Places

Vivek Shraya’s favourite place in Canada 

Edmonton’s River Valley is a space the musician, writer and artist can go to just be herself

  • Jun 07, 2022
  • 343 words
  • 2 minutes
Image: Michelle Campos Castillo 
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One of the challenging things about living in a small city is that you sometimes feel overexposed. When I was growing up in Edmonton, there was this feeling that there was only one bookstore or one restaurant or one mall, and that you were inevitably going to run into people you know. Some people like that small-town vibe, but for me — especially being queer and brown — sometimes I wanted spaces to be invisible in. The North Saskatchewan River Valley was a space within the city to feel anonymous. I have such a tender spot for the River Valley because I associate it with finding my own way. It feels like a choice. I go there when I want to do something with the people I love who aren’t biological family.

This might speak to just how displaced I felt as a teenager, but there were a lot of times I was in the River Valley and I didn’t even know that I was in the River Valley. Sometimes when you’re in a space where you feel safe, it’s not that you arrive at the space and think “I feel safe now” or “I can be myself now.” Sometimes it’s about being in a space where I forget to worry about not feeling safe or acting a certain way. I can let my guard down.

When I go there, there’s probably a good chance I’ll run into someone I know — but I never have. It feels expansive and private. I feel weird about bringing my parents into this space. It’s like, as a teenager, you never have your parents hanging out with you in your bedroom — your bedroom is your private space. The River Valley feels like my Edmonton bedroom. It’s for friends, and it’s for me.

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Edmonton is in Treaty 6 territory and Métis homelands. This land is the traditional and ancestral territory of the Néhiyaw (Cree), Denesųłiné (Dene), Nakota Sioux (Stoney), Anishinaabe (Saulteaux) and Niitsitapi (Blackfoot). It is within the Métis Nation of Alberta Region 4.

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