SFU/UBC Indigenous Graduate Symposium, “Indigenizing the Academy”

SFU/UBC Indigenous Graduate Symposium, “Indigenizing the Academy”

By: Diane Luckow
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Previously published in SFU NEWS Aboriginal Supplement December 2015.

More than 120 guests attended the first SFU/UBC Indigenous Graduate Symposium, “Indigenizing the Academy,” at SFU’s downtown campus last March.

The event kicked off a four-year pilot partnership between the two universities to co-host and co-sponsor this event showcasing Indigenous students’ research and scholarship. For the past 12 years, the event has been hosted solely by UBC.

The symposium featured keynote speaker David Newhouse, chair of the Department of Indigenous Studies at Trent University, and keynote respondents Ethel Gardner of SFU and Amy Parent of UBC. Parent is now an SFU education professor.

William Lindsay, director of SFU’s Office for Aboriginal Peoples, says the symposium was also a cultural day.

“A traditional ‘witnessing ceremony’ opened and closed the event,” he says. “There were First Nations elders and cultural advisors attending. The day also featured drumming and traditional cedar brushing/cleansing.”

According to official SFU Institutional Research and Planning data, the University has more than 130 Indigenous graduate students. Ten participated in the symposium.

Cheryl Inskter, a master’s student in counseling psychology in the Faculty of Education, helped plan last year’s event.

“Being a part of the IGS planning committee helped me gain valuable experience in planning a symposium,” she says.

“The symposium peaked my interest in areas that I wish to explore as a graduate student. The experience also allowed me to build connections that made me feel a sense of belonging in my first year at SFU as a graduate student.”

First Nations presenters Petula Maxwell (Dakelh) and Catherine Blackstock (Gitxsan), from Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada, played to a packed audience in September at SFU’s first Aboriginal Awareness workshop for staff and faculty.

Their comprehensive three-hour presentation outlined the history of Aboriginal peoples in Canada, from the 1763 Royal Proclamation, which dealt with First Nations territorial rights in North America, to the 1982 Canadian constitution, which officially recognized and protected Aboriginal rights. They also addressed Aboriginal cultural protocols, and debunked popular myths about Aboriginal peoples relating to taxation, housing and education.

William Lindsay, director of the Office for Aboriginal Peoples, says of the event, “We wanted to provide participants with a better understanding of the history, values, customs, beliefs and diversity of Aboriginal peoples in Canada, and B.C. in particular.

“Our goal is to help participants to communicate and work effectively with Aboriginal peoples, and to increase their respect for Aboriginal cultures and values.”

Lindsay is now working with SFU’s Teaching and Learning Centre to develop in-house Aboriginal awareness materials.

2nd Annual SFU-UBC Indigenous Grad Student Symposium
Transformation through Indigenous Research and Knowledge


Hosted by the IGSS Planning Committee & SAGE (Supporting Aboriginal Graduate Enhancement) and in collaboration with Simon Fraser University, The University of British Columbia, and SAGE Partnership; the Indigenous Graduate Student Symposium (IGSS) invites submissions that explore transformation through Indigenous Research and Knowledge by thinking about how research interacts with community and how community shapes research. 


  • Indigenous graduate students or graduate student whose research relates to Indigenous scholarship in any discipline or across disciplines; 
  • Please note that preference will be given to proposals that address the conference theme.
  • Proposals on Indigenous topics that do not address the theme will still be considered.


  • Submit an individual or group proposal limited to 150 words and include with your proposals: the type of presentation, title, presenter(s) name(s), graduate program/university, and email address to grad.sage@ubc.ca
Posted on December 17, 2015