UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

When states design : making space on native reserves Subedar, Mary


Canada's reserve system lias reconfigured Aboriginal life in terms dictated by the state. This has been particularly true of reserve architecture. It has flattened Aboriginal architectures into a single repetitive form and lias permanently altered the context and nature of Aboriginal life. This thesis examines only a few reserves in Manitoba, but they are broadly representative of all others in the province and. indeed, across the country. It comprises three essays about the physical properties of reserves and their modern systems of production. The first describes the tangible physical human landscapes of reserves: the buildings, their arrangements in space, the patterns of circulation that connect them and the land uses tlial surround them. It reveals isolated and strangled settlement patterns, severed from the context that would ensure their sustenance, and at more intimate scales, random layouts of ready-made foreign forms. Although these problems have been widely acknowledged, they continue to be replicated. Another essay records a state driven design process for a new reserve. The process is restricted by the provincial government's control of resources, by the federal Department of Indian and Northern Affair's bureaucratic methods, by profit-seeking consultants, and by the status of Aboriginal people as wards of the state. Together these factors subordinate the interests of Aboriginal communities. A third essay discusses the transformation of reserve house production from a process of local creation to government provision. Aboriginal people, now with substantial borrowing power, are consumers of large-scale government housing schemes that serve a growing industry of building product and service providers. The trend promotes an architecture that is dependent on outside knowledge, drives many communities into debt, and forfeits the empowering capacity of local building traditions. These essays describe a system of reserve production that Aboriginal people neither own nor control, is inordinately expensive, and solves virtually none of the problems of reserve life. Yet without options, most Aboriginal people comply. Government bureaucrats adhere to illogical planning guidelines. Consultants market inappropriate design and technology to communities facing few alternatives, and the provinces control resource access, denying reserves an economic base. The system results in a familiar pattern of subversive reserve space.

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