‘Our home, our way of life’: spiritual homelessness and the sociocultural dimensions of Indigenous homelessness in the Northwest Territories (NWT), Canada

In this article, I examine the sociocultural dimensions of Indigenous home and homelessness through a case study of increasing visible homelessness in two northern Canadian communities. Drawing on five years of ethnographic research on Indigenous homelessness in Yellowknife and Inuvik, two regional centres in the Northwest Territories (NWT), Canada, I suggest that Indigenous experiences of homelessness are at once collective and immediate. In particular, I draw on the concept of ‘spiritual homelessness’ (Keys Young 1998) to examine the multiple scales of homelessness experienced among northern Indigenous people. Research participants highlight several key elements of rapid sociocultural change that have an enduring impact on a collective sense of home and belonging, and play integral roles in shaping the experiences of homeless Indigenous people. Social and material exclusion, breakdowns in family and community, detachment from cultural identity, intergenerational trauma and institutionalisation are all woven throughout the personal narratives of homelessness articulated by research participants. I argue that the alleviation of Indigenous homelessness in the NWT depends on a decolonising agenda that specifically addresses contemporary colonial geographies and their expressions in the key institutions in Indigenous peoples' lives.

Publication Date: 
Published online: 30 Jul 2013
Journal Name: 
Social & Cultural Geography
Northwest Territories, Canada