Save the date: Official launch of York U’s new Indigenous Studies Program takes place Oct. 17

A new undergraduate degree program at York University that is dedicated to Indigenous Studies is already garnering praise from its inaugural cohort of students says the new program’s coordinator Professor Bonita Lawrence.

Bonita Lawrence

Lawrence and her colleagues thought it would be appropriate to host a formal launch of the Indigenous Studies Bachelor of Arts program to welcome new students and introduce the program to the University community. Everyone is invited to attend. The launch event will take place Wednesday, Oct. 17, from 12 to 4 p.m., in the second-floor conference centre located in the New Student Centre on York University’s Keele Campus. (Organizers do need to receive confirmations from interested community members by no later than Friday, Oct. 12 to help with planning. Click here to RSVP.)

The launch will feature performances by Spirit Wind, a drumming and singing group, traditional Indigenous cuisine and keynote presentations by Indigenous scholars. Delivering the event’s keynote presentations are Wilfrid Laurier University Professor Kathy Absolon, director of the Centre for Indigeogy in the Faculty of Social Work, and Hayden King, director of the Yellowhead Institute, Canada’s first Indigenous-led think tank.

The Indigenous Studies program in the Faculty of Liberal Arts and Professional Studies began offering its first courses in September. The program has a substantial emphasis on experiential learning and provides students with opportunities to engage in culturally based activities or take a placement course in their fourth year. One of the program’s signature courses is Indigenous Spiritualities, which enables students to experience a range of Indigenous ceremonies, from participating in sweat lodges to spring fasting out on the land.

The program is unique because of its focus on urban Native communities, Métis studies and Indigenous-Black relations. “In Toronto, where the majority of Native people are urban based and where ‘Métisness’ is poorly understood, we knew that we needed to address these areas in this program,” says Lawrence, “but it is our focus on Indigenous-Black relations that is quite unique.

“The history of Indigenous-Black relations dates back over 200 years in Nova Scotia; their interactions continue to take place across Canada today,” explains Lawrence.  “We feel that this is an area of Indigenous Studies that is sadly neglected in Canada, and that demands attention.”

Lawrence, who is Mi’kmaw, is Chair of the Department of Equity Studies at York University. Her research and publications have focused primarily on urban, non-status Métis identities, federally unrecognized Aboriginal communities and Indigenous justice. She is the author of Fractured Homeland: Federal Recognition and Algonquin Identity in Ontario (UBC Press, 2012) and “Real” Indians and Others: Mixed-Blood Urban Native People and Indigenous Nationhood (University of Nebraska Press and UBC Press, 2004).

To learn more, visit the Indigenous Studies program website.