percentage of people (15+) Who Participate in Traditional AboriginalActivities (AboriginalPeoples Survey, 1993).Inuit 74.1%N.A.I. On Reserves or Settlements65.20/N.A.I. Off Reserve 44.8%Métis39.80/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 definitionvaries depending on the sponsors of the study. For example, some studies use statistics for registeredIndians published by Indian and Northern Affairs and generalize to the population of all Aboriginalpeople. Additionally, in 1986 Statistics Canada made changes in their census taking procedures withrespect to Aboriginal people; though the new questions around ethnic origins and identity are moredescriptive, the procedural change does not allow for comparisons of years before and aftertheswitch so it is difficult to chart the changes in urban migration. A comparison of the 1986 and 1991census does show a consistent growth in urban populations of Aboriginal people in all three of thefocus cities for this study: Montreal, Winnipeg and Vancouver.One other statistic that is telling for the 1991 census year is the mobility rates; for Aboriginalpeople 15 per cent of the population (15 years and older) moved in the twelve month period beforethe census taking as compared to 16 per cent of the total Canadian population. Of the Aboriginalpeople 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 thecensus. 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 ofentrenchment within the urban centre. Frideres (1993) suggests that many Aboriginal people leave8their home community more as a result of necessity than out of an attractionto the city; in short,they seek to exploit urban centres for meeting their employment, housing and education needs butmaintain strong links with their home community. This observation is evident in Nagler(1971) andGurstein (1977). Both authors present continuums that reflect the variation in levels of integrationin, or commitment to, urban centres. For example, the transient or vagabond is at the low end ofthe commitment scale; people in this category are short term (one month) residents who areconstantly in transit. The migrant or seasonal worker is the next category; this person is a longerterm (six months) resident but maintains a high degree of social contact with people from their homecommunity. The resident or transitional (two years) is more likely to be employed or engaged inan education program. The urban settler is a person who was born in the city or has lived there formore than two years and is accordingly more entrenched in the urban environment in terms of socialcontacts, employment, housing and use of services. The settler’s ties to the reserve are minimal; theymay still feel committed but only visit their home community sporadically, possibly once or twicea 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 aredependent on urban societal receptivity to the Aboriginal person. In other words, the degree ofracial 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 blamedfor failed attempts. For example, Price (1979) writes:Successful urban adaptation depends on the personality and preparedness of theindividual for urban life and on the nature of the town or city that the individualmigrates to. Any poorly prepared individual from a rural background will undergocultural shock and trauma on migrating into a city, unless there is an excellent systemof institutions to receive and educate that person in urban culture. This individualpreparedness can be somewhat predicted according to the evolutionary level of thesocietal heritage of the individual Indian. There are, of course, widespread nonevolutionary elements that influence this preparedness as well, such as historicalelements (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 soforth (229).This study on Aboriginal street youth could easily focus on all of the categoriesas many ofthese youth are extremely transient, moving often between urban centres and reservecommunitiesthroughout Canada and the United States. They are also not a homogenous group: apart from thefact that these young people come from a multitude of Aboriginal cultures, they vary with respectto the bond they have with their cultural identity. Many have been wards of the state from a veryyoung age so their ties to their home reserve were never established, others grew up in their reservecommunity and so their relationship is still very strong, as is their internalized experience of theircultural heritage.Beyond the length of time and the level of entrenchment in urban life, Aboriginal people facea multitude of challenges in making the transition to the city. Cultural differences exist betweenAboriginal and mainstream cultures in addition to the rural and urban contrast in lifestyle. Researchalso consistently shows that accessing employment, though one of the leading reasons for movingto the city, is highly difficult. Barriers of racism, lower education levels and lack of marketableemployment skills for the urban environment contribute significantly to this fact. As well,mainstream policy makers and analysts have assumed that Aboriginal peoples are a homogenousculture when in fact their cultural diversity is a major stumbling block to effective urban communitydevelopment. Without a sufficient level of cohesion within the urban Aboriginal community therehas been a lack of institutional development and ensuing service delivery to meet the needs of urbanAboriginal 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 growingnumbers (based mostly on estimates of people who work with them). Street workers, in particularex-street persons, have experienced an incredible increase in the numbers of Aboriginal youth onthe street and correspondingly a worsening of conditions for those who must survive on the urbanstreet.10The urbanization literature addresses adult urban migration primarily andnot the youngpeople whose principal identifying factors are: they are without consistent adultsupervision, theylack sufficient shelter, they must fend for a living on the street and so, inevitably, they become a partof the street culture. This study looks, with some depth, into the experience of Aboriginal youth onthe streets of Vancouver, Winnipeg and Montreal.The context of the studyA brief treatment of colonial history and review of general street youth research provide themacro vision of the Aboriginal street youth phenomena. This is followed by some discussion ofantecedents to street life which in part describe street youth relationships with care givers andinstitutions (which precede or precipitate flight from supervisedcare). Thirdly, consequences of lifeon the street and fourthly services for street youth are summarily discussed. This discourse isillustrated in figure 1 to show a maldevelopment of a process circle that should be healthy. In ahealthy 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 appropriatesolutions.i. Macro view: Colonial historyOral history indicates that in precontact times (and in more remote regions until quiterecently) 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 andmentorship through extended family behaviour and elder’s teachings to become responsible andrespectful adults. The age range in this research (14-20) would have straddled the phases ofprepuberty preparation and early adulthood/parenthood. With the advent and impact of colonizationmany changes have taken place which have predisposed many Aboriginal families to becomenegative statistics in the collage of Canadian national shame.11NorthLOSS OF RESPECTMOVEMENT/ACTIONconsequences toinadequate servicesstreet lifeat the streetlevelWestEastMACRO VIEW ORDYSFUNCTIONALVISIONRELATIONSHIPScolonial history andprior to street lifestreet youth ingeneralSouthFigure 1: The progression of a negative life process of ending up on the street forAboriginal streetyouth in greater than average numbers. Beginning at the east door with a macro viewof colonialhistory (vision); at the south door with antecedents of dysfunctional relationships (relationship);atthe west door with consequences in loss of respect (respect); and at the north door withinadequatestreet services (movement/action) (Absolon, 1993).12Contrary to popular belief Aboriginal/European relations remained reciprocal at least untilthe end of the eighteenth century. Aboriginal society did not instantly become dysfunctional uponcontact with the European boat people. Although the force of the Christian vanguard has remainedstable until today (many reserve communities are wrought with evangelical hegemony) there werelong 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 yearsmore than the current state of siege. A third of the way through the nineteenth century became thedemarcating 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 consistentlymade impossible as a result of racial discrimination.) We are now experiencing an interface betweena 200 year segregation era and the movement toward self-determination for Aboriginal people inCanada. Researchers (Frideres, 1993; Armitage, 1995; Bolaria & Li, 1988) breakdown eras ofpostcontact relations in many detailed ways. For the purpose of this discussion the broader eras ofprecontact traditional society, interdependence, segregation, and self determination are used. It isthe latter two eras respectively which have produced higher than average vulnerability for Aboriginalchildren and youth, and to which we look for the underlying causes and culturally appropriatesolutions.Armitage (1993 and 1995) gives an indepth historical and comparative analysis of colonialpolicy in Australia, Canada and New Zealand. In the book Comraring the policy of Aboriginalassimilation: Australia, Canada and New Zealand he shows how child welfare and educationalassimilative policies have worked to the detriment of Aboriginal peoples and how Aboriginal selfdetermination in these fields is attempting to correct the impact.From the passage of the Indian Act of 1876 until the 1960s child welfare for FirstNations people in Canada was dominated by the policy of assimilation, which usededucational methods to change the culture and character of their children. Churchoperated residential schools were the central institution used in this strategy. Whenthe policy of assimilation was replaced by the policy of integration, the residentialschools were replaced by the child welfare strategy in a second attempt to ensure13that the next generation of Indian children was differentfrom their parents. Childrenseparated from parents considered by child welfare authorities to be negligentorabusive were raised in foster care or adopted. In the current periodof movementtoward self-government many First Nations communitiesare taking control of theirown child welfare programs to ensure that the next generation of Indian childrenisrased in their own communities and culture (Armitage, 1993:131).Street youthThe street youth literature, which is gaining momentum recently, focuses on issuessuch asabuse, shelter, delinquency, gangs, addictions, gender, and service delivery. Thereis very littleinformation on visible minority concerns in general and there is a remarkablevoid in research onissues specific to Aboriginal street youth.Brannigan and Caputo (1992) offer a model that is useful in organizing the street youthphenomenon; namely, they break the issues down into: definitions, antecedents,consequences, andinstitutional responses to the problem (31). This categorization is used to structurethe review,beginning with the issues of definition and population estimation.Definitions and estimatesA report sponsored by the Children’s Aid Society of Metropolitan Toronto is most helpful toconceptualize the heterogenous population of street youth and the issues that relateto their variouscategories. In this report McCullagh and Greco(1990) differentiate between five categories of youthunder the umbrella term of “street kids” (ii). The first and largest group is comprised of children whoare “running from.. .intolerable home situations”; for the most part they are running from differenttypes of abuse or neglect. The second and smallest group is said to “run to ... adventureexcitement and/or independence” without the consent of their parents or caregiver. The thirdcategory of street kids are called “throwaways” in the report. They are on thestreet as a result ofparental rejection or their parents have consented to a “premature exit from parentalcare.” The nextgroup is “overwhelmingly represented” on the street; this group runs from governmentcare 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 maylive at home or14in a government care facility but are very much involved in the street culture, they are children “ofthe street” as opposed to “on the street” in the words of Blunt et. al.(1992). They may run forvarying lengths of time.Marjorie Robertson (1991) focuses on the issue of choice stating runaways “choose” to beon the street whereas homeless youth are “perceived to lack access to either their original or analternative home” (33). Additionally, Kufeldt and Nimmo (1987 and1987a) distinguish between“runners” who leave home for extended periods of time with no intention of returning and “in andouters” who run impulsively and for a shorter duration. Still another definition of street children isthe 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 conceptof a “home” that implies an entity beyond mere shelter (Bass, 1992; Belcher & DiBlasio, 1990).Baxter (1991) emphasizes the same dichotomy between “shelterlessness” and “homelessness”; shepoints 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 diversestatus of these people. The youth often change their living conditions as a result of so many differentfactors ranging from climate to employment, poverty, incarceration, impulsive lifestyles or familydiscord. Another important confounding variable to consider when estimating street youthpopulations is that the age range of the youths in most studies is approximately twelve to twenty-oneyears. Mistrust of adults for various reasons, including abuse and mandatory reporting of a minorin potential danger, is consistently reported in the literature. Finally, the task of estimating the sizeof the population on a national scale is compounded when one considers that the major urbanpopulation centres represent only a segment of the youth who would fit the definitions in thisreview.15Rossi’s (1989) research in Chicago and Burnam and Koegel’s(1989) study in Los Angelesoffer different approaches to census taking among adult urbanstreet people. Rossi divided inner citycore areas into census quadrants and conducted counts of each quadrantat a specific time. Burnamand Koegel estimated population proportions at different locations around theLos Angeles area andthen created a random sample that reflects the estimated proportions thus derivinga representativerandom sample. This latter method was used in the study of East Village in Calgaryin order toensure a representative sample (McDonald and Peressini1992). These strategies becomeproblematic when youth are involved for many of the reasons stated above. In Canadian youthstudies, McCarthy’s (1990) approach is most effective in youth populations; it involves contactingyouth at a number of service agencies as well as meeting them on the street at known congregatingareas and makeshift shelters throughout the city of Toronto. Few of the studies are able to claimrepresentativeness in their sample at this time. More importantly, nostudies have isolatedinformation on the Aboriginal portion of their sample though some of the researchers have futureplans of this nature.Many questions need to be answered: Do Aboriginal adolescents experience differences incomparison to other youths living on the street? Are they treated worse by the people they come intocontact with? How do they react to street workers and other mainstream services that are availableto them? Are culturally appropriate services available? Reflecting on the dual research goals offinding specific information about life on the street and of analysis sensitive to the impact ofstructural forces, we must ask questions such as: How is the historical background and present newforms of colonization and racism socially manifest when compounded with street conditions? Wedon’t know. This information is important at this time and has yet to be addressed in the literature.ii. Antecedents to street lifeGiven the grim picture of life on, or of, the street put forth by most accounts, from academicto media perspectives, it is baffling to think that some of the young inhabitants havechosen it as the16most attractive of different options. Using the definitions given by McCullagh andGreco (1990)above, it is clear that, with the exception of “throwaways,” the youth may have chosen the streetover other possibilities for a place to call home. Throwaways are the only group in thisconfiguration that seem to be on the street by someone else’s will — even this premise is debatablewhen one considers their “choice” is between living with a rejecting adult and the possibility offinding a more accepting peer group “family” on the streets. Choice is particularly in question forAboriginal children caught up in another culture. Further discussion on cultural displacement andadoption breakdown is presented in chapter seven.There are a variety of analytic approaches to the street youth phenomena and eachperspective sheds light on the forces that precede and influence a young person’s flight toindependence of this nature. For example, McCarthy (1990) offers four different approaches toexplain 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 withinthe individual to account for their decision to live on their own. Critics fault this approach withblaming on the victim for structural inequity and social tragedy.Another perspective McCarthy examines is the “pathological family approach.” Under thisheading the studies consistently find that many of the youth are on the street because it is the bestoption available to them. For the most part McCarthy’s account filters down to “a disturbed parentchild 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 intheir immediate environment (reflected by: Janus et al., 1987; Webber, 1991; Social PlanningCouncil 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 relationshipthat precipitates the youth’s decision to seek refuge. This approach can also be criticized for17blaming the family for societal problems. The corollaries to thismetaphorical theorem is to blamethe 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.” Adownturn in the economy is one example, another may examine socio-economic backgrounds ofrunaways. In this case parents cannot afford to keep a young person in their care and they areencouraged to leave.A final approach that is less prominent in the literature is called the “healthy individualapproach” in McCarthy’s analysis. Here the youth is considered to be psychologically hardy enoughto leave a situation that is unhealthy for the sake of self-preservation. For instance, if a child is beingabused 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 Aboriginalissues as it allows for a structural perspective which is capable of incorporating variables such asrace, history, economic marginalization and government policy in the analysis, thus avoidingblaming the victims. Of the remaining three frameworks the healthy individual and the focus onfamily breakdown are also of use, though less so, and finally the personal pathology approach is oflittle use as it fosters dissecting symptoms instead of focusing on the societal structures that are theroot of those symptoms. A similar caution about misdirecting research with homeless populationsis 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 theclassic steps of blaming the victim: identifying a social problem, studying thoseafflicted to determine how they differ from the rest of us, defining the differences asthe cause of the problem, and setting up humanitarian programs to correct thedifferences (Ryan, 1 971: 8). Efforts to identify the health and social problems of thehomeless persons have distracted us from studying and countering the growth ofpoverty, the erosion of welfare benefits, the destruction of low-income housing, andother contributors to homelessness that are not characteristics of individual victims.The field has fallen prey to the risks of diverting attention from underlying causes andreinforcing stereotypes about the population group(2).18In an Aboriginal context, any analysis that does not account for the historicaland present daystructural inequities that influence Aboriginal people is prey to a similar type of error— sustaininginstead of deconstructing colonial attitudes and policies. Doubtlessly, there is aneed for somecritical descriptive data on the exact nature of the lives of Aboriginal youthwho are on the street.An analysis that relied solely on structural forces would obscure the reasons whythese youth runand how they experience street life once they are there.iii. Consequences of street lifeThe literature varies as to the length of time that young people spend on thestreet thoughmost studies report that much of the homelessness is sporadic. McCarthy’s(1990) study revealedthat only 32.1 percent of his sample were on the street for six months or less andapproximately 42percent were on the street for between six months and three years. In sharp contrast a Winnipegstudy 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 thanthree 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 aresporadically homeless or “on the run” may be useful to account for the variance in the estimates ofduration on the street.The consensus in the literature is that life on the streets is extremely harsh, and therepercussions 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 byminimally educated, inexperienced, vulnerable (in a multitude of ways) and desperate adolescentsto 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 “streetlife profile” that includes the following nine points: lack of education, lack of conventional19employment skills, high incidence of transience, poor physicalhealth, substance abuse, mentalhealth problems, conflict with the law, vulnerability to violentexploitation and a dominance of peerrelationships that seek to compensate for the lack offamily and school relations that support mostadolescents’ 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 conveyan abbreviatedpicture of street life that can be used to give direction to a more indepth analysis ofthe issues.One can look at unemployment, resulting from insufficient education and experience, andthe ensuing poverty as fundamental to the reality of surviving the streets. Povertyis a force thatunderlies most of the other survival issues; it is also one of the prime antecedentsto illegal acts suchas drug selling, theft and prostitution. Consequently, this powerless population isopen to a barrageof 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 healthissues researched, the most prevalent are: physical and mental health, AIDS, substanceabuse relatedinquiry and the interrelationships that exist between these and a host of other factors that affect one’swell-being. At the most basic level, surviving on the streets without proper nutrition, shelter andmedical services is in itself cause for poor health. The physical stresses of this environment arefurther compounded by the dangers of violent abuse perpetrated by adults and desperate youthpreying on vulnerable young people — in total these phenomena inflict a heavy,and potentiallyfatal, 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 aremental health impacts of being homeless or as a result of the traumas that precedeleaving home.These impacts may include various forms of abuse, family breakdown or forced separation from theparental home, as well as the daily traumas associated with living on the street. For example, major20depression, post traumatic stress disorder and suicide attempts are all more pervasive in homelessadolescents (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 andGreco (1990) report:...the childhood histories of street youth are characteristically marred with physicaland sexual abuse, family dysfunction, and parental rejection. Such experiences are‘invariably accompanied by emotional abuse’. Street youth report high levels of poorself-esteem, self-worth and feelings of powerlessness. This is evidenced by highincidents 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 andexploitation in the prostitution industry to varying degrees. Researchers also find that the threat ofcontracting AIDS amongst this population is further compounded by: poverty, lack of informationabout 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 whennecessary (Kaliski et al., 1990; Caswell and Green, 1988; Johnston, 1992). Policy makers andservice providers face the challenge of designing prevention strategies to accommodate the specialneeds of this high risk group.Finally, aside from the very serious threat of AIDS resulting from intravenous drug use, thehealth related information focuses specifically on substance abuse as it is considered to be rampantin this group. Webber’s (1991) research highlights the use of drugs as a coping tool for kids on thestreet. She states that,More than typical adolescents, street kids are beset with oppressive problems, boththose they bring from home and those they acquire in the street. They have morethan the average need to escape. Killing the pain of their existence — getting highas a get-away — is the most compelling lure drugs offer. Addictions developnaturally out of the vulgar business of living in the street because some kids can copewith what is being done to their bodies only by being out of their minds. Drugsoffer the illusion of being off the street while you are still on it .... Not only are streetkids tied up in more complex psychological knots and practical conundrums than areaverage teenagers and therefore more susceptible to drugs, but they also live in anenvironment saturated with these hazardous substances. If alcohol and drugs21tantalize many ‘normal’ kids, they magnetize troubled kids chasinga magical escape(225).Webber goes on to outline some of the predisposing factorsthat foster youthful addictions including:“low self-esteem, serious home or school problems, early use,a family history of addiction, parentalconflict, feelings of helplessness and hopelessness, and physical andsexual abuse — in other words,the runaway mould” (225). In many Aboriginal communities escape through addiction isasignificant social problem which has been repeatedly studied by social scientists. The pervasivenessof addictions on the street and the profile of predisposing factors offered by Webber above arefactors to be examined in this study without simply dissecting symptoms but with the goal ofrevealing the underlying dynamic of those symptoms — addictions or otherwise.Finally, there is research that has focused on the issues of delinquency and law-breaking ingeneral, and more specifically, on gang culture. To some extent gang literature elucidates issues thatmay be applicable to Aboriginal street youth because the analysis often includes some recognitionof structural dimensions of race, racism, class, and/or poverty in addition to the delinquencyperspective. For example, Short (1990) presents a lucid explanation of cultural and economicmarginalization, and its relationship to gang activity. Specifically, the gangs are an attempt by youngpeople 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 “economicsurvivalism” (30), and highlights the “Los Angeles police’s racism and brutality” (28) against blackcommunities in their massive anti-gang campaign. Davis is critical of the clampdown on gangs asit skirts the deeper issues of racism and poverty that are at the root of gang phenomena. There isa growing body of literature that analyzes the attempts of culturally and economically marginalizedyouth to adapt to North American urban society through gang activity, the inter-and intra-communityimpacts 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 for22understanding Aboriginal communities in the urban environment as they face barriers similar to thosefaced by the black, Chicano and other ethnic minority communities of the United States.iv. Issues of service delivery to street youthThere is no doubt that the population of street youth is replete with barriers to effectiveservice delivery. Consider, for example, that the client population is approximately twelvetoseventeen years of age and that a high proportion of them are running from some type of abusivesituation, 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). Forexample, in the proposed safehouse sponsored by the Children’s Aid Society of MetropolitanToronto, the policy states that “Parents and/or guardians and/or police would be informed of theyouth’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 thatyoung people would seek out such a service. Mainstream agencies which provide services that seekto 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 violationthrough control and intrusion into the lives of the abused children they seek to help; this dynamicis compounded by practitioners “requiring model kinds of behaviour and self-disclosure in return forservice” (70). A significant portion of the youth who find themselves on the street are “abscondersfrom care” (McCullagh and Greco, 1990:ii). SpecifictoAboriginal runaways is the fact that servicesare simply not culturally sensitive to their needs and so many flee to the streets as preferable toinstitutional living (Native Women’s Transition Centre, 1991).Brannigan and Caputo (1993:83-84) offer a very useful continuum of services for street youththat characterizes the increasing levels of intrusiveness and length of contact for clients who usethem. The continuum begins with prevention services that have minimal contact with the youth andseek to educate them about the potential hazards of street, for example, in school presentations and23media campaigns. Crisis intervention, which is still generally short-termbut more intrusive, seeksto stabilize clients who may be immersed in crisis, for instance, shelters or help lines. Ofa moresustaining nature are the maintenance services which offer a place for clientsto meet their basicdaily needs of food and shelter (hostels, needle exchanges, and soupkitchens). Next on thecontinuum are the transitional services which seek to help young peopleget off the street. Theseservices 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 categoryis labelled incapacitation, which is meant to encompass incarceration by law enforcement and healthofficials for the sake of preventing the individual from harming themselves or others — i.e. youngoffenders’ facilities and psychiatric wards of hospitals. And finally, the authors point to therehabilitation 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 criminaljustice system, for instance, probation services and life skills programs. Alongside the abovecontinuum the authors put forth another continuum of formality that can be applied to all of theservices outlined for further descriptive value. Both of these tools of analysis are helpful todifferentiate 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 beoffered in an accessible part of the downtown core, open twenty-four hours and offer clients achance to meet their basic needs of shelter, food and clothing with a minimum of intrusivequestioning. Also, some agencies offer counselling, support, information and referral (for issues ofabuse, shelter, substance abuse, education, health, medical or legal) for those who need it. Inaddition to these short-term and emergency types of services, street youth also express a need forlonger 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 Planningy24Council of Winnipeg, 1990; McDonald and Peressini, 1992; White, 1992; Bermingham, 1992;Truscott, 1992 and 1993).Conclusions: Aboriginal street youth in the literatureSocial 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 thatwill suitably address the needs of this population. To date all of the research has been conductedon the population of street youth in general — none of the studies located has singled out Aboriginalyouth. 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 forfuture 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 academicand popular literature, data networks (such as dissertation, sociology, psychology and social workabstracts, ERIC — Education Resources Information Centres — and the American Indian Institute),and word of mouth networking with key informants in the areas of academic and professionalservice delivery to Aboriginal populations, streetyouth, and homeless people in general. There wereabsolutely 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 homelessAboriginal people in Montreal, was found (Obomsawin, 1988). There are other movies anddocumentaries based on street youth in general but nothing with an Aboriginal focus.Other documentation of Aboriginal youth can be found by culling information from majorstudies. For example, in the Marlene Webber (1991) book, Street kids, there are a number ofanecdotal 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 Insideout: An autobiography by a Native Canadian, by James Tyman(1989). These sources give the readersome insight into the pertinent issues that separate Aboriginal people from other populations. There25are sometimes graphic personal portrayals of the effects of racism,colonial government policy,destructively short-sighted child welfare policy and practice, therepercussions of the residentialschool system, poverty, recovery and renewal. But theseaccounts, though growing in theirnumbers, are still few and they are limited by lack of focuson the issue of homelessness or life onthe street.In the Winnipeg (Social Planning Council of Winnipeg, 1990) and Calgary (McDonald andPeressini, 1992) studies on homeless populations there is a division that identifies ethnic origin butthe authors’ analyses stop with a small chart that outlines the type of ethnicity and the proportionof the total sample. This information does not break-down Aboriginal populations by culturalgroups. In the Winnipeg study the authors go as far as to say that Aboriginal youthareoverrepresented based on national population figures (two percent of national population versus fourpercent in their study). But even this information is not reliable as the study did not have arepresentative sample — few studies do. Brannigan and Caputo(1993) give a cursory account ofthe unique nature of the issues facing Aboriginal youth in their literature review section but theyoffer no studies to back up their remarks. These authors have future plans to focus research onAboriginal youth populations.One document that has emerged partly from the information in the Winnipeg study is aproposal for a safe house called Ni Tin Away Ma Gun Antat (My relative’s house) for Aboriginalchildren and youth in the inner city (Native Women’s Transition Centre,1991). This safe houseopened 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 (implyingadults more than youth) can be found in the form of reports and conference proceedings — forexample, 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 reortof the national inQuiry (McLaughlin, 1987), and finally New Dartnershis — Building for the future26(Lang-Runtz & Ahern, 1988). Though these reports offer a marginalfocus on the needs of Aboriginalpeople, they are important for their structural perspective. They emphasizethe role of issues suchas poverty, self-government, and cultural differences that must be addressedby any program thatseeks some form of amelioration for Aboriginal people. Specifically,the University of BritishColumbia conference (cited above) offers a skeletal, point form examinationof some issues thatcontribute to homelessness. The Social Development report andthe New Partnerships conferencealso point to structural barriers but much of the focus is on adult and rural populationsas well ashousing and shelter — issues less immediate to the lives of urbanyouth.From all of these accounts one must attempt to glean information that offers insight into thelives of Aboriginal youth who are living on the urban streets. The question remains, in an effort todeconstruct colonial interpretations and attitudes, what in past studies is useful for an Aboriginalperspective? All of the research to date is clearly insufficient to accommodate the specific needs ofAboriginal street youth and so our approach must reflect this great lack, but also build on it. It isuseful to know, firstly, that there are no other studies so this research, for the most part, must beginat the beginning. It is also useful to know that there are many Aboriginal youth living on the streetsand it is very important to understand the level of desperation that brings these youth to the pointof exploiting themselves, in a variety of ways, to survive. One other significant finding is that theseyouth are most often running ‘from” something to the street — we need to clearly articulate whatyoung Aboriginal people run from. In the Ni Tin Away Ma Gun Antat(1991) proposal the authorsstate that a proportionally higher number of Aboriginal youth are in the child welfare system andthere is a shortage of culturally appropriate services; thus, many of the Aboriginal street youth maybe running from the mainstream institutions that are unable to provide services sensitive to theirneeds. We also know that analysis that leaves out issues of race, poverty, colonization or thatoverlooks the experience of life on reserves or in urban ghettos is, at best, minimally suited to ourneeds.27Overview of the thesisThe next chapter describes the research process. I also reflect on the methodologywithemphasis on what it was like as an Aboriginal person doing ethnographic researchon this difficultsubject. Chapters 3, 4, and 5 form the heart of the thesis. The case studies introduceus to nine(two of them are treated as a couple in one case study) Aboriginal youth who currently live on thestreet in Vancouver, Winnipeg and Montreal, and two former street youth who are street survivorsfrom Vancouver and Winnipeg. The sixth chapter examines the patterns and themes that emergeout of these ten case studies about life on the streets. Chapter seven focuses on policy implicationsand the last chapter concludes the thesis.28Chapter 2. Research methodologyChapter two describes how this study was conceptualized and lays out themethodology usedto research Aboriginal street youth in the urban environment in Canada. The emphasis inthischapter is on the process by which the research received its impetus, wascarried out and theninterpreted. I also talk about the research’s reliability and validity and aboutthe constraints to thestudy. 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 cameto be done,is inextricably linked with my values as an Aboriginal person and my life experienceas part of anoppressed group in Canada. Therefore, as a critical researcher, I begin a scholarly discussion onmethodology with something as personal as my socialization as an Aboriginal person. Again at theend of the chapter I will come full circle and reflect on this person in this research.Impetus of the researchAn image from my childhood, which has stayed with me all of my life, explicitly places mewithin the framework of Aboriginality, of colonial oppression, and of the multitude of negativestatistics and images that abound about Aboriginal people. Therefore, entering the world ofAboriginal 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 sevenof my siblings and cousins. My grandfather is in charge of the reins. My father is sitting next tohim. It is a clear dark night and the stars are out in full force. I had watched with interest earlierthat day as the moose carcass was cut up and carefully laid at the bottom of the wagon box andmeticulously 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 sithuddled in a blanket up behind the adults, my grandfather began to discuss, in Cree, with a distincttinge of bitterness (this was uncharacteristic of my grandfather) that it was a crime that children hadto be used to hide the game “illegally” killed in order that we could survive.29I learned that night of the confiscation of land, thelaws that prohibited leaving the reserveto hunt for food, the residential schools that took away the children,the police function of socialcontrol through brutality, and the encroaching cultural values that wouldthreaten to destroy us. Ilearned simple logic in the statement, “They came to my country, theyshould speak my language.”I learned that our collective condition was because of some inherentlyunfair philosophy andbehaviour, and not at all the way things had always been. And most importantly I learnedthat thiswas not a fault that existed within us. In forty years I have not seen evidence that any partof therevelation 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 thinkingimplies a call to action that may range from modest rethinking of comfortablethoughts to more direct engagement that includes political activity(17).Thomas’s definition fits the sense of accountability that remains with menow. My experience onthe reserve of watching my grandfather interact with a world that denied naturally accessibleandcommon sense human rights — without English or any “recognized education” — with a stoicdetermination and dignity instilled in me the principle of systematically including a critical analysison colonization or to at least make certain that it be allowed to emerge out of research withAboriginal people.The impact of my grandfather’s teachings (and after that night I asked many questions formany 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 theyouths’ 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 fromone of the research directors of the urban perspectives sector of the Royal Commission on AboriginalPeoples inquiring if I would be interested in applying to do research on Aboriginal street youth inmajor urban centres in Canada. My immediate and emphatic response was, “No.” The picture that30came to mind was quantitative research, looking for numbers of youthon the street andadministering a questionnaire, collating data, inputting it onto computer and placing the results intotables. This type of research on Aboriginal street youth, in my view, could not access the pain ofseparation and loss due to institutional intervention, of the traumatic impact of racism, of identityconfusion (which most of us experience off the Street) ifl addition to life and deathsurvival issues.Some research, the media and a common sense visual count tells us that Aboriginal youth areoverrepresented at least in the skid row prostitution industry in Canada and I saw no point inconfirming that statistic. On further discussion it became evident to me that perhaps what theywanted was not incompatible with what I might be willing to do. I did, however, qualify that Iwould not go in and rape these children again, not even under the guise of research, and that if Idid 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 froma competition. (Subsequently Toronto was dropped from the study because the research assistantbecame ill. I also believe the emotional impact of the research process became overwhelming inthis case.) My function would be to oversee the entire study from figuringout which paradigm andmode of research would be most suitable, to the design of the study and any instruments used inthe research, to designing and carrying out the training of assistants, to interpreting, reporting thedata, and formulating the recommendations.Funding was provided for a principal researcher/project manager, and later because of timeconstraints, 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 eachof the major city sites in the study. It was decided that this arrangement was necessary because thistype of study could potentially be a full time job for one person for at least two years and I wasemployed in a tenure track faculty position with the School of Social Work, University of Victoria,31at the time the study was initiated. All persons on the researchteam were directly contractedthrough the Royal Commission. Therefore we were, eachof us, private contractors.(This aspectof the study was later to have an impact on the question of researchersafety and participant selectionalluded to later in the chapter).Planning the researchThe first task was to write out a budget for a study which wouldgather data from differentconstituencies on the street level, for training and travel, and for the extended timeneeded forwriting the report. It was decided that the participants would receive a one time allowance ofonehundred dollars in recognition of their need and their work withus. No notices to attractparticipants on the basis of this allowance were used and the subsidy was given to the youthat theclosure of interviews. For practical reasons related to time constraints andto my teaching load atthe University of Victoria, the decision was made to hire Aboriginal research assistantsto conductthe 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 providea way to assist Aboriginal youth to voice their own concerns. I decided that a training session wasneeded in order to combat the isolation of the research assistants, to uniformly distribute therationale for the study and the ethical principles established by the Royal Commission, and to getto know the assistants (two of whom were not known to me before the research began). In orderto minimize the possible segmenting effect that a diverse team might produce, and with a nearcompleted literature review in hand, I led an intensive three day training session with all teammembers. This included senior research co-ordinators from the Commission. This took place afterthe design issues had been identified and the guiding questions hadbeen formulated. I made everyeffort to ensure that the research method would be uniformly conveyed to the research team so thatdifferences could emerge from the text of the interviews andnot through varied process. The32training period facilitated team interaction and communication, sharing of strategies for interviewingdistrustful youth, and the maintenance of cultural integrity.In addition I visited the research sites once in the contextual information gathering stage andtwice again in the interviewing stage. Telephone contact was ongoing and as needed. I stayedextensively involved with all parts of the information searches and the conceptualization of ideasforany part of the Royal Commission study to be drafted by anyone else. My main concern was tokeep cultural and sociological integrity in the study. I explicitly wanted one point of view — withthe exception of any research used for comparison purposes. The non-Aboriginal team memberexamined the literature from the perspective of a Canadian mainstream society. Subsequently Ireconceptualized and edited his work from an Aboriginal perspective. All materials have beenreconceptualized 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 liveon 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 makecomparisons of conditions for street youth “then” and “now,” and to see the similarities anddifferences of experience.*For contextual information We interviewed two sets of parents whose children had gone tothe streets. This gave us some insight as to the reasons for running from these parents’ pointof view, and views on strategies for repatriation and prevention.*Advocates in street specific agencies and programs (for example, needle exchange, streetworkers, sexually transmitted disease clinics, special police units, Aboriginal specific streetyouth programs) were interviewed for contextual information about Aboriginal utilization ofservices, percentage of Aboriginal youth using agency services, approximate numbers of33Aboriginal street youth in various cities, culturally appropriate services and numbersofAboriginal 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 toinclude a debriefing period to take place at the end of the interviewing phase. This was plannedfor the beginning of July 1993 in Vancouver, British Columbia. I also asked the research assistantsto keep a field journal (appendix F). I did this for two reasons: first to provide an outlet for theemotional impact of the research endeavour itself; and secondly to provide recorded details of thestreet environment, interview circumstances and indepth description of the participants. I felt thatboth the debriefing session and the journals were necessary to place the collective experience of theresearchers into the research process and to bring closure to the data gathering phase. This wouldalso be the beginning of the interpretation of the data.Research goalsHow to approach a study of Aboriginal youth on the urban streets given literature that hadlittle 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 basedperspective from the point of view of the youth. The existing literature became a backdrop to themissing pieces of the puzzle. The definitions and the major characteristicsof running behaviourwere utilized as comparison to the experience which Aboriginal youth shared.In this study a main goal was to contextualize Aboriginal street youth within the colonialstructural environment. Many social scientists have written about the unequal social status ofAboriginal 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 thisinequity (Ryan, 1971; Manuel & Posluns, 1974; Cardinal, 1977; Djao, 1983; McKague, 1991).34Freire (1974) also reminds us of the oppressor/oppressed dialectic andthe social and psychologicalimpacts of this contradiction. The opening for colonial contextualizationfrom the case studies wasfacilitated by open ended questions on perceptions of marginality andquestions about history andculture. I believe that Aboriginal persons facilitating the process alsowidened that opening. Manyof the youth would say, in the interviews, that they felt morecomfortable sharing with an Aboriginalperson because they felt that their backgrounds and culture would bemore clearly understood.Another goal was to set carefully the course for future research endeavours and policydevelopment with Aboriginal street youth: therefore the following overriding sociological questionsguided the process:*What are the most significant life experiences that have impacted on the current situation ofstreet youth?*What are the greatest challenges facing street youth today?*What are the most critical forces/institutions that influence the thinking and behaviour ofstreet youth?*In what terms do street youth define their social, cultural and spiritual needs and how dothey 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 shapeand 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 inWinnipeg and Inuit youth in Montreal. The goal of accessing fairly distinct Aboriginal representationin each of the cities was, for the most part, successful. This type of sampling was necessary becausewe wanted to know more about the physical, intra-psychic and “cultural” conditions of each of the35distinguished categories in one of the cities. In some instances wewere unable to access thepreconceived formula because we were dependent on street workersto 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; participantswho were homeless versus those using shelters and other facilities; and examples of various typesof running and street behaviour. It was only after the ideal combination of representation(for RoyalCommission purposes) was set out in theory that the street workers were contacted. The anxietycaused by the “ideal sample is discussed later in the chapter.Another goal was to access information on street workers and street service utilization. Didthe 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. Howdid they feel about this topic? In this endeavour we hoped to get information on availability ofAboriginal 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 sharingknowledge 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 ofAboriginal persons’ rights to participation in authentic research and of access to technical knowledgein the research process. In the effort to proceed with respect in the entire research process I oftenrefer to “we” as a team of researchers through the text of this thesis, although I take full responsibilityfor its content.Case study methodSocial science has been criticized for its wont of producing irrelevant and conceptuallyflawed 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 amainstream social scientist,36in a conversation with Art Solomon, a Native Elder, whoasked, somewhatrhetorically, whether I would tolerate my own methods, or passively accept myinterpretations, if I were a member of a Native community (Warry,1990:61).Art Solomon’s question is a sign of the times in the Aboriginalcommunity. The social scienceresearch industry is being held accountable as it has not been in thepast. Therefore research mustnot only be accountable for scientific standards, it mustbe culturally appropriate, practical, andemanci patory.After deciding that orality, youth telling their own stories, street culture and Aboriginalculture, and history and oppression were important and necessary componentsto be supported inthe research, I decided to use qualitative critical case study methodology(Leenders & Erskine, 1989)incorporating an ethnographic stance (DeCastell & Walker, 1991; Thomas, 1993). Criticalethnography not only provides description of a culture(as most conventional ethnography does) butallows 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 socialconditions that provide the departure point for research(33).As stated before there is an abundance of research on the degraded social conditions, unequaltreatment and marginal ization of Aboriginal people in Canada. There is ample reason to believe thatAboriginal youth would suffer the consequences of generations of abuse in the present. Criticalethnography is, therefore, useful as a potential way to analyze Aboriginal street youth behaviour, notas 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 andreflection on purpose” of the research. They include ontology, topic selection, method, data analysisand interpretation, discourse and reflection(33). Ontologically, as stated above, there are structuraland cultural arrangements which oppress some people but are not ordinarily visible (for example,gender, race, sexual orientation). Topic selection in this case came aboutby a one time opportunity37from the Royal Commission; however, it was myspecial interest in the field (I now work inAboriginal child welfare research and development) which inducedme to accept the opportunity.The discussion on method follows, and the data analysis and interpretation,discourse and reflectionwill be discussed presently.The model most suited to the needs of the situation was a critical casestudy approach usingdescriptive/interpretive design. This method of research is characterizedby specificity of focus withrespect to the phenomenon or case under study, and by depth ofdescription combined withinterpretation of the data from various sources. The method is holisticand exploratory in nature andit is capable of incorporating a variety of disciplines, using a rangeof techniques for collection. Itis ‘heuristic” as it seeks the illumination of otherwise unknownor little understood dynamics to thereader (Merriam, 1988; Reinharz, 1992; Leenders and Erskine, 1989). Allof these traits make thismodel suitable to the needs of this study.Specifically, qualitative case study methodology and critical ethnography are based ininterpretation, which is particularly significant to the study of homeless Aboriginal youth as their livesexpress, in many ways, symptoms of structural barriers such as racism, poverty, and the impact ofcolonization. All these conditions are integral to any interpretation of their reality.(A structuralexamination would look to the structures of society, for instance, the Indian Act, the Child WelfareAct, the school system, the reserve system, and social marginalization for explanations ofoverrepresentation in social pathology statistics, rather than in the individual personal weaknessofthose involved.) That is to say that Aboriginal children are more at risk because of the way whichthe 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 marginalizationand oppression.Case study research is a method of studying social phenomena though the thorough analysisof an individual case(s). The case may be a person, a group, an episode, a process, a community,38a society or any other unit of social life. All data relevantto the case is gathered from varioussources, and all available data is organized in terms of thecase.In this study the research team interviewed street youth, ex-street youth,parents of streetyouth, street services personnel and I have included the perceptions and recommendationsof theresearch team in various ways. I have also taken into account street youthliterature and policy thatimpacts on street youth. The case study method gives a unitary character to thedata being studiedby interrelating a variety of facts to a single case. It also provides an opportunity for the intensiveanalysis of many specific details that are often overlooked with other methods. A criticalethnographic stance allows for a conceptual treatment of the data that goes beyonda positivistand/or liberal ideological stance. DeCastell and Walker(1 991:18) call this getting a brain and notjust an eye. For instance, by asking open-ended questions on fear, shame and anger, we were ableto access information about cultural identity and the impact of racism. These dimensionsare seldomsought by researchers nor are they easily quantifiable.The case study approach offers a method that is able to focus on the complex reasons forending 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 specificstreet services that provide on-going services and could potentially facilitate repatriation into homecommunities and implement prevention strategies for future generations of troubled youth.Case study research is more complementary to the oral traditions of Aboriginal people andit offers a particularly disadvantaged population of Aboriginal youth an opportunity to give voice totheir experiences and to give us insight into their lives before apprehension, experience in care orin custody, life on the run, and finally making a home on the street. We will see that some youthgo into great detail about city life, reserve life, and about cultural involvement or lack thereof. Theytell about positive close relationships with functional grandparents (and extended family) and theyshare the horrors of exploitation by adult care givers. In other words the case study offers voice to39a most powerless group. It is, then, “interpretation in context” (Merriam, 1988:10),within whichthe 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 ascritical 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 andsocialization” (26)). The major strength of critical case study research in this contextis the combinedmeaning of the experience for the youth, the researcher’s interpretation andthe fieldwork (16-19).The street youth project, then, has the potential of shedding lighton the little known phenomenaof Aboriginal street youth culture and identity.Appendices A, B, and C contain a complete list of the questions that served asguidelines forthe interviews. These questions were formulated after the research on methodologyand much ofthe 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, theemotional impact of their history and present conditions on the street. The questions are open-endedso that within the context of sharing on the topics of shame, grief, and fear the participant had theopportunity 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, andidentity and cultural issues without being directly confronted with specific questions on subjectswhich are hard to place into context if a direct question is asked.40Carrying out the researchThe chronology of events in the research process wereas follows:*Design of the study and literature review, preparation for training and formulatingquestionareas;*Training, and site visits before the interviews were to take place;*Contextual information gathering — the researchers went out into the field andvisited youthstreet services personnel — exploring the city, participating in needle vans, riding withyouthdetail, visiting and interviewing street workers and co-ordinators of services;*Interviewing — contact with the participants, street youth, ex-street youth, parents of streetyouth 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 precariousposition that we occupied in this study. We were inquiring into issues that were very close to eachof us as individuals and as Aboriginal people. At the same time we needed to avoid particular trapsof social science research that can predispose the interpretation of the data. For instance, anoveremphasis 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 andalienate them from their reality, peers, culture and communities. Therefore a macro analysis thatwould take into consideration individual characteristics, history, culture and the society which hasspawned street youth was critical. This approach might be expressed in the following manner:41*To place street youth, including behaviour patterns and individualmotivations, within alarger context (social structures of society);*To contextualize street youth personal situations within the larger socio-economicframeworkof urban society;*To stress that the institutions, agencies, legislation, government policy, etc. impacton andconstrain the behaviour, motivations and social interactions/relationships ofstreet youth.That is, people never act in a vacuum, and rarely do anything solely outof individualmotivation;*And to use historical developments (Indian Act, Indian Affairs, urban migration,the reservesystem 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 interviewingparticipants;*July 1993 — Debriefing;*September - March 1994 — Data analysis and interpretation, additional site visits in somecases, 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 theinterpretation of data, there were many telephone contacts with all of the research assistants. Firstthere was on-going support for the research assistants while they were engaged in the interviews withthe youth. On one occasion I had to stay on the phone with a research assistant as a participant wastrying to forcibly enter her apartment. She had been dealing with stalking behaviour(this interview42and the person’s participation in the study had to be discontinued becauseof extreme intoxicationand threatening behaviour). On many occasions the researchassistants just needed to vent feelingsof despair and anguish at the conditions on the street.Secondly, there were many times when I hadto check and recheck incidents reported by the youth on the tapes and to groundmy interpretations.Interpretation of the dataPerceptual description of Aboriginal youth on the street was not thegoal 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 werelooking for the underlying causes for the overrepresentation of Aboriginal youth on the street andthe strengths present in street culture with which to build recommendations for the preventionoffurther suffering. The task was to conceptualize Aboriginal street youth behaviour taking intoaccount personal histories, attitudes reflected in service utilization, racial oppressionand culturalstrengths (Thomas, 1993:5 1).Jim Thomas (1993), for example, reveals the role of “symbolic identities” in his study onprisoners — with race as the indicator.Racism in prisons occurs not only because of discriminatory practices, but alsobecause one’s race connotes and denotes sets of meanings that define how one “doestime.” The label nigger is more than just a hostile epithet. It also carries connotativeconceptual baggage and implications for social interpretation and policy. Racebecomes a metaphor that conveys pictures about how prisoners should act in dealingwith the “niggers” to whom the images pertain. Racially imbued images take on thecharacter of social myths by creating accounts, normative judgments, and actionsdirected toward a subordinate culture. The myths reproduce power relations bycreating and consolidating icons that reinforce stigma, define societal responses, andestablish the boundaries between the sacred dominant groups and profanesubordinate ones (52).Race as a concept results in the differential distribution of power and privilege and mediates howAboriginal 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 glossingover Aboriginal street youth issues by the constant comparison to mainstreamstreet youth.43Secondly, the danger of romanticizing their uniqueness was inhibiting.The greatest obstacle,however, was the fear of descending into the extreme depths of despair,depression, hopelessnessand helplessness with them. For all of these reasons the risk remainsof underestimating the depthof 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 wasa complex task becauseat times there were contradictions that surfaced. Thomas(1993) states that “sometimes the gapbetween what the accounts described is sufficiently interesting that theaccounts themselves canbecome the focus of analysis” (38). For example, why does Noella (Winnipeg)consistently avoidreferences to differential treatment? She reports that she does not perceiveany differential treatmentof herself in any context, in other words there is no racism(answer to direct question). Then shegoes on to describe overt racist behaviour toward herself(and other Aboriginal people) in differentcontexts. The avoidance and denial, on the one hand, and the eventual disclosure of overtdifferential treatment, on the other, is a discrepancy which is of interest in this case study. Her lifecircumstances are very similar to the other youth in this study.After the data collection was completed, there was, as mentioned earlier, a three daydebriefing period so that the research assistants could share their experiences and perceptions.Categories, themes, similarities, differences and unique circumstances, particularly with differencesin 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 washelpful and the sharing was integral to the analytical task.The analysis then took shape through the use of field journals, extensive telephone contactand visits to research assistants, feedback from research assistants on drafts of the case studies andthe final draft of the research report, tapes, transcripts, a literature review on street youth, newspaperarticles, videos, contextual information (interviews with street services personnel), a review of policyand social work practice which involves Aboriginal street youth, and multiple visits to each city with44tours of frequented areas with research assistants and street workers in needle vansand mobileemergency services.Primarily, the narratives spoke for themselves. There had been one commonexpectationbetween myself and those who interviewed the youth. This was before the interviewsbut after thetraining and much reading on the subject of Street youth. Upon entering the researchprocess, weas researchers each began to have our own agendas(stuff we wanted to make sure got said), andan urgency and distrust that the youth would be able to articulate what we hadcome to know,through our own experience or by entering the underground of street life, were urgent needs. Asthe interviews were completed, and the transcripts and tapes were reviewed, we realized that no onecould have articulated the complexities of street life and the needs of Aboriginal street youth betterthan they could. They had surpassed our naive and secret presumptions about their intelligence andultimately their needs. We unanimously agreed that their experience and maturity deserves itsprimacy in this study and that they deserve our respect for their tenacity and survival skills. Theydemonstrated pride in their survival skills and revelled in the knowledge that most of us wouldperish faced with their daily challenges.Reliability and validityIn the Aboriginal street youth case study research the goal was to ensure that the findingscould be recognized by the participants wherever possible by getting feedback from them. Becauseof street youth transient lifestyle and running behaviour, however, this was extremely difficult toobtain. In lieu of youth feedback the research assistants were repeatedly consulted on therecognizability of the youth participants in the case studies. They were satisfied that the participantswere accurately described and that the youth experience, as told to them, was authenticallyportrayed.Reliability is enhanced by several methods. The first is triangulation, which is using 11multiplemethods of data collection and analysis ... (Kirby and McKenna, 1989:172).” This research used45contextual information, open-ended interviewing of parents and advocates, indepthcase studies andelements of participant observation. Anthropological, psychological and sociological analyticalapproaches were combined in the analysis. Detailed discussion of the underlying elements of thestudy, explanations of the context of the data collection, any identifiable biases toward the peoplebeing studied, and the basis for selecting participants (172) are included in the study. Finally adetailed description of the decision-making process, exactly how the study was done, how the datawas 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 involvedin the research from beginning to end) used for enhancing validity were not possiblebecause ofstreet youth transience and monetary and time constraints. So far as possible to allow for aparticipant-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 inas much detail as possible. The youth were given the opportunity to review the type of questionsthey would be expected to respond to and in some cases the participants took the questions awaywith them prior to the first taped interview. The interviewers went to the participant’s environmentand interviewed them in places where they felt comfortable. For instance, Etah refused to leave thestreet environment and reviewed the questions over several days. Dale similarly invited theinterviewer into his home after the second interview. And others went to the interviewer’s homeafter introductory interviews. The youth were offered the opportunity to review their input and aquestion was asked if there was anything they wanted to add which had not been directly asked orindirectly been given opportunity for. The youth were informed and offered the opportunity toreview the contents of the study when a draft was completed: however, none were available whenthat time came.Triangulation was used once again by utilizing three separate interviewers and more than onemethod of confirming data (Merriam, 1988:169). The debriefing session(which was taped)46facilitated a collective approach to creating themes and detailed feedback wassought. More thanone level of peer review were in place for feedback of a technical nature. And the researcher’sbiases are explicitly accounted for in the last section in this chapter.A multicase analysis, predetermined sampling (for example, the attempt to get predominantlyMétis representation from Winnipeg) and question areas, and collective determination of themeswere used in order to ensure that if similar experiences began to emerge this was a result ofparticipant dialogue and not a result of process inconsistencies. In the present critical case studyanalysis of Aboriginal street youth the initial purpose was to tell their stories and the more practicalbusiness of evaluating, assessing, and information gathering with respect to the concrete conditionsand services for them. The ethnographic narratives were intended to be the substance for affectingpolicy and subsequently appropriate service delivery. Upon repeated examination of the transcriptsof the tapes, the contextual information (from all sources), and the research assistant journals, therewas no reason to believe that the youth were telling anything except what had actually happenedto them. The narratives did not show significant inconsistencies in the outcome. The indepth “thickdescription0nature of case study analysis allowed for exploration of difficult topics such as therelationship of Aboriginality and street youth experiences.ConstraintsAs well as the strengths of case study research listed here, this study has weaknesses thatrequire acknowledgement. A drawback, in working with the data, of having three separate assistantsto conduct the interviews with the participants with significantly different interpersonalcommunication styles, was noted. This condition may have resulted in a wide range of responsepatterns due to different abilities to gain trust and establish a comfort zone with the youth within ashort time period. For instance, one interviewer encouraged uninterrupted story like sessions whileguiding the story with short quietly stated question areas, whereas another interviewer activelybecame engaged in a question and answer periods (with frequent interruptions). The different styles47made compiling the case studies difficult and demanded the full use of tapedinterviews as well astranscriptions. However, the information gleaned by the process was not significantlydifferent incontent.Another difficulty with the diversity which the team presented was the different ways ofworking with written materials, recorded reactions and documenting interviewswith agencypersonnel. This ranged from extremely comprehensive, meticulous, and organizedto sparse,undated, and disorganized. For instance, one research assistant interviewed(and recorded) anexhaustive list of street-related personnel and had all of them sign consent forms, whilethe othersinterviewed fewer workers with little or no documentation. (Consent forms for agencypersonnelwere 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 theresearch (Leenders & Erskine, 1989). Webber (1991), in her book Street kids: The tragedy ofCanada’s runaways, discusses distrust of social workers as a major obstacle to be overcome inentering into a collaborative relationship with street youth. In training the research assistants Iconcentrated on the interviewing process, on trust building and on developing an information baseabout 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 wereinterviewing 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 yearsto enter the trusted circle of people who have been repeatedly betrayed.The distrust of authority figures (especially anyone involved with the government) byalienated street youth is well known and understandable. The interviewer first had to becomesomewhat comfortable with the street and its culture, secondly to gain the trust of street agencyworkers, and finally to begin the near impossible task of establishing a transitory but stable48relationship with the youth themselves (who are very transient in the summer).Each depended onthe other.Street workers, (some of them) themselves street survivors, who had seenoccasions of futileand personal gain exploitation of street people by researchers, were reluctantto see the charadecontinue. They were extremely cautious about referrals. In more than one casethe worker refusedto allow a second researcher (myself) to meet the participant. It was decided thatI would notattempt to “come along” since I was not involved in the entire interview process. Perhaps, due tothis caution, we may have been referred to youth who could “handle it” — so to speak. Althoughthere was no evidence that Etah (Vancouver) was referred by workers to other researchers, sheindicated previous experience with interviews.In addition to the primary obstacle of distrust from participants and street workers, asecondary drawback was having to depend exclusively on the street workers for referral ofparticipants. This meant that we could not say for sure how or why particular persons were chosenfor participation in the study and this aspect was not discussed in the interviews. Nor could wemake sure that we did not have all the same type of street youth in each city, for example alloutgoing, relatively self-assured youth who were perceived as easy to interview, or conversely toughenough to withstand a probing endeavour. It also meant that we were unable to fulfil the idyllicrepresentational scheme that we had begun with. For instance, we could not demand four peopleof Métis ancestry from Winnipeg and four people of Inuit background from Montreal. While everyeffort was made to fulfil this goal we had to take whomever street workers provided. Male/femalerepresentation in individual cities was skewed; however, overall a close to proportionalrepresentation was achieved.A more practical reason for choosing to go with the more conservative method of participantreferral was concern for the research assistants’ physical safety. The street is notan inviting placeto be, even in the daytime. At night the scene is treacherous. At the best of times the street is49depressing; at its worst it is dangerous. The research assistants put themselvesat considerable riskin order to become familiar with the street, to accompany street agency workers on their rounds, andto meet potential collaborators. Since private contractors are not insured under Royal Commissionbenefits they could not be asked to place themselves in jeopardy. As noted earlier, we had at leastone instance of stalking by a would-be participant of the project.Agency staff were, at times, reluctant to discuss their involvement, or lack thereof, withAboriginal street youth. These agency representatives became defensive on any mention ofunderutilization 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 streetlifeand 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 Winnipegas an exception because he and Noella are treated as a couple), most are under 18 years which isunder the legal age of consent in all of the provinces. This presented a problem with respect toinformed consent and legal guardianship. We were informed that the participants could giveconsent to participate in the study (with the younger participants we also requested parentalconsent). Laws are in effect, however, that mandate social workers, teachers and other public andsocial service workers to report the abuse of a minor to criminal justice or child protectionauthorities.In Manitoba, for example, The Child and Family Services Act (1985-86, c.8 — ChapterC80)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 thedischarge of professional duties or within a confidential relationship, but nothing inthis subsection abrogates any privilege that may exist because of the relationshipbetween a solicitor and the solicitor’s client (22.1)50Since abuse is probable in the lives of street youth, we had to inform participants that anyunreported 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 necessaryto report a runaway youth). Therefore youth may have been afraid of the repercussions of disclosureof abuse, may have been protecting a significant adult person who was abusing, or may have beenafraid of pimps or drug dealers. They would ostensibly be resistant then to discussing current andon-going abuse and of being on the run. This appears to be the case particularly with the youngerparticipants.A drawback of a technical nature occurred because the Commission hired the persons thattranscribed the taped interviews, and while this meant that I did not have to worry about this aspectof the study, a problem with this arrangement occurred. Considerable time was required to read andreread the transcripts and to check them against the tapes, because large pieces of the interviewswere 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 drawbacksin research. The writing stage, which involved ten case studies from lengthy transcriptions and hoursof interview audio-tape, was a lengthy and arduous process. I decided that as much detail aspossible would be left in the case study report and that every effort would be made to make thevoice of the participants the focus of the study. In keeping with this goal only those issues, policiesand services that were directly mentioned in the case studies were analyzed. For the report to theRoyal Commission I resisted the urge to intellectualize or to treat Aboriginal street youth experiencelike an academic subject in favour of insisting on the primacy of Aboriginal street youth voices. Thethesis incorporates a mainstream academic context into the study.51The two and a half months allotted for research assistants to do data collection in the fieldwas 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 challengeof exploring the terrain of the street youth, and to get interviews with street workers who areundervalued, 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 arecomplex, competitive and overextended — without exception. In many instances it took manytelephone calls and missed appointments to get in to see a busy counsellor or co-ordinator. Thetime constraints were more noticeable in the relationship building and termination stages of theinterviews.Corresponding to the constraints caused by the short timeframe was the project budget. Anextended budget would have afforded more time for contextual information gathering, choosing ourown collaborators, extended timeframes for interviews, relationship building and closure time.Secondly, the issue of researchers spending extended periods of time with extremely destitute youthwith 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 personA second instance from my childhood is salient in reflecting on the research process thattouches on Aboriginal culture and identity. I had the opportunity to closely observe two distinctlydifferent manifestations of cultural self-esteem within my extended family. I was raised by myparents in very close proximity (although not in the same house) to my grandparents; therefore, I haddaily access to both generations. First I must add that geographically my reserve is situated too farnorth for the early agricultural contact with White people, and too far south to be very affected bythe fur trade. Because of this location, and because of extensive racism in the area, we were prettymuch left alone for a long time. My grandparents did not speak English nor had they gone to52mainstream schools. They were, however, respected pillars in thecommunity. My mother, on theother 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 thetwo 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 makestatements to us(children) which indicated she did not like our Indianness. Her self-esteem was poor particularlyaround 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’sdifference, I did not know until much later in life that my mother’s resocialization in residentialschool and subsequent domestic and very punitive, hard labour with a White family were theprobable cause for our suffering. Nevertheless, observing and analyzing colonial impact vis-á-visAboriginal culture and identity became an early passion.Thomas (1993) states that there is a fine line between “going native” and “going over to theother side.” This was an ever present caution in the research process. “Going native” means to loseone’s identity in the culture under study; “going over to the other side” means to “to give up ourscientific persona and substitute the norms of the new culture for the canons of science”(48). SinceI was an Aboriginal social worker in the process of research with Aboriginal street youth there wasa triple affinity. First, I am professionally involved in social change primarily with Aboriginalchildren. Secondly, I am of the same cultural background, and thirdly I have the same societalmarginal status. It helped that research assistants conducted the actual interviews and that I havealways been distanced from street life.There was, however, an interesting phenomena with my explicitly political stance. For thelast twenty years of my work and studies in working directly with racism and the impact ofcolonization, and having been covertly (and sometimes overtly) ostracized by both mainstream andAboriginal institutions for being critical, I was now hired because of my personal and political53perspective. I had explored the impact of research on my community. And I was cynical. Whenthe research had begun in earnest I became frightened that, after all my intellectualand emotionalexploration of Aboriginal issues (particularly withchildren) and critique of research paradigms, Icould not do these children justice. This made an already emotionallydifficult proposition nearimpossible. My fear was very disconcerting, after all, I was tough as nails inmy own resistanceto (things like) being treated like a “token Indian” in academia. For instance,“after I had acquiredmy graduate degree” I received a call from a sociologist to come to a classto come and tell themabout the “traditional Aboriginal family.” Assuming this would be the sum total of Aboriginalcontent in this course, I answered curtly, “You must have the wrong number, I can only discuss howit was destroyed.” (In any event, I went and gave a history of colonization and racism and its impacton the family.) This and many other instances of resistance were and are valued parts of my identityas an Aboriginal person. Now I was to be on the same side of the struggle and it meant maybenothing 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 “scientificallyobjective” was a cultural as well as a political and academic dilemma. Culturally, for me, to remainobjective 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 thesubjective 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 orculturally. “Objectivity,” in this sense, “simply means taking the intellectual risk of being provendemonstrably 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 distancesbetween sites, and the part-time nature of the research, I found the process very isolating andemotionally arduous. The compilation of the case studies, which took countless hours of working54with tapes and transcripts, was extremely painful. I cannot say how many times I cried everytimeI 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 withthe grim reality that unfolded before us in the field. This was extremely difficult emotionally. Wewere faced with the culmination of abuse and oppression in our own image — in our children. Formany of us this experience brought back images of our own abuse and oppression in the city — inour own country. At the end of the data collection phase, we gathered in Vancouver in order toshare our experiences. We first conducted a traditional healing circle with all of the research teampresent, 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 anguishat entering the lives of destitute Aboriginal street youth and leaving, not knowing if anything wouldbe done in time to alleviate the suffering in the lives we had touched. One researcher stated thatshe simply sat down on the curb and cried a number of times. Others wrote messages of despairin their field journal. Others yet came face to face, in the voice of the youth, with their own identityand cultural issues. Some interviewers were called derogatory names by the youth which indicatedtheir distrust in Aboriginal people who appeared to have sold out to mainstream society; that hurtdeeply. Others needed to express the extreme disgust upon entering the world of the exploiter ofAboriginal children. In the end, we gained extreme respect for the survivors of Canadian society’scollective 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 difficultieswere 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)55which I presented at an international conference for WUNSKA(a national network of Aboriginalsocial work educators). There I examine research methods vis-á-vis cultural values and historyandthe obstacles the practice of research presents to the Aboriginalcommunity. In this process I hadto analyze classical social science methods and juxtapose these with my values as an Aboriginalperson.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 Aboriginalcontext) that a researcher does not show respect by acknowledging the possible sources ofprejudgment or imposition of interpretation. Everyone is socialized in context and comes withattitudes and symbolism that are mediated by race, class, culture, sexual orientation, ability andgender. It is a matter of respect, integrity and accountability to identify oneself and one’s positionin the greater scheme of things. Ahistoricity engendered by most research does not pay homage tothe ancestors or orality and obscures the totality of life experience. Individualization of subjectsdisregards the Aboriginal cultural value of the collective, therefore, cultural relevance iscompromised. In this research I am accountable for these values. “kapitipis e-pimohteyahk:Aboriginal street youth in Vancouver, Winnipeg and Montreal” was conceptualized and carried outfrom the beginning with respect for the participants, for the research assistants, for myself, for theprocess itself, and for those who provided this opportunity.How did this research process affect me as an Aboriginal person? It has concretized someof 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 needis 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 areasof life, and by reason of their prerogative to protect individual and tribal rights. Andlet the scholars spend ‘their very lives’ and energies to the service of the people(Costa, 1970 in La Framboise & Plake (1983)).56Chapter 3. VancouverThe city of Vancouver is the third largest in Canadaand currently has the highest real estatesvalue in North America. It is on a peninsula, located inthe southwest corner of mainland BritishColumbia, surrounded by Burrard Inlet, the Strait of Georgia and the Fraser River.MetropolitanVancouver has an area of 2787 square kilometres while the city of Vancouver itselfis only 114square kilometres. The populations of Vancouver and Metropolitan Vancouver are 477,872 and1,602,500 respectively.The climate in Vancouver is quite mild, the summers are warm and dry and the winters arequite rainy with annual precipitation of approximately 1257.7 mm, whichis mostly rain in thewinter. The temperatures range from an average of 2.8 degrees celsius(27 degrees fahrenheit) inJanuary to July temperatures that average 17.2 degrees celsius(63 fahrenheit). Vancouver attractsmany people because of its mild climate and natural beauty and diversity — for transient people theclimate 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 provincialindustries, banks, government, and other financial institutions) and film making. It is also a majorNorth 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 BritishColumbia has risen by 33% since 1986 — from 126,625 to 169,036 in 1991. Just under 80% ofthose people live off-reserve (Valentine, 1993). In 1991 the population of Aboriginal people wasapproximately 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 highestAboriginal urban population in the country (Valentine,1993). There is a high density of reserves57and Aboriginal communities in and around Vancouver. The area alongthe mainland coast to thenorthwest and interior regions, up through the Fraser Rivervalley and much of Vancouver Island isheavily populated by Aboriginal people, who have relativelyeasy access to the city.The Executive Director of the Urban Representative Body of Aboriginal NationsSociety(usually called URBAN Society) of Vancouver, Tim Michel stated thatthey represent 38 Aboriginalorganizations and he estimates there are 90 organizations altogether(provincial, federal andgrassroots) in Greater Vancouver area (70 in Vancouveralone). Michel believes that the Aboriginalpopulation census statistics are incorrect and that approximately 120,000 - 150,000live inVancouver, North Vancouver, Surrey, Richmond and other surrounding areas (includingreserves).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 healthreport stated that women in the area can expect to live nine years less than womenin the wholemetropolitan area (Gram, 1993).Although the Granville Mall area of Vancouver gets most of the media attention because itis 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 areAboriginal 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, yuppieweekenders and curb kids) street youth that reside in Vancouver, particularly in the summer. Streetyouth 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 of58Vancouver, 1990) and very few come from within thecity. Missy, a former street youth fromVancouver, stated that there are a number of Aboriginal youth who are intergenerationalstreetpeople. In some instances the daughter is on one Street corner and the mother is onthe other.Three other areas that street youth hang out at are: Downtown south consisting of severalblocksaround Seymour and Davie Street, Seymour Street and Richards Street(“the stroll”); Downtowneastside consisting of Hastings Avenue and Main Street, Hastings up to Victoria Street; andMountPleasant consisting of Broadway Avenue on either side of Fraser Street.Case studiesThe street youth in Vancouver who participated in the study were selected with the assistanceof a street youth worker at Downtown Eastside Youth Activities Society(DEYAS) which is situatednear the intersection of Hastings and Main in Vancouver. This district is where the skid row barsstand like worn out soldiers all in a row, and where most of hard core street people of Aboriginalancestry spend much of their time.Etah, Joanne, and Karen, perhaps, each present an atypical image of what we think of asstreet youth. They each are unique in their background circumstance, their journey into streetculture, and in their current situation and levels of development. There is no evidence that theyouth 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 GranvilleMall, the westend and less so in the eastend of Vancouver. They are highly transient and move fromcity to city, and they both have an exterior punk style. This is where the similarityends. Etah is anine year street resident who is dedicated to her lifestyle with protest determination. Serious andcautious, she more closely resembles the stereotype of “street kid,” the one who has embraced themind in perpetual survival mode — one who would find it a compromise to submit to easy streetin 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 downtown59Granville area with a group of teenagers and who is intransition into an independent livingsituation. Joanne laughs easily and does not exhibitthe fatalistic outlook that is evident with Etah.Karen is another story. She is removed from much of theyouth peer related activity. Sheis flirting with hard core skid row life. Karen’s older siblingsare veterans of Vancouver’s Hastingsand Main district and her street peer group are older(skid row bar waiters and waitresses). Karenoften “stays” at downtown hotel dwellings with friends. She disappearsfor weeks into the void ofurban downtown poverty. Etah and Joanne do not describe this phenomenonas a main referencepoint. They have chosen to join a street family consisting of non-relatives whoare also street youth.They are highly transient and can look after themselves. Karen who is twoyears younger, as far aswe know, has not left Vancouver.ETAHIt’s like an instinct to a child when they’re born. They get born into a world ofwrath 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 andso they become very arrogant and everything becomes really lonely(p.15, transcript2).Etah is a 17 year old young woman born on a reserve near Calgary, Alberta. She is of TsuuTina ancestry and a nine year very street wise, highly transient veteran of the streets in various citiesin the United States and Canada. She had just arrived from New Orleans, Louisiana, the week wemade 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 movedto another squat, by herself, in the downtown area. She survives by dumpster diving, tablescrapping 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 whatmight be described as a typical young “punk” type person of the streets. She had pierced rings inher nose, eyebrows and several in each ear, and she wore many rings on her fingers, which weretopped off with numerous bracelets and necklaces. She was carrying an army knapsack and her60clothes were very tattered and very dirty. Her long dyed green hair was shavedon the top of herhead. 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 shecan think about her response. Even then, she insists that the interviewer not ask anything that is noton the sheet in front of her. In her likable and courteous manner she tells the interviewer not to putwords 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 becametalkative, however, there remains a distinct feeling that she is not telling you everything. Perhapsshe did not want to implicate those close to her.Characteristically, she declined an invitation to go to the interviewer’s house in favour ofstaying on her “own ground.” The interviews took place in parks that she frequented andMcDonald’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 fingersand ends the feast by stocking up on the condiments available in the restaurant. During the contactfor 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 ofgoing through things without showing much emotion, just trying to deal with theproblem and then all the feelings will come out a lot later from now. So it usuallyworks out (p.5, transcript 2).Later on in the interview she lets slip that she uses a medical clinic for “anxiety attacks” among otherthings.Historywell so I pretty much thought that I was a factory child with nineteen brothersand 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 blendedfamilies. She doesn’t say where her mother (also Aboriginal) is from, only just that her mom had61“just run away and ended up on the reservation with my father ... and here I am.”(She is referringto her status Aboriginal biological father.)Then my mother took off a while after that and I have about 19 brothers andsistersfrom there on. My father got married to several different wives on his side andended up just having them, and my mother ended up on one side with another manand just ended up having a whole bunch of kids. I have about three brothers andsisters 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 beenborn of the same mother and father (p.1°, transcript1).Etah and her mother left the reserve when Etah was five years old. Afterfour(ish) tumultuousand mobile years (the reserve, Richmond, Maple Ridge, Edmonton, Burnaby,Vancouver) with hermother Etah, having quit school in grade six, moved into the “child in care” system for a briefperiod, and then onto the “freedom” of the street. There has been no contact with her mother andmaternal 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 callhim father,” she qualifies her salutation, “If I wasn’t doing this report ....“ Her meetings with himare half remembered hazes of alcohol delirium. “Whenever I met him I’d get drunk for a coupleof 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 herlife. Although the reserve does not enter as a possible place for a future home, Etah never indicateda 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 themcause I just been to the reservation a couple of times and when I was there, therewas a big full room of people. A whole bunch of people came out to me andbasically said, ‘Oh, I knew you when you were a baby,’ she stopped and gave mea big hug and I didn’t remember their names. Supposedly I met about 50 people onmy father’s side that I was really related to and don’t know any of my mother’sbrothers or sisters or grandparents or any people like that except her. I know one ofmy sisters [on mother’s side] (p. 10, transcript 1).62Although the contact with her “father’s” family is fairlytentative, Etah will return to the reserve tosee the new baby. This seems like a scene that will be repeated againand again until she doesremember everybody’s name.On the streetsSurvival is a pretty easy thing physically. Mentally, survival is pretty hardbut yougo it on a day by day basis, if you are patient (p.3, transcript3).Etah relates that the first time she ran she was five years old. “I ran all theway to the frontbush ... The first time I was on the streets was when my mother leftmy father and she lived on thestreets for a while and I was pretty lost.” Etah describes herjourney toward confirmed street lifebeginning 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 anda lot of things were addingup to my anger and I had said something and a lot of things were addingup tomother’s anger. I had said something and it really offended her, so my motherand that’s basically how I got on the street. I ended up getting picked up by thepolice and being put back into the [foster] home for about a period of 4 weeks. Afterthat, I got into a fight with my mother about going to school because I was really sickand so we got into a fight and I got really angry. It ended up where she phoned thepolice and on my way to school I got picked up by about 3 cop cars. I got put intoa group home where I ran from .... The third group home a was very manipulatinggroup home. I felt pretty much boxed in and really used because their childrenthat they were supporting them a lot more than they were supporting us which isunderstandable because it was their own flesh and blood. But what wasn’tunderstandable was the fact that they were taking on the responsibility of other livesand using the money that they got from us to support their own children. And inthat way it really made me angry so I would do things to the point where it wouldpiss them off so that they would kick me out, so that I would have to be runningfrom the police so I can just live without being chased. They kicked me outexpecting me to run back to my mother and I ended up not running back to mymother and going downtown .... (p.3, transcript 1).The interim between arriving on the street and meeting her mentor “who brought me back toa squat“was described like this:When I got on the streets I went pretty much from building to building, living inlaundromats and eating what I could and then I met a girl and I went out to adifferent part of the street where I cleaned up peoples’ houses because I thought itwould be nice because they were letting me live with them. And I slept betweenthere and China Creek Park on Broadway. And I lived with them for a long time andthen ended up downtown and from downtown I ended up squatting and have beensquatting ever since (p.1, transcript 1).63Although Etah states that she was not running from anything inparticular, except that:I did not like where I was before and I didn’t like the cages that I was putin fromschool, I didn’t like the levels that I was categorized to be, thejudgement that I wasgiven. I didn’t like having the lifestyle that I had and the streets seema little bitmore free than the place that I was (p.3, transcript 1).Etah was disillusioned with society’s norms and she needed freedom. Etahdoes not explicitly statewhy she did not return to her mom. A statement later in the interview, “I hada great fear of oldermen,” may or may not indicate a possible exacerbating factor in problems betweenmother anddaughter.Etah has been highly transient (or should we say, well travelled) and has experienced life onthe 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 andsometimes she travels alone. She makes the method of travel sound so simple, “hitchhiking andriding the rails.” Her travel wise method of keeping her head about her and relating to people ona 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 rummagearound — find what I can, leave what I can’t use. I go into establishments and drinkcoffee and whenever somebody finishes and leaves, and they leave a little bit of foodbehind, I kind of swipe it, eat it, do that till I finish with my hunger. Either that orsomebody will come downtown with a little bit extra money and buy me somethingto eat ... or I’ll panhandle until I can make enough, sometimes I go down to drugstreet ... and get meal tickets ... I go out and get food that way ... I basically wear thesame clothes for about a year and then once they’ve disintegrated off my body I’llfind a new set of clothes somewhere — rummaging around in different dumpsters,different squats, I’ll find something — wear that for another year, until theydisintegrate(p.11, transcript 1).Physical safety and warmth are a never ending preoccupation with homeless people. Thecity offers some refuge from the weather at strategic orifices, from which the city exhales its warm64stale exhaust, and in its decayed cavities. Etah describesthe squat and some of the conditions theyencounter in them in this way:The squat is basically an abandoned building that nobody is really using,so we useit. Cause we have really pretty much no where else to go. It shelters fromthe rain.On the odd chance you run into a lot of people — you run into a lotof weirdmistakes. 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, likesquatrats and stuff like that. I remember somebody asking me saying like, ‘Somebodyowns that, somebody pays money for that.’ Pretty much money to me isjust toiletpaper so, then nobody really owns anything ... only what they got inside theirheadsyou know. If there is something that you need you have to pay money for it.Imean there are a lot of kids out there that are on the streets that need a placeto goand sleep and if it’s there they are not going to do it [pay for lodging] becauseit’s notprovided for them, you know (p.6, transcript 1). I basically go between ... I’vegonebetween more than two squats because I’ve travelled a lot and run into alot ofdifferent squats and basically going to abandoned buildings, live there secure, getelectricity by getting candles, getting water from jugs and bringing them backto thesquat and securing it .... Let’s see, in the United States, when I was travelling I slepta lot by the railroad tracks in a cardboard box. I went also to Arizona ... lived in acardboard condominium which is put together with cardboard and wood, andyoucan basically make it into a tree house. I’ve slept on moving trains, I’ve slept on theside of the road, just basically surviving, I’ll sleep in the forest like on the island. Iwill usually sleep by the camp fire — get a tree or a tire just put it over amongst thetrees. Basically I’ve been into some really neat squats. They were fourteen storieshigh, we had keys to get in, they were so well put together — a lot of people livedthere. If they tore that place down they took a lot of peoples’ homes away. Squatsare kind of a lot more, of a person on the street’s, home than I think anybody else’shome because it has a lot more emotions and a lot more feeling in a squat than anyother(p.11, transcript 1). I remember one time in the winter I was living in a squatand it was really cold and I didn’t have any blankets. Well, I had this bag that aplace called S.K.I.D. gave to me and it had kind of a blanket in it but it wasn’t reallythat big and I got really cold. I went out to the mall and it was opened and I walkedin and I was just going in there to warm up and I got kicked out. I was really upsetbecause I was so cold and I didn’t have any money. A lot of things like that havehappened and not much you can do about it except you try to do as muchas youcan (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 thatrelationship “who I was married to — not under the law” Etah became pregnant with twins. Shedescribes the relationship and her ordeal:He’s practically the last person I got together with. A significant person I shared agreat deal of my life with him and I ended up getting pregnant with him to the pointwhere I was 5 months pregnant. I was in a town that was really alien to me and65didn’t have any ID so I was also in a town calledAmos where they don’t really haveany services for people on the street. I ended up having tolive off of dry bread thatwe got out of the garbage and dried donuts from TimHorton’s (that they threwout)and I got really sick and lost one of the children in mystomach. The city, well theprovince of Quebec, decided that it would biodegrade insidemy stomach so theyweren’t going to take it out and that really didn’t makeme feel comfortable and asthe days passed on I knew that I would have a very hard timetaking care of a child,so I moved back to Vancouver for a period of a monthand gave my child awayfiguring that it wasn’t ready to come in into this world,but it was still ... the childthe two children that were inside my stomach were agreat significance in my life aswell, cause they were there, they were alive. Also, Edwardtook care of me whenI couldn’t take care of myself, didn’t ask for anything in return,he didn’t do anythingthat I didn’t want him to do. And we shared a lot of life togetherand that’s why hewas a significant person in my life (p.8, transcript1).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 adifferent reality from the reality they live in — it’s kind of like a fake happiness tillthey can find their happiness — if they ever find their happiness (p.2, transcript3).In her travels Etah encounters an enormous amount of drug abuse and has herselfused many drugs“when I was younger.” Upon returning from her last trip to the United States (early June,1993) sheheard that three people she knew had died of heroin overdoses and five other friends had seriouslyoverdosed. Death and dying, from drug overdose, suicide, violence and abuserelated causes, areno stranger to Etah. She laments that her friend was “really sad and really angry” and relates hisexperience to many others on the street who don’t know where to direct their rage. Etah’s commenton 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 entirehuman 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 theworld 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 thisplanet (p.14, transcript 2).66It is very likely that Etah is in the early stages of mourning forthe people whom she calls her “streetfamily.” And it is also likely that a similar scenario is too familiarto Aboriginal people, far abovethe average of any other ethnic group, in Canada.The massive assaults on the dignity of Street youth in general, and Aboriginal street youth inparticular, are but the precursors to the inevitable magnetic force of the drug addiction and suicidalbehaviour on the street alluded to in Etah’s story. Etah relates examples of how she is ridiculedfortrying to sing for money on the streets, where catching a ride is takento mean you are willing to sellyourself, 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 middleof theGolden Gate Bridge, being denied a place to sleep (in a squat), or being laughed at for trying tomake 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 rideacross [the bridge] because I wouldn’t give him a blow job ... ‘This is the UnitedStates girl, you’re going to have to suck me off before you get money out of mypockets’ (p.3, transcript 3).is the reply to almost any attempt to satisfy street youth needs for survival in some legitimatemanner. “They just can be so fake, lustful and greedy, they just turn into these little bugs,” she statesabout her tormentors.Prostitution, although Etah thought about it once and it still plays a part in her life in that sheknows many people who are working in the industry, does not hold the attraction for her that it doesfor others. She is “not materialistic” and she sees through the promises of love and protection. Toresist prostitution in a lifestyle where hooking is one ready means of survival — on a continentwhere the society is predatory towards young beautiful Aboriginal females — is a sign of mostadmirable courage. Etah evokes a sense of extreme sadness when she talks about the souldeadening effects of prostitution on the women and men she knows who are involved in the sex67industry. She describes her work in watching out for little girls,of taking them under her wing(backto her squat), with determination.basically [they were] asking me to be an apprentice pimp.I was really pissed offand basically I kept an eye on him to make sure he wasn’tdoing this. But you can’tkeep an eye on every single person on the street and heended up doing it. I endedup sheltering little girls that ran away from him....(p.1, transcript 3).She says that she has been exploited “only” in that at times shehas panhandled for someone, “whenI 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 thatshe landed in jail in Louisiana for vagrancy for a couple of weeks. And she describes being beatenby the cops and being protected by a Street worker, however, she does notrefer to on going criminalactivity or charges.Extended street family and a sense of “home” on the street is everything to Etah. “I guess astreet family is about the most loved family I think a person can havebecause there is understandingand there is friendship.” She names sisters, brothers, a daughter, street workers, an olderstreet(Aboriginal male) person, and her dog among her extended street family. About extended familyand street culture surrounding “the family” on the street, she says:I’ve never really even known them very well [her biological family] ... When I goton the street I met people that I would consider family because they were more ofmy family than the family that I ever had (and they were real). They were somebodythat I could depend on (although I didn’t) ... somebody that I could understandsomebody that could understand me, somebody that could depend on me. Wepretty 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 thatwe do, we do together. And this is kind of like a family — the kind of family thatnone of us have ever really had. They’re people that I pretty much know that I amgoing to know for the rest of my life and I would consider them more of my familythan any other family that I ever had so, in that way, I call them my sister and mybrother. I also have a daughter who got on the street when she was really reallyyoung — too young to take care of herself and a young girl brought her down hereshe didn’t know me very well but she knew that I’d squatted and she asked meif I could take of her [the little girl]. I accepted the responsibility and I’ve had theresponsibility for a year and a half now — taking care of her — making sure that sheknows how to survive, live on the street. She basically calls me mom. I basicallycall her my daughter ... because she met me before I knew her, she used to watchme skate when she was really young (p.7, transcript1).68Etah is philosophically simultaneously attached to and detached from herstreet family,probably because she’s never sure if she’ll see them again and this is an extensionof her cautiousattitude. “I never really say goodbye — just see you later — cannot really say forever,cannot reallysay 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 tocommitsuicide a lot. I found the good ways to die and the bad ways to die and now suicideto me just seems like an easy way out — giving up to what I’ve been fightingall mylife — [I’m] trying to succeed in a life not death. You know if I die [this way]in thislife, what am I going to do in the next? Or I mean if I die what good am I? Whatgood 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 unknownbut those things I pretty much learned. I don’t fear violence anymore ... pretty muchdriven off the unknown. I do it cautiously. I don’t have much fear, but I haveparanoia and as I kept saying — ‘paranoia will destroy you, but until then it willkeep you safe.’ I see a lot of other people that are really scared around me (p.1,transcript 3).RacismI see a lot of racism against Natives but nobody is really racist against me [amongfriends on the street] unless I tell them that I am Native (p.4, transcript2). Iexperience a lot of racism ... Yeah, it includes a lot of violence (p.12, transcript2).The two above, seemingly paradoxical, statements from Etah’s interview are the parameterswith which she relates a mixture of rage at the overt racism she experiences, awareness of theignorance in mainstream intolerance for difference, a partial recognition of the dynamics ofinternalized racism in oppressed people, and a mature outlook on making a difference with opencommunication. What she is saying is that she must hide her Aboriginal background or suffer theconsequences. Etah, however, being who she is does not have the luxury of self denial and henceavoidance of violent episodes is difficult. “When I see racism on the street I feel so much hatredand I usually end up confronting them on it and most likely violent things happen. How do I copewith it? That’s how I cope with it.”69Etah describes a street world, at least the terrain that she chooses to occupy, where racistNazi youth are ever present. Skinheads and punks do not get along very well(as Joanne will latertell us). In Vancouver the Granville strip is shared by the two opposing forces. Etah describes manyconfrontations when she has to stand up for herself against White supremacist youth groups. Buteven some close non-Aboriginal friends with whom she travels, upon discovery thatshe isAboriginal, 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. Forinstance, there’s groups that come out from suburban places and come downtownand promote their hatred and go around and point people out and beat them up forno reason. It’s just a game, it kind of intimidates and maybe that person [Aboriginalstreet youth] will turn into a Nazi. Because if you can’t beat them you might as welljoin them (p.2, transcript 2).The intimidation and resignation (and joining the White power groups) expressed in theabove passage actually happened to Etah herself. She describes the shame she now feels when shegoes to certain squats in Vancouver and she is faced with racist writings on the walls which sheauthored at the age of twelve.It’s just that my brother was White power — he was half Indian so it already madesense to me too. So I was shameful about that, when I was twelve, I was promotinghatred in very small ways like saying I was ‘White power’... one of the squats thatI 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 otherAboriginal street youth in our case studies corroborate the recruitment of Aboriginal youth intoWhite power groups. Membership in these racist youth groups demands the denial of Aboriginalheritage 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 somepopped 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 wereNative....(p.3, transcript 2).Then there are those Aboriginal youth that cannot be mistaken for any other ethnic.70I have a friend named Rick who is Native-Indian and I guessafter dealing with thisnumerous times plus everything else, he just becameso angry that he just beat upeverybody around him and now he is in jail(which would be good for him becausehe was drinking a lot during that time) (p.6, transcript2).The victimization and criminalization of Aboriginal youth, whenthey try to defendthemselves or they explode past the boundaries of toleranceas a result of racist assaults, is the 1 980sand 1 990s version of the removal of Aboriginal childrenand youth from their place in the Aboriginalcommunity. The Criminal Justice Inquiries in Manitoba(1991) and Saskatchewan (1992) remind usthat racism in the schools and on the street are complementedby the racism embedded in thecriminal justice system. Criminalization and delinquentization of Aboriginalyouth is a systematicform of cultural genocide in Canada. It is difficult to imagine how anobviously Aboriginal childwould escape racist victimization in the public schoolsystem. Fisher and Echols (1989) corroboratethat racism in Vancouver schools is rampant and that multicultural solutionsdo not work. It isequally difficult to imagine an Aboriginal child who would passivelyaccept, that is without rage orhopeless resignation, this racial harassment, except those who can hidetheir identity (an equallydestructive psychological coping mechanism). It is, therefore, understandablethat in some regionsof Canada 7 out of 10 Aboriginal male youth between the ages of 12and 17 will be incarceratedat least once before they are 20.This type of institutionalization(which inevitably leads into involvement with the childwelfare and criminal justice system) is the equivalentof residential schooling and the 1960s scoopby ministries of social service. The public school remains the numberone breeding ground for earlyracist attacks on Aboriginal children. Etah recalls verbal abuse and injusticeto both herself and hersister.I got verbal abuse in a lot of ways and a lot of manipulating ways. I got asked if Ineeded a psychiatrist because a little boy ripped up my shoes and pissed on themand I went to school the next day in barefeet because I didn’t haveany shoes andbecause my mother didn’t have enough money to buy me any shoes ... and therewas no justice for that but I got told I was mentally disabled andthe principal wasgoing to help me with this everyday after school with talks. There wasanother timewhere a class was laughing and I got picked upby my hair and dragged across the71room because I was laughing .... My sister got slappedacross the face for notreading the right words and giggling about it. Just basically unjust... (p.11, transcript3).The usual response was to blame the victim. Etah punctuatesher stories with “and nothingwas done about that.” Etah ends the dialogue on educationby being thankful for the littleknowledge that she has been able to use. However, she says, “But what I hadto go through to getit ... I’m really pissed off about that.”Etah talks about the racism in Quebec where she experienced racism for being an Englishspeaker.I was living in Montreal for a period of two years and I was also living in Val d’Orand because I spoke English I got a lot of racism ... a lot of stores upped their priceson me ... and a lot of neighbours used to throw things at me and curse at me inFrench. Edward wouldn’t let me go outside because he thought that I would get beatup or raped because I was English and later on that day I heard that somebody gotburnt alive because they were English (p.15, transcript 2),Then she goes on to describe violent racist incidents against Black people, “... they got movedoutbecause they were black.” “Les cristes d’anglais.”In comparing the United States and Canada, Etah relates, “You get a lot more racism causepeople 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” andit 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 thesethings 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 onthemselves, maybe they might start drinking because of it (p.4, transcript2). I thinka lot of Native-Indians ... when they do drink too much ... they drink because we arehuman garbage cans to society, and there is a lot of stress, and a lot of nonunderstanding, 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 understandthem (p.6, transcript 2).An incident at the very onset of the interview — an old man walked by the interviewer andEtah and remarked that they should “go get their cheque” — disturbed the interviewer a great deal.72Yet Etah calmly indicated this happened to her “a couple times a day.” She replies to thequestion“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 nowit does not affect me too much. Because I can see that he doesn’t really understandme or understand where I am coming from. What I think he meant by saying thatwas basically that I should go and get a welfare cheque, clean up myact and get ajob, 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, upto standards with who he is.Because I am who I am, I am a disgrace to him. It doesn’t make that muchof a bigimpression on me, as it would have done a long time ago, becauseI like who I amand I have clothes, I have food, I have shelter. I can walk my groundin a lot ofways that he couldn’t. A long time ago I would have probably spit onhim andstarted cursing at him but not now I just ignore him ... in the same wayhe ignoresme (p.1, transcript 1).Etah has joined and participated in anti-racism groups and demonstrations.She has a clearperspective that “Racism seems like pure ignorance and fear,” and has become a vocal activist. Herwisdom and critical knowledge allow her to transcend the daily assaults to her psyche(because sheis Aboriginal and a street person).Culture and identityI’m very proud to be an Aboriginal person, because that’s basically who I am. I’mproud of who I am. I am a Native woman (p.4, transcript3).“I mean Aboriginal culture has to do with the life in you.Just a whole world into itself,” Etahastutely surmises, as she refutes her paternal uncle’s statement that tobe Indian one must practicethe culture.There is something my uncle said, you know, ‘You are not a true Indian unlessyouare Indian.’ Like you follow the culture then you are an Indian. Even a Whiteperson can do that. To be an Indian, you have to be a true Indian. It’s not a statusthing, it’s not a piece of paper, it’s a spiritual thing, an emotional thing, a mentalthing, a physical thing (p.7, transcript3).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 guessyes. A lot of things that I was told about some of the medicines that the Aboriginalpeople use in some ways are respected because of my great grandfather. I’ve heardof his ways, sometimes I’ll use some of his ways and sometimes I’ll use some of myown. But if I’m in his house then I’ll use his [way] out of respect of him. [What didyou do when you were at home?] Well, I at home so I guessso. [Would you73practice 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 tosummerdances, I’ve gone to a lot of them, a lot of gatherings (p.4, transcript3).Etah demands to assert her Aboriginal identity in her own way and she isconfident that sheknows 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 shegotmarried to a trucker who is White and they had another child. I believed that hewas my father. I didn’t know that I was Indian and he lied to me, my mother liedto 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 cordof his hair that was really sacred but was just thrown into the garbage as if it wasgarbage. There is a necklace that my mom seemingly held on to, for some oddreason, to give to me. There is necklaces, there is jewellery(of the Indian art), thereis feathers, there is beads and they were all thrown out or pawned out. And the onlytime that I actually knew that I was actually Native-Indian was when my father cameto visit me one day. They just couldn’t keep it back any longer because I lookedkind of different from the rest of them .... I was uncomfortable and I was reallypissed off because I was uncomfortable and because I shouldn’t be made to feeluncomfortable around my natural born family. I was really pissed off at those peoplethat lied to me (p.14, transcript3).In the interview it became evident that Etah continues to feel the loss of the opportunity of culturalexposure 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 thefact that her mother did not practice any Aboriginal culture. “She distanced me in a lot of ways, shewouldn’t get in the Aboriginal things but would try to push me into it ....“ Yet Etah, in fact, exhibitsmany of the core characteristics of Aboriginal values. For instance, she talks about respect for theland, “nobody owns anything,” spiritual inclinations of Aboriginal people, love of nature, and respectfor elders as tangible values that are missing in mainstream Canadian society. Etah also reveals acomfortable sophistication, in knowing not readily known intricacies of deeply cultural knowledgeand behaviour, in simply stating “I’ll go to a sweat ceremony, if it’s there, but I don’t go too oftenbecause you have to be ready to go to one.” Only a person who has an authentic connection withthe values and intent of the sweat ceremony would show the respect and understanding reflected74in Etah’s simple statement. Etah also expresses the need for Aboriginal street youth to haveaccessto their history and culture in city schools.Going to school, we need a little bit more on Aboriginal street youth and I mean thisis a bilingual country, right? It’s between French and English, and Aboriginal doesn’tcome in anywhere in there. I mean a little bit of the knowledge of who they are andwhere their places are .... So I think they need to talk a little bit more about theAboriginal culture (p.7, transcript 3).A strong Aboriginal identity would be hard to maintain with the daily reminders of Aboriginalconditions in the city, at least those available to Etah. She has not met any Aboriginal street workersin her travels.I see a lot of Natives on Hastings Street, usually drunk or using heroin. Up on theGranville Mall I don’t usually see very many Native street youth. I see theoccasional straight youth down there, males occasionally. Females I see a lot moreoften, they usually work in the street prostituting. I run into a lot of Métis, a lot ofhalf 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 alsoacknowledges the effects of internalized racism reflected in her past.I can picture a lot of Aboriginal people disliking being Indian in school. Just becausewhen I was younger I looked Indian, I felt disliked, you know. People used to askme if I was Italian or Chinese. I was never really Native and Natives just seemedrather distant to the rest of the world, not really there at all. It depends on whatculture they follow. If they try to be like every other person in the world then youknow for sure (not liking to be Indians) (p.5, transcript3).It is evident that Etah is at times confused about her identity and culture. She has had littleexposure 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, andthrough personal memory and discovery, she has remained true to her Aboriginal persona. In asense she takes that part of herself for granted. “A lot of people on the reserve just forget it, I’m justlike 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 onething that another school said, they said I could be anybody and I kind of wonderedwhy they had a problem with me being me ... What’s the problem with just beingme (p.11, transcript 3).75SocietyI just want to say that society just thrives off of stealing goodness out of thingsI can’t even understand it because they are so blind (p.4, transcript3).Throughout the interview sessions Etah was entirely coherent and consistent with her critiqueof western societal values. “Everyone is so lonely,” she laments. She vehemently rejects mainstreamconsumer madness: the sexual predatory male culture; the spiritual emptiness driven by the concreteenvironment and the “9 to 5” machine-like behaviour expressive of consummate greed; and aboveall of the school function of enforced socialization into this culture. She expresses sadness andshame 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 reallyneed, the desire of need and it’s not even a need for materialistic things. It’s a needfor the mental, because we’re basically deprived of life. We just live in our cagesday to day. The sadness that I see on the streets with every single child that comesto the streets alone, trying to keep the happiness — just trying to get through anotherday of chemical waste, wasting another day instead of actually going out and tryingto learn something and it takes him a long time before they actually come to thatconclusion 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 showsin the statement:The people I do talk to about it — it won’t be a parent, it won’t be a priest, it won’tbe a teacher, won’t be social workers — won’t be a priest (I just wanted to make thatclear) (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 usebecause 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 believesthat the compulsively structured work requirement in society is “the government’s” way ofcontrolling people. It is deadening spiritually. It is little wonder why Etah refuses educational andemployment counselling. She profoundly disagrees with the ideological foundations of both. Sheinstead would like a system of trading “something for something.”76It doesn’t seem right, you work, and work, and work, and then you pay taxes, andmore taxes, not doing anything that I like to do. Working 9 to 5 not really doinganything except for being a machine to society (p.1, transcript2).Etah is self-taught. She goes to libraries and is knowledgeable about current societal andenvironmental issues. Would she consider going back to school? Etahreplies that, “Educationalservices, I don’t use because I can usually go to the library and educate myself a lot more thanaschool can probably educate me.” Her answer shows how irrelevant curriculum appears to thosechildren 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 differentschools, repeated the same grades. I did correspondence but it didn’t work out. Iwas really pissed off ... I was sick of being taught like a machine, I was treated likeshit. They didn’t have anything to teach me except for a conservative world and aconservative 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 andespecially, “How to fight the law.” Preferably this education ought to be done by Aboriginal peoplewith street experience.Etah is almost arrogant as she answers the question: How would you prevent more Aboriginalyouth 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 thatstreet youth are bad, it’s not the street youth. What I do think is bad is the levelsbetween the rich, the working class, the conservatives and the poor .... What I can’tget is something in the mind, and I can get a lot more of that than any other richperson that has money to thrive off in their destitution [of spirit], but they swimaround. 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, andthat they need something, and it’s true that they do need something, but I don’t thinkthat they’re going to get it from food, I don’t think that they’re going to get fromclothing, and I don’t think that they’re going to get from shelter. There’s a possibilitythat they might get it from the culture of the Aboriginal people or the understandingof themselves in the world around them. But I don’t think that there is a problemwith street youth. I think that a lot of people look at them and want them off thestreet so that they don’t have to deal with them daily, so that they don’t have to walkdown the Street and see them, so that they don’t have to go on the buses and smellthem, or they don’t have to look at them. If they don’t have to feel their guilt withit 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 liveoff their scraps of things that they don’t eat, the things that they don’t wear, the77things that they don’t need, the things that they throw out. I thinkthat those are thepeople that don’t want the people on the streets. I think that a lot of people thatareon the streets just live and if they want to get off the streets, thenthey’ll get off thestreets. 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 thattheyshouldn’t have to comply with being made invisible just to satisfy middle-class guilt. She wantstheproblem, beginning with Canadian societal values, to be solved instead of applying the band aid ofmore government services.Etah consistently, as do most of the youth in this study, refused to (even indirectly throughus) advise or communicate with “the government.” She indicated that she didn’t want to discussanything about government people, and that she didn’t really believe that they would or could doanything to relieve conditions on the street. At one point Etah, quite simply says that she wouldonly 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 andends 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 thisplanet because I get what I need when I want it (p.8 transcript3).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, “nobuildings, 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. Ithought it was my own loneliness but I came to the conclusion that everyone wastoo scared to actually get together and do things ... but I don’t feel lonely anymoreI’ve got the trees and I’ve got animals that I can talk to and that’s a lot better thingthan to talk to a human being (p.15, transcript 2). But the idea that I have a spiritualconnection with the trees and the animals and it’s really depressing that I have totravel 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 specificallyto Denman Island where her soul is free.78Etah is a complex young woman: who on the one hand is a hardened street person and onthe other is a brilliant critic of a society whose values she refuses to comply with; who cynicallychooses a pseudonym that spells the word HATE backwards(she insisted on the spelling), and yetultimately exhibits the unmistakable spirit of a sensitive nature loving writer inthe bud. Immediatesurvival of the body, soul and psyche are always at the forefrontof priorities for street youth.Aboriginal street youth like Etah must face the “normal” challenges of survival on the streetas wellas the barriers of racism and cultural starvation. It is no wonder that planning turns only to moredisappointment 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 intosomething that hasn’t happened yet. I can only work with day by day basis, like youknow, if I want a better world, I have to be a better person and I’m doing that rightnow as I live for a day to day lifestyle ... experiencing and being aware of thingsaround me. In the future I would hope that I would be living where there is nosociety, where there is no government, where I could just be with the land and liveoff 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 whorepeats 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, andconsiderable poetic abilities, Etah is a potential asset to her street family as an advocate and streetworker. It appears, however, that Etah will someday migrate permanently to her beloved islandssomewhere off the coast of British Columbia — to live as a reclusive artist. In the meantime, theimmediate is pressing on her mind, “Right now I have a home whereverI go.” The idealism fadeswith,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 thatlives there. I’ve got a lot of sentimental value in that place. I don’t get to [give] anyconsent, they’re just going to put a big bulldozer through my front door (p.10,transcript 3).79KARENThe reason why I ain’t on the streets no more is because I found out for myselfthatI have people at home that care for me and love me and don’t want to see megethurt. So, I decided to stay home (p.1, transcript1).Karen is a fifteen year old non-status young woman of Nis’ga/Haisla heritage, who has beenon the street for two years. She is a person who spends most of her time on the streets, she spendsshort periods of time at home and then returns to the street. Karen’s last jaunt onto the street lastedthree 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 probablethat she will go back to the streets as soon as she is no longer in danger of beingcaught and broughtback to parental custody. The interviewer explained the process and Karen took a couple of daysto 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 wearingreasonably clean jeans and a plain sweat shirt. Her mother told us that five out of her ten kids sufferfrom 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 andintrospective, she fidgeted and seemed very uncomfortable. Her mother relates that somethingprofound has happened to Karen that she is not disclosing.[Mother’s statement] Two months ago Karen disappeared for three weeks. No onesaw her. Adolescent Street Unit hadn’t seen her for weeks, either ... not sure butsomething happened to her because Karen doesn’t want to go to Granville streetanymore. She ran for a while and then finally came home after that ... someone triedto ‘suck’ Karen into prostitution or did some trick because she was picked up drunkand put into detox (p.1, parent transcript).Since she has been home she has been very withdrawn and scared. She is a possible survivor ofgang-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 andthe interview began. Karen is extremely nervous and had a difficult time answeringthe open endedquestions, at first she simply answered yes or no. She is definitely a person of few words. Karen80asked for breaks frequently, and a half hour into the interview, she asked if the interview could becontinued on another day. Even then Karen said it was difficult for her to talk because she is a quietperson and “doesn’t like to tell really personal things to people she doesn’t know.”The finalinterview was done at the interviewer’s house. Karen was tired and depressed, she tried very hardto complete the process.HistoryI tried to get some attention from my own mom, my brothers, some of my unclesand my sisters. I tried to get enough attention from them, but t