The path to a degree in linguistics and to regaining fluency in her home language of Secwépemctsín has been one of perseverance and self-reflection for Julienne Ignace, daughter of professor Marianne Ignace and Chief Ron Ignace.

Linguistics grad Julienne Ignace follows footsteps of barrier-breaking parents


Julienne Melmenétkwe Ignace jokes that she used to think of herself as a “bad student;” someone who loved to learn but didn’t always enjoy school. It’s a surprising confession from someone who spent her pre-teen years as a very young research assistant helping her mother, esteemed SFU linguistics professor Marianne Ignace, take academic notes and transcribe audio interviews. 

This June, Julienne (pronounced Sulyan) will receive both a BA in linguistics and a diploma in linguistics and First Nations Language Proficiency (FNLP) for Secwépemctsín (Shuswap Language) after nearly ten years of persevering in her studies, reflecting on her goals, and changing her path when needed. 

Her path didn’t always follow in the footsteps of her barrier-breaking parents. Her father Chief Ron Ignace, who has a PhD in anthropology from SFU, was one of the first Indigenous students in a pilot program for adult students in the early 1970s that aimed to increase Indigenous post-secondary school attendance. He and Marianne have since co-authored award-winning research on the history of the Secwépemc people in south-central British Columbia. 

Julienne says her dad likes to joke that she and her siblings have a “paradox” for parents (a “pair” of “docs”). 

“I had what I lovingly call my ‘rebellion’ phase, where I had taken many courses in linguistics but I also really loved the courses I had taken in psychology. I considered doing a double major in linguistics and psychology, and even charted a path to do either my MA in clinical psychology or medical school, which would have led me to being a psychiatrist.” 

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