SFU opens Indigenous Research Institute

June 21, 2012

SFU is marking National Aboriginal Day June 21 with the launch of a new Indigenous Research Institute at the university’s Burnaby campus.

The institute’s members — many of them Aboriginal Peoples — are SFU faculty, students and alumni involved in research about or connected to indigenous subjects, groups and issues.

Its creation fulfills a key component of SFU’s Aboriginal Strategic Plan, to “establish a comprehensive framework for the promotion, encouragement and support of aboriginal research.”

By fostering community and research engagement, the institute aims to carve out a reputation for itself as a pioneering incubator of proposed solutions to challenges facing indigenous communities worldwide.

“First Nations people are underrepresented as politicians, academics and civic leaders and overrepresented in low quality-of-life indicators such as poverty, ill-health and crime,” says acting director Eldon Yellowhorn, an associate archeology professor and Blackfoot Nation member

“Our institute will not solve this imbalance, (but) we can contribute to the creation of social policies that help correct it. It will demonstrate how individual researchers are taking on some of the most vexing indigenous-related social challenges and proposing real-time solutions.” Yellowhorn adds the institute will help dispel “the impression prevalent among aboriginal people in Canada that universities are out of reach for them.”

William Lindsay, director of SFU’s Office for Aboriginal Peoples, says the research institute’s name reflects its focus on engaging international as well as national researchers and communities.

“The term indigenous covers all domestic and international indigenous groups,” says Lindsay. “Aboriginal or First Nations usually refers to the first people to inhabit Canada before colonialism, while indigenous usually refers the first inhabitants of colonized countries globally.”

Although the concept is not new, Lindsay says SFU’s indigenous research institute is unique in the diversity of disciplines its members cover.

So far, they include First Nations studies, archeology, languages, education, health sciences, geography, communication, art and technology, economics, mathematics and psychology.

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