issues and experts

National Aboriginal Day in Canada

June 19, 2012

On National Aboriginal Day in Canada, Thursday, June 21, Canadians will engage in a broad array of festivities sponsored by the federal government. They’ll honour the cultures and contributions of the country’s First Nations, Inuit and Metis people. Many people will also take advantage of the occasion to take stock of the welfare and fate of Canada’s aboriginal populations. SFU experts are available to comment on this and on the ways in which SFU is fostering community, research and student engagement that strengthens Canadian aboriginal peoples’ growth socially, politically, economically and academically.

Jon Driver, SFU vice-president academic, can comment on how the university’s strategic plan is developing more opportunities for aboriginal students and integrating aboriginal issues into the university’s curriculum. He can also address why and how SFU’s new Indigenous Research Institute is fostering collaborative research that aims to remedy challenges facing indigenous populations globally, and Canadian aboriginal people in particular.

Jennyfer Chamberlain (assistant to Jon Driver), 778.782.3925,
Note: on June 21, Driver is available only after 2 p.m.

Veselin Jungic, a senior lecturer in SFU’s mathematics department, can explain how Math Catcher, a community outreach initiative he co-founded, is helping aboriginal children across B.C. to catch on to math. The program uses animation, picture books, storytelling and elements of aboriginal traditions and cultures to engage elementary and high school children in learning math concepts. Jungic and several volunteers, including SFU students of aboriginal heritage and an SFU alumnus, have just returned from taking the Math Catcher program on the road to six schools across the province, five of which were on reservations.

Veselin Jungic, 778.782.3340,

Mary-Ellen Kelm, an associate professor in SFU’s history department and associate dean of graduate studies-students, can discuss her research on First Nations-run health centres. She is assessing how the centres help young aboriginal people make healthy reproductive choices and how community and kin-based knowledge networks can be used to disseminate up-to-date information about contraceptive choices.

Mary-Ellen Kelm, 778.782.7299,

annie ross, an assistant professor in SFU’s First Nations Studies Program who researches environmental justice issues, says, “My message is not sweet; it is not happy,” regarding the welfare of aboriginal people. She notes: “The lack of basic necessities, such as clean running water and housing, condemned reserves, poverty and the violation of basic rights that others take for granted are a significant part of the reality of aboriginal life in the 21st century.” ross can elaborate on her view that “justice, parity and actualization of civil rights are sadly lacking in aboriginal lands, hemisphere-wide in the Americas.”

annie ross, 778.782.3575,

William Lindsay, a Cree-Stoney Nation member and director of SFU’s Office for Aboriginal Peoples, can discuss the current state of aboriginal education. He can elaborate on “how far aboriginal people have progressed in acquiring an education during the last 30 years.” He adds: “I’ve seen miracles with regards to this with my own eyes and am, myself, among the first group of First Nations people riding this wave of transformation.”

William Lindsay, 778.782.8924,

Mark Selman, director of SFU’s executive MBA program in aboriginal business and leadership at the Beedie School of Business, can comment on business development as it relates to First Nations people in B.C. For example, Selman can discuss the economic cost to the province and ultimately taxpayers of B.C. governments “failing to consult with and accommodate First Nations people for use of their traditional territories. Bob Anderson, an adjunct professor in the Beedie School of Business at the Surrey campus, is also available to comment on indigenous entrepreneurship, an area in which his is widely published.

Mark Selman, 778.782.5070,
Bob Anderson, 778.782.5180,

Dana Lepofsky, an SFU archaeology professor is co-leading an ethnohistory-archaeology field school this month with the U of Saskatchewan’s Keith Carlson in collaboration with Tla'Amin First Nation. The participants, graduate students from Western Canada, will interview community members about Tla'Amin history and help excavate a 2,500-year-old village site. Lepofsky has spent the past five summers working with the Tla'Amin community to help uncover their ancient past. Her team has conducted research on ancient settlements and refuge sites, fish traps, pictographs, and clam gardens. Lepofsky, who earlier carried out research with Sto:lo Nation in the Fraser Valley, can speak to the role of archaeology in re-discovering, preserving, and protecting First Nations heritage.

Dana Lepofsky, 778.782.5403,

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