Race and ethnicity have emerged both as a basis of

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race and ethnicity have emerged both as a basis of classification of youth gangs and therefore also as a source of moral panic in Canada. Corresponding with the growing concern regarding increasing Aboriginal and female youth gang activity and rising violent behaviour (Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations, 2003) is a lack of scholarly literature that focuses on the reasons for Aboriginal female youth gang involvement in Canada. Drawing on an integrated approach that combines both macro- level and micro-level causes, I aim to contribute a theoretical and empirical understanding of Aboriginal female youth gang involvement in the two Prairie Provinces of Saskatchewan and Alberta. The historical scars of colonialization on Aboriginal peoples and the oppression of ethnic minority peoples have led to the present-day issues of loss of positive identity and subsequent self-hatred. The consequences of these issues have, in a broad sense, left the majority of young Aboriginal and ethnic minority youth to struggle on a daily basis for identity, status and respect. In modern Western society, adolescence is defined as a period where individuals are in the process of “making” a self within a peer culture in order to “become somebody.” It is significant to explore how negotiations to become someone and belong somewhere play out in the lives of 6
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Aboriginal and minority children and youth in specific social, historical, and political contexts. Within the context of gangs, it is important to highlight intersection of age with other social relations of power such as race, gender, and class 2 . One of the most critical issues at the core of the study of youth gangs is the contradiction inherent in attempting to define “gang.” Scholars have examined the dilemmas surrounding the definitions of the terms “gangs,” “gang member,” and “gang activity” for quite some time (Klein, 1995; Horowitz, 1990; Curry, 1998; Decker and Kempf, 1991). Numerous definitions of the term “youth gang” have been offered and criticized in an attempt to reach a common understanding of the phenomenon and in the process, other terms have emerged, like, “gang affiliates,” “wanna-bes,” and “street gang,” in the hope to provide better understanding of youth gangs. Huff (1993: 4) notes that youth gangs historically were largely groups of adolescents, mostly males. But recently, age, gender, and other defining characteristics of gangs and their classification are changing. Mathews (2005) asserts that the age range of youth gang members is wide. It excludes the involvement of 12 to 17 years olds only, which is the legal definition of a young offender. Members of youth gangs can be either younger than twelve or older than seventeen. The 2002 Canadian Police Survey on Youth Gangs defined “youth gang” as a “group of youths or young adults in the respondents’ jurisdiction, under the age of 21” (Astwood Strategy Corporation, 2003).
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Christopher Reinemann
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