restricted access Four: Unsettling Immersions for Settlers
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130 four | Unsettling Immersions for Settlers In the final week prior to the official opening of the Canadian Museum for Human Rights—­ a colossal $351-­ million building enveloped in glass and situated in the historic Forks district of Winnipeg, the capital city of Manitoba , Canada—­ members and allies of the Shoal Lake 40 First Nation stand next to a comparatively diminutive teepee. They hand out brochures for their “living museum,” wryly called the Museum of Canadian Human Rights Violations. The brochures attempt to attract visitors in language that mimics the Canadian Museum for Human Right’s promise of an immersive and interactive encounter with human rights: “NOW! 100 years in the making,” the brochure declares, “Shoal Lake #40 First Nation is pleased to announce the grand opening of the Museum of Canadian Human Rights Violations.”1 The inside pages list the range of violations to be seen and experienced firsthand: “See Rights Denied,” “Real Dislocation from Ancestral Homelands!,” Genuine Economic Deprivation,” “Meet real people struggling to survive with little hope of development in a severely restricted designated area,” LOADS OF INADEQUATE SHELTER AND SERVICES!,; “Experience! Actual Restrictions of Your Own Freedom of movement!,” “RISK YOUR LIFE ACCESSING THE MUSEUM,” “BE REFUSED CLEAN DRINKING WATER,” “GENUINE UNCLEAN WATER AVAILABLE.” The MCHRV is located only 150 kilometers east of Winnipeg on Shoal Lake 40 territory, which was expropriated over one hundred years ago in order to supply the city of Winnipeg with clean drinking water . The Shoal Lake 40, meanwhile, were displaced onto an artificial island, cut off from road access to mainland amenities and medical care, and have been on a boiled-­ water advisory for twenty years.2 The MCHRV “immersion” marks quite a departure from the other case studies examined in these pages. It can’t quite be called an immersive “simulation .” There is no re-­ created environment or mise-­ en-­ scène crafted to replicate a “real-­ world” environment or a fictional scenario that propels us through a particular territory. The site and the circumstances that guide our visit are urgently and unforgivingly “real.” Yet the pamphlets promot- 131 unsettling immersions for settlers ing the site borrow—­ and ironize—­ the discourse of the dark tourist attraction , promising a first-­ person immersive encounter with a whole host of human rights violations. This discourse mobilizes immersive tourist performance as a political action that exposes the gap between Canada’s mythic identity as an inclusive human rights leader and tolerant multicultural nation and its historical and material realities of ongoing colonial violence and racism toward First Nations populations. When placed in conversation with the caminata nocturna of El Alberto’s Hñahñu, a continuity of strategies surfaces—­ strategies that invert the tourist frame in order to call attention to human rights violations and redress an absence of government intervention. Both of these sites demonstrate how a framework of immersive dark tourism can be harnessed both as a pedagogical tool and a form of sustained activist action. If the case studies examined so far in this book have demonstrated in varying degrees and ways the geography of cultural difference and how immersions remap or re-­ entrench spaces of difference, then the site of the Shoal Lake 40 First Nation’s MCHRV offers a stark emblem of this cartography . It’s only a five-­ minute ferry ride from the mainland—­ with road access to the nearby town of Kenora and the capital city of Winnipeg—­ to the artificially created, 355-­ acre island of the Shoal Lake 40, the Anishinaabe community whose reserve traverses the Manitoba-­ Ontario border. But when you cross the water on the barge to the island, you regress to a pre-­ twentieth-­ century time capsule of living conditions. The five-­ minute return ride to the mainland takes you “back to the future,” as MCHRV guide Stewart Redsky tells us, to a land of clean water that runs out of taps and solid-­and sewage-­ waste disposal—­ features of life to which the Shoal Lake 40 First Nations have been deprived due to the combined forces of government expropriation, racism, and indifference. We pull up to the shore of the mainland in our rented all-­ wheel-­ drive vehicle (recommended by the MCHRV guides, since the dirt roads on the reserve get reduced to impenetrable mud pits during rainstorms) and stand near the water’s edge, waiting for the ferry that takes three cars at a time to the other side. We are greeted by MCHRV guide, policy analyst, and Shoal Lake...


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