Indigenous oral testimony inspires creativity in Indigenous Studies students

February 06, 2024

SFU Indigenous Studies professor annie ross encourages her students in INDG 462 - Indigenous Oral Testimony: Theory, Practice, Purpose, Community to witness Indigenous Testimonio (the personal experience story) on historic events such as global Truth and Reconciliation, issues of hemispheric social and environmental justice, inter-species Relationships, civil Rights/Responsibilities to Home/Place/Community/Beings.

An artist and poet, as well as a dedicated educator, ross says that in her classroom, students can expect to “be involved in a community of learners in a thoughtful and expressive way.” 

With this learning objective in mind, ross invites her students to reflect on Indigenous issues, work, and testimonios by making their own creative projects. 

Thank you to the following students who participated in INDG 462 in Fall 2023 for sharing their creative talents and personal reflections with our community.  

Ian McDonald

I am a Canadian musician and filmmaker of (predominantly) Scottish, English, and Irish ancestry, who currently lives in Maple Ridge on the unceded territory of the q̓ic̓əy̓ (Katzie) and qʼʷa:n̓ƛʼən̓ (Kwantlen) Nations. I came to SFU in 2023 after working in the film industry for over a decade, to gain a better knowledge of the history of the land on which I was born and live, and to learn from Indigenous perspectives and worldview. It has been a life changing experience, and it feels like the beginning of a journey that will last a lifetime as I continue to work with others to create films and music! If you are interested, you can see more of my work at

Creative Project: Original Music

This piano piece, “Headed Upstream,” was inspired by social media videos I watched in my Indigenous Oral Testimony class. The videos showed the events in October of 2023 when the Xwísten Nation helped salmon who were swimming upstream in water levels too low for them. In watching the Salmon tirelessly fight to make their way up a waterfall that was clearly an impossible climb, I was struck by their determination. All logic would point to the impossibility of their task, but their refusal to give up manifested human intervention, and with their help, many were able to continue their journey and complete another cycle of life. I feel like this can be a lesson for all of us, that there is no limit to what is possible if we are willing to work together, follow our gut, and swim upstream.

Jonah Smith

I am a third-year student majoring in Humanities and Indigenous Studies. I've recently started working on pixel art and I am working on improving whenever I can.

Creative Project: Pixel Art

I went through a few design ideas for the creative project but landed on this one. I was banging my head against the wall a bit to come up with the design, but this one really flowed out of me. The heart signifies the bond we have developed in the class but also our empathy for the topics covered in the course. The eye is to represent us seeing and witnessing truth and testimony. The blue on top is meant to signify our passions and emotions being lit up like a flame. I went with blue as that indicates a fire that burns extremely hot. The nails were inspired by the crest for the Scottish Clan Logan. It really stood out to me as visually striking and impactful. Then I went with the roots to indicate the connectedness of things as well as the natural/elemental side of our discussions. In the end it came out looking like a biblically accurate angel, which I've seen art of in the past and looks really cool.

Artwork by Jonah Smith

Nicole Smyth

My name is Nicole Smyth and I am a third-year undergraduate Political Science student, who has grown a newfound interest in Indigenous Studies!

Creative Project: Collage

This collage is a compilation of some of the major themes we covered throughout INDG 462 and some key terms that are most important to me! I made this collage because I wanted to visually acknowledge Indigenous Peoples, honour their stories and traditions, and amplify their voices.

Collage by Nicole Smyth

Learn more about our academic programs and upcoming courses in Indigenous Studies.