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4036 - Connecting Urban and Aboriginal histories: Methodological Considerations For an urban Aboriginal history in Quebec

«Land» and «Place» are important concepts that have framed Aboriginal societies and identities around the world. These concepts are being challenged with the steady increase of Aboriginal people living in cities ultimately forcing a re-conceptualization of what constitute land, place and identity. In Canada, according to the 2006 census, 54% of Aboriginal people live in metropolitan centers. This growing phenomenon has pushed researchers and government policy makers to make certain assumptions especially around the incompatibility of urban culture and Aboriginal cultures. The move to the city is perceived by some as a break from the reserve/rural area, as an identity loss. Of course, the reality is far more complex. According to Evelyn Peters, « moving to cities poses a challenge to Aboriginal cultural identities [but] it also presents an opportunity for dynamic and resilient innovations ». With the assumption of an identity loss comes the idea that Aboriginal people have no ties to the history of a city. By focusing mainly on Quebec – but also by using examples from other parts of Canada as well as other parts of the world --, I will demonstrate how one can overcome these assumptions. Instead of being a dearth of information, the city becomes a methodological ground where different histories (social, cultural, environmental, political) meet bringing to the fore a very different reality. Like New York, Chicago or Seattle, the cities of Quebec have Aboriginal histories of their own. By proposing to reorient the focus, we are placing Native histories at the center of a city’s story.

Keywords: Urban, Aboriginal, history, memory, methodology

Author: Kermoal, Nathalie (University of Alberta, Canada / Kanada)

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