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Indigenous Studies

Aboriginal artwork
                                                                               Photo: Bentley Smith , via Flickr (CC license)                                                           

When conducting research, it’s important to evaluate your sources. This is doubly true for materials on Indigenous peoples. Along with other settler-colonial states, Canada has a long-standing tradition of attempts to “eliminate the native” through acts of violence, assimilationist government policies, and through the creation of cultural institutions – like the University – that exclude Indigenous peoples and champion for, explicitly or otherwise, their erasure.

With all this in mind, it’s important to grasp the idea that Indigenous peoples should be the champions of their own narratives. The “study” of Indigenous peoples has had a long history of justifying dispossession of Indigenous lands; devaluation of Indigenous peoples and their governments, cultures, and worldviews; and for many years, the outright seizure of their children. Abuse Indigenous peoples have faced at the hands of the Canadian state did not happen in a vacuum. Be mindful of the legacies of this abuse as you do research on Indigenous topics.

What is a person meant to look out for, then? As with all other fields of study, you should ask yourself several questions when evaluating sources:

  • Who made it? What gives them the authority to speak on this issue? What are their credentials?
  • Who published it, and for whom?
  • What point of view is it coming from? Does it reinforce negative stereotypes?

Several books in our collection dive deeper into what constitutes harmful literature/scholarship on Indigenous peoples. Some are listed here: