Indians Wear Red

Colonialism, Resistance, and Aboriginal Street Gangs

By Elizabeth Comack, Lawrence Deane, Larry Morrissette and Jim Silver  

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With the advent of Aboriginal street gangs such as Indian Posse, Manitoba Warriors, and Native Syndicate, Winnipeg garnered a reputation as the “gang capital of Canada.” Yet beyond the stereotypes of outsiders, little is known about these street gangs and the factors and conditions that have produced them. “Indians Wear Red” locates Aboriginal street gangs in the context of the racialized poverty that has become entrenched in the colonized space of Winnipeg’s North End. Drawing upon extensive interviews with Aboriginal street gang members as well as with Aboriginal women and elders, the authors develop an understanding from “inside” the inner city and through the voices of Aboriginal people — especially street gang members themselves.

While economic restructuring and neo-liberal state responses can account for the global proliferation of street gangs, the authors argue that colonialism is a crucial factor in the Canadian context, particularly in western Canadian urban centres. Young Aboriginal people have resisted their social and economic exclusion by acting collectively as “Indians.” But just as colonialism is destructive, so too are street gang activities, including the illegal trade in drugs. Solutions lie not in “quick fixes” or “getting tough on crime” but in decolonization: re-connecting Aboriginal people with their cultures and building communities in which they can safely live and work.

  • Winner, Alexander Kennedy Isbister Award for Non-Fiction (Manitoba Book Award) (2014)

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  • Introduction
  • Poverty, Street Gangs, and Colonialism
  • The Trauma Trails of Colonialism
  • The Trouble with Normal: The Growth and Culture of Aboriginal Street Gangs
  • “It’s Like a Business, Man”: Aboriginal Street Gangs and the Illegal Drug Business
  • What Can Be Done? Decolonizing People and Spaces
  • References
  • Index


  • Elizabeth Comack

    University of Manitoba

    Elizabeth Comack is a professor of Sociology at the University of Manitoba. Over the past three decades she has written and conducted research on a variety of social justice topics. Her most recent book is Racialized Policing: Aboriginal People’s Encounters with the Police (Fernwood 2012). Elizabeth’s current research projects stem from her involvement in the Manitoba Research Alliance’s SSHRC Partnership project, “Partnering for Change: Community-Based Solutions for Aboriginal and Inner-City Poverty.” Elizabeth leads the Justice, Safety, and Security stream of the project.

  • Lawrence Deane

    University of Manitoba

    Lawrence Deane is an associate professor in the Faculty of Social Work at the University of Manitoba, where he teaches in the Inner City Social Work Program. Lawrie has worked in community development for over twenty years, first in India, then in Winnipeg’s inner city, and more recently in China. He is the author of Under One Roof: Community Economic Development and Housing in the Inner City

    (Fernwood 2006).

  • Larry Morrissette

    Larry Morrissette is the executive director of Ogijiita Pimatiswin Kinamatwin (OPK), an organization that works with Aboriginal street gang members. He also teaches in the Inner-City Social Work Program at the University of Manitoba and the Department of Urban and Inner-City Studies at the University of Winnipeg.

  • Jim Silver

    University of Winnipeg

    Jim Silver is a professor and chair of the Department of Urban and Inner-City Studies at the University of Winnipeg. His research interests are in inner-city, poverty-related, and community development issues. His most recent book is Moving Forward, Giving Back: Transformative Aboriginal Adult Education

    (Fernwood 2013). Jim is a member of the Manitoba Research Alliance and the leader of the Housing and Neighbourhood Revitalization stream of its SSHRC Partnership project, “Partnering for Change: Community-Based Solutions for Aboriginal and Inner-City Poverty.”