Housing for the indigenous people of the US and Canada has been an instrument of colonization since the governments of these two countries decided to assimilate the indigenous people and strip them of their culture. It has, and continues to be, something that limits educational, economic and cultural advancement. This studio will explore all of the ways housing for indigenous people has fostered colonization and propose a means of dismantling that colonization. This means not only looking at the housing unit, but beyond it and how housing can be aggregated in a non-colonial manner. Things like property lines, and building codes are tools of colonization – They are also irrelevant on sovereign indigenous land. They are intended to make indigenous people “like everyone else.” It is not to say that we would abandon things like life safety, it is to say we would look at the issue of life safety through an indigenous lens where the benefit to the whole is as important as an individual freedom.
This studio will focus on a specific indigenous community: The Opaskwyak Cree Nation (OCN) in The Pas, Manitoba Canada. They currently have tribal leadership that is amenable to looking at housing in a new manner and currently have a house (One House Many Nations) made by the Idle No More group. Our studio will engage these tribal leaders and community activists. The students will do a cursory documentation of current housing conditions and types. The studio will also conduct community design charrettes, de-colonizing them so that the community is empowered and doesn’t feel like there are a group of “outside” experts helicoptering in to experiment on the community.
The work of the studio is intended to extend a thread of indigenous research that is examined through economic and social science perspectives, but not through the design disciplines.
The studio will examine the context through mapping, but trying to decolonize this activity. Mapping has often been one of the first ways territories have been colonized. We can use representation to dismantle the apparatus of colonization and ask; what are we mapping? Who are we mapping for? And how do we use it as designers?
We will examine the Indigenous relationship to land and question the traditional architectural view of “site.” Has the colonial ideal of property ownership left others behind? And can we re-define this for Indigenous people who are sovereign bodies on their own lands.
We will examine the policies, standards and organizations that have complicated housing for Indigenous people. The studio will identify the obstacles that have perpetuated the colonial apparatus that housing for Indigenous people have presented.
Indigenous knowledge and lifeways are rooted in reciprocity. We exist in a world where all living things matter and we ought to co-exist as if we are related in a familial manner. The studio will look for places of reciprocity. That might be in housing fabrication, delivery, maintenance and issues of sustainability.
We are on Indigenous land. We will look at how the notion of “Land Back” within Indigenous activism can be expanded, amplified, and augmented as it relates to housing.
Housing is a human right and we will be guided by that truism.