media release

SFU Indigenous Research Institute opens doors

June 13, 2012

William Lindsay (Burnaby res.), 778.782.8924,
Eldon Yellowhorn (East Van. res.), 778.782.6669,
Carol Thorbes, PAMR, 778.782.3035,

On Thursday, June 21, National Aboriginal Day in Canada, about 40 members of Simon Fraser University’s fledgling Indigenous Research Institute (IRI) will hold their inaugural meeting at the university’s Burnaby campus. Media are welcome to attend.

The IRI’s members — many of them First Nations people themselves — are SFU faculty, students and alumni involved in research about or connected to indigenous subjects, groups and issues.

They will meet in room 126 at the Halpern Centre from 11:00 a.m.-1:00 p.m. to share information about their research and to discuss possible collaborations. They will also talk about how their newly formed institute could mentor SFU students, alumni and faculty involved in indigenous-related research, strengthen SFU’s connections with indigenous communities and host provocative talks featuring outside guest speakers.

The institute fulfils a key component of SFU’s Aboriginal Strategic Plan, which is to “establish a comprehensive framework for the promotion, encouragement and support of aboriginal research.”

William Lindsay, director of SFU’s Office for Aboriginal Peoples, notes the institute’s name and objectives encompasses indigenous — rather than only aboriginal or First Nations — research to foster engagement with international researchers and communities.

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

Although the concept of a university-based indigenous research institute is not new, Lindsay says SFU’s is unique in the number of diverse disciplines that its members cover. So far they include First Nations studies, archaeology, languages, education, health sciences, geography, communication, art and technology, economics, mathematics and psychology.

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 globally.

“For example in Canada, by any metric of social well-being, First Nations people invariably score poorly,” says Eldon Yellowhorn. The SFU associate professor of archaeology and member of the Blackfoot Nation is the new institute’s acting director.

“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. Although our institute will not solve this imbalance, 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 also believes the institute will help dispel “the impression prevalent among aboriginal people in Canada that universities are out of reach for them.”

SFU is Canada's top-ranked comprehensive university and one of the top 50 universities in the world under 50 years old. With campuses in Vancouver, Burnaby and Surrey, B.C., SFU engages the community with its research and teaching, delivers almost 150 programs to more than 30,000 students, and has more than 120,000 alumni in 130 countries.


Backgrounder: Agenda, SFU’s Indigenous Research Institute Launch

WHERE:        Room 126, Halpern Centre, SFU, Burnaby campus
WHEN:          June 21, 11:00 a.m.-1:00 p.m.
EMCEE:         Eldon Yellowhorn, Blackfoot Nation, Indigenous Research Institute (IRI) acting director

11:00-11:15 a.m.

  • Opening words (Eldon Yellowhorn)
  • Squamish Nation welcome (Rudy Reimer, Squamish Nation, SFU archaeology assistant professor)
  • Elder welcome (Elder Theresa Neel, Kwakiutl Nation)
  • Honour song (Klahanie R. Rorick, Tahltan Nation)
  • Welcome from Mario Pinto (SFU research, vice-president)
  • Introduction of Institute Steering Committee (Tom Perry, IRI acting associate director)

11:15-11:40 a.m.

  • Roundtable introductions: name, position, area of research, current research project

11:40-12:30 p.m.

  • Group discussion re: Indigenous Research Institute rationale and potential institute activities for the future

12:30-1:00 p.m.

  • Special guest: Gail Anderson, Amnesty International to discuss potential speaker series
  • Wrap-up discussion (Eldon Yellowhorn and Tom Perry)
  • Closing remarks and discussion re: next institute meeting/event (Eldon Yellowhorn)

— 30 —

Simon Fraser University: Engaging Students. Engaging Research. Engaging Communities.

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