Squamish Nation not squeamish on blending indigeneity and urban design

Clunky title, but this story on the re-development of one of Canada’s smallest First Nations reserves mixes boldness with vision for Vancouver that is easy to romanticize but more nearly resembles a living model for cities going forward.

Few First Nations reserves in Canada are found so centrally in urban areas, and this unique location has given the Squamish Nation a chance to explode local city-building norms. Construction begins in 2021, and at more than 500 units per acre, Senakw’s density will reach Hong Kong levels – a fact that is only allowed because Senakw exists not on city land, but on reserve land, which is technically federal.

Another striking feature is that only 10% of apartments will include parking, unlike the city’s rules that mandate one parking space per unit. The buildings will also forgo the podium-and-tower design that’s become a hallmark of “Vancouverism” in favour of slender high-rises maximising public space. The buildings could be up to 56 storeys tall, towering above the low-rise neighbourhoods nearby.

But beyond even the serious density considerations, there is the language slight of hand that gets at something far more pernicious:

“In the early history of Vancouver, and colonial cities generally, there is this opposition assumed between the civilization cities are imagined to represent, and the imagined savageness of Indigenous people,” [Stanger-Ross] says. 

The ways that the terms ‘urban areas’, ‘cities’, and even abstractions like ‘density’ have been co-opted as code words for racist politicking is maybe coming full-circle. Hopeful, I know. But good work, First Nations folk. Right racists depend on decent people being too nice, too squeamish, plus the ever-present lack of temerity to call out, punch back, or in this case, build up. Re-take the words, then re-make the savage cities with civilizing force of architecture.

Hating their odds

I read earlier this week about how Republicans realize this is likely the last election that they will be able to win with a full-court press for the bigot vote, which is so encouraging and why they are rolling out all the code words on the way to ni-clang! The whole spectacle is horrible and embarrassing, even for people with no shame and nothing left but their resentments to shake at all the rest of us.

And if you want to see a demonstration of why the so-called ‘politics of race’ are so difficult for them, look no further:

“The demographics race we’re losing badly,” said Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (S.C.). “We’re not generating enough angry white guys to stay in business for the long term.”

Actually, that’s just stupid, run-of-the-mill idiocy (from a sitting senator, no less). But from the same article:

Many Republicans, however, worry about making overt racial appeals to minorities.

“Amongst politicians, amongst people who cover politics, there’s an overwhelming tendency to silo voters,” said Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker at a breakfast hosted by The Post and Bloomberg News. “As Republicans, we take on a huge risk if we try to appeal to voters .?.?. within a mind-set of silos instead of making direct appeals on the issues that they’re actually talking about in their household — not necessarily in their category, but in their household.”

Look, I’ll type slowly, because here’s what I guess they don’t get. They think that Democrats must be making overt appeals to race and so that’s what they must do – but they don’t want to. 1) You already are. 2) You shouldn’t do this any way and it’s not what Democrats are actually doing – you just see it that way because you insist on seeing anything that helps anyone else as a threat to you and yours. You must get over this part, though it will effectively destroy what’s left of a dying party, which you are slowly beginning to recognize (it seems, though this is not inevitable). We (the future America) are moving beyond race and thinking about the country as a whole – its problems remain serious and difficult. But continuing to think you need to address distinct racial groups in it is the path to oblivion. It is indeed difficult to be hopeful about this situation for Republicans – precisely because of the power of resentment and victimization, division and fear, on which their whole enterprise is predicated. As long as they continue to traffic in these currencies, elections and voting can only be seen by them as a threat. They are cornered and this one will be nasty. I take no solace in their long term prospects because of the damage they seem willing to inflict in the near present.

But their fundamental misunderstanding of the situation is the key to their predicament. Unfortunately for us all, the only thing they appear capable of is doubling down.