Office for Aboriginal Peoples' Newsletter 2018 Year in Review

May 13, 2019

Cree-Metis prof earns top academic honour

Deanna Reder, professor of Indigenous literature and chair of the Department of First Nations Studies.

Deanna Reder, a Cree-Métis professor of Indigenous literature who works in both the Department of First Nations Studies and the Department of English, has been named to the Royal Society’s College of New Scholars, Artists and Scientists.


SFU President's Message

Thanks to the dedicated efforts of many at the university, and with the invaluable support of community partners, 2018 was another productive year for Indigenous initiatives at SFU.

A Reconciliation Working Group was established to oversee the University’s response to the 34 Calls to Action set out in the Walk This Path With Us report of the SFU Aboriginal Reconciliation Council (SFU-ARC). These have now been grouped into four clusters – Safe and Welcoming Indigenous Spaces; Curriculum Innovation and Indigenization; Student Pathways and Support; Administration, Hiring and Project Implementation – with work underway on each.

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Accelerating First Peoples' businesses across the North

Yellowknife jeweller Tania Larsson is enrolled in the EntrepreNorth program. The new, six-month entrepreneurial education program is offered in partnership with RADIUS SFU’s First Peoples Enterprise Accelerator Program (FPEAP).  


New diploma program fuels First Nations language proficiency

Every Friday at the Squamish Nation reserve in North Vancouver, 22 adult learners attend an all-day class to further their ability to speak Skwxwu7meshsnichim, the Squamish language. They’re enrolled in SFU’s inaugural Diploma in First Nations Language Proficiency program, which follows completion of a one-year Certificate in First Nations Language Proficiency in the language.

“It takes a few thousand hours of language exposure to become an intermediate second-language speaker,” says Peter Jacobs, an SFU professor of linguistics and the program’s instructor.  

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Implementing 34 calls to action for reconciliation at SFU

A one-day reconciliation policy forum at SFU’s Morris J. Wosk Centre for Dialogue in spring 2018 was a living example of SFU’s deep commitment to reconciliation and decolonization.

The forum, “Reconciliation in BC: When are we going to get to the hard stuff!?” attracted 132 participants. They included Chief Robert Joseph, founder of Reconciliation Canada, 50 Indigenous people from across Canada, B.C. Premier John Horgan, federal Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould, B.C. Attorney General David Eby, and B.C. Advanced Education Minister Melanie Mark.

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SFU 2018 Trudeau scholarship winner links heritage, traditional knowledge to environmental stewardship

Spencer Greening, of the Gitga’at First Nation, has a gift for balancing traditional Indigenous knowledge, research, language and culture with western scholarship, politics and activism.

This remarkable ability has earned the SFU archaeology PhD candidate a 2018 Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation scholarship.

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Reconciliation Forum generates thoughtful recommendations

A one-day reconciliation policy forum at SFU’s Morris J. Wosk Centre for Dialogue in spring 2018 was a living example of SFU’s deep commitment to reconciliation and decolonization.

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Courage and passion trounce adversity

Fifteen years ago, master’s student Jodie Warren received SFU’s Terry Fox Gold Medal acknowledging her courage in the face of adversity after surviving a severe stroke at age 23 during her undergraduate studies. Left with extensive damage, including the loss of her right arm, Warren persevered through an extended recovery period to complete her BSc in biology in 1999 and an MA in criminology in 2007.

This month, the Métis alumnus will receive her PhD in criminology after completing an exceptional thesis that required no changes—a circumstance that her graduate supervisor, professor Gail Anderson, says, “is rare and very cool.”

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New app uses Indigenous basket-weaving patterns to teach math to schoolchildren

The cedar basketry designs of the Tla’amin Nation, just north of Powell River, B.C. on the Sunshine Coast, can now be shared with schoolchildren using an interactive, online application where they can recreate these beautiful geometric patterns.

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Aspiring community changemaker values experiential learning at SFU

A member of the Cayuga Nation from Six Nations of the Grand River in Ontario, Jonathan Boron grew up with with first-hand knowledge of the struggle Indigenous communities experience in regaining rights to their territories. That’s why he wanted to study environmental law. Instead, however, the new alumnus graduated last June with a master of resource management.

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Sharing the message of reconciliation during Orange Shirt Day at SFU

The SFU community gathered at both the Burnaby and Surrey campuses to commemorate Orange Shirt Day in September 2018. The annual event promotes cross-cultural awareness and acknowledges the intergenerational survivors of the residential school system. Co-hosts included the Office for Aboriginal Peoples, First Nations Studies, the Teaching and Learning Centre, the Faculty of Education and the Faculty of Health Sciences. The Indigenous Student Center and Student Services co-hosted an Orange Shirt Day luncheon for students and Student Services staff.

SFU bestows honorary degree on Haida fashion designer

Haida fashion designer Dorothy Grant received an SFU honorary degree at the June convocation ceremonies. For more than three decades, Grant has been combining traditional Haida art with contemporary fashion design to create stunning garments that evoke self-respect and pride for First Nations culture.  

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Autism study aims to help Indigenous families procure services

SFU psychology professor Grace Iarocci, who has devoted her career to studying Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), is now researching B.C. Aboriginal families’ experiences and challenges in diagnosing this disorder in their children.

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Order of Canada honours SFU First Nations alumnus

SFU alumnus Jo-ann Archibald Q’um Q’um Xiiem, of the Stó:lō Nation, has been named an Officer of the Order of Canada. Recognized as one of Canada’s foremost Indigenous scholars, she has made outstanding contributions to advance Indigenous education across Canada and abroad.

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2018 Aboriginal Graduate Scholarship winners

In 2018 SFU selected three Aboriginal graduate students to receive Graduate Aboriginal Entrance Scholarships. The scholarship for master’s degree studies is worth up to $30,000 over two years, while the scholarship for PhD studies is worth up to $54,000 over three years. The Office of the Vice-President, Academic established the scholarships in 2013 by  to encourage Aboriginal students to consider graduate studies and, ultimately, a career in post-secondary education.
Candidates must have Aboriginal ancestry, a minimum grade point average of 3.5 out of a possible 4.33, and have demonstrated outstanding achievement.

Curiosity and enthusiasm spur on health sciences master’s student

It’s easy to see why SFU master of science student Jaimy Fischer received a fall 2018 Graduate Aboriginal Entrance Award. She’s keen to learn new tools that will help her implement complex ideas.

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PhD student rethinks Indigenous relationships with tobacco

Kody Doxtater, a Mohawk from Six Nations, Ontario, has a passion for addressing Indigenous health disparities. A PhD candidate in SFU’s Faculty of Health Sciences (FHS), he is studying oyen'kwa'on:we (Indian tobacco) and its healing properties.

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PhD to explore Squamish matriarchy

Graphic designer and consultant Michelle Nahanee, from the Squamish Nation, returned to school after 20 years to pursue an MA in communication at SFU and explore her interest in Indigenous cultural sovereignty and decolonizing practices.

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Indigenous honouring feast

During the Spring 2018 Convocation SFU held its largest Indigenous Honouring Feast. The event celebrated more than 100 First Nations, Inuit and Métis graduating students in the presence of elders, community members, families and friends. Graduands included, Levi Wilson, left, now a teacher, and Kyle Bobiwash, PhD, now a tenure-track professor at the University of Manitoba.

Study tracks impact of racism on Indigenous health

Health sciences PhD candidate Krista Stelkia, who is of Syilx/Tlingit descent, is exploring how racism influences the higher rates of chronic disease such as cancer, diabetes and heart disease found among Indigenous peoples in Canada.

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SFU team receives accolades for First Nations witnessing ceremony

SFU’s reconciliation witnessing ceremony last fall won the 2018 Prix D’ Excellence Silver award in the Best Special Event category.

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San’Yas cultural safety training attracts interest

With funding from SFU’s Aboriginal Reconciliation Council, SFU is offering Indigenous cultural safety training to all interested university employees. The six-week, interactive, on-line program teaches participants about Indigenous terminology, diversity, colonial history, and the contexts for understanding social disparities and inequities. Participants also learn about cultural stereotyping and the consequences and legacies of colonization.

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First Nations undergrad wins student essay literary prize

Indigenous undergraduate Melanie Mercer won top prize in the 2018 Blue Metropolis student literary competition for a powerful letter she wrote about being adopted and raised by white parents of European descent.

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Indigenous alumnus named to BIV’s 40 under 40 list

Congratulations to SFU alumnus Dianne Sparrow (EMBA ’15), who is the intergovernmental affairs manager for the Musqueam First Nation. She was among 12 SFU alumni named to Business in Vancouver’s 40 under 40 list of B.C. business leaders. BIV selected its winners for their demonstrated excellence in business, judgement, leadership and community contribution.

New faculty: Dara Kelly

Professor Dara Kelly, of the Leq’á:mel First Nation, joined the Beedie School of Business in July 2018 and teaches in the Executive MBA program in Indigenous Business and Leadership.

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New faculty: Natahnee Winder

Professor Natahnee Winder is Tsaidüka (Duckwater Shoshone), Diné, Cui Ui Ticutta (Pyramid Lake Paiute) and Nuucic (Southern Ute). Last fall, she joined both the Department of First Nations Studies and the School of Public Policy.

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