Books illustrate thought leadership in Indigenous-formed and -led research

Indigenous feathers

In the coming years, Indigenous leadership in York’s collaborative, socially engaged research will create a unique space to support contributions to Indigenous knowledges within and beyond the academy.

In articulating this research opportunity, York affirms a commitment to respectful, relevant, Indigenous-formed and -led research, scholarship and related creative activity. This research promises positive and critically needed change to policy, practice, community and cultural life and ultimately, relationships among us all.

Deborah McGregor

One way to create this space is through publications that help to shape the research discussion and add to our understanding of this vital area of study. Two professors at Osgoode Hall Law School have done precisely that.

Karen Drake
Karen Drake

Professor Deborah McGregor, also in the Faculty of Environmental Studies, has edited a collection with Jean-Paul Restoule (University of Victoria) and Rochelle Johnston (Ontario Institute for Studies in Education of the University of Toronto): Indigenous Research: Theories, Practices, and Relationships (Canadian Scholars’ Press, 2018).

Professor Karen Drake has edited a new book with Brenda Gunn (University of Manitoba): Renewing Relationships: Indigenous Peoples and Canada (Wiyasiwewin Mikiwahp Native Law Centre, University of Saskatchewan, 2019).

McGregor shines a light on how Indigenous approaches to research are carried out in practice

McGregor, who is Anishinaabe from Whitefish River First Nation, Birch Island, Ontario, is a Canada Research Chair in Indigenous Environmental Justice. Her research program seeks to develop a distinctive environmental justice framework based on Indigenous knowledge systems and the lived experience of Indigenous peoples. Her work provides a much deeper understanding of environmental injustices facing Indigenous peoples, and even more importantly, leads to viable approaches to addressing such challenges.

Deborah McGregor’s new book, Indigenous Research. Image reproduced with permission of the publisher.

McGregor’s new collection, Indigenous Research, makes a unique contribution to the literature because it moves beyond asking what Indigenous research is, and examines how Indigenous approaches to research are carried out in practice.

Contributors to this 17-chapter volume share their personal experiences of conducting research within an academic setting in collaboration with their communities and with guidance from Elders and other traditional knowledge keepers.

Topics include healing and transformative learning through Indigenous methodologies, conducting community-based research in First Nation Communities, storytelling in narrative inquiry, and research within relations of violence.

“These stories are linked to current discussions and debates, and their unique journeys reflect the diversity of Indigenous languages, knowledges and approaches to inquiry,” says McGregor.

Drake considers renewing relationships between Indigenous peoples and the Canadian state

Drake is a citizen of the Métis Nation of Ontario whose research interests include Canadian law as it affects Indigenous peoples, Anishinaabe law, Métis law, property law and dispute resolution. Her work addresses the relationship between liberalism and Aboriginal rights, and the role of Aboriginal rights and legal education in promoting reconciliation. She previously served as a commissioner of the Ontario Human Rights Commission, on the Board of Directors of the Indigenous Bar Association, and on the Thunder Bay Métis Council.

Karen Drake’s new book, Renewing Relationships. Image reproduced with permission of the publisher.

Her recent publication, Renewing Relationships, consists of a series of compelling essays by Indigenous legal academics about revitalizing relationships between Canada and Indigenous people. Importantly, it reflects the many differing viewpoints from across the nation. “Some Indigenous nations might embrace principles of reconciliation, while others reject the concept of reconciliation and advocate for resistance or decolonization,” Drake explains.

This book, which features contributions by McGregor, Professor Signa Daum Shanks and doctoral student Robert Clifford, builds on existing literature about Indigenous-Crown relationships that addresses issues such as the inclusion of Indigenous laws, self-determination and the role of the constitution.

The chapters pose vital questions, such as:

  • What is the role of Indigenous law in renewing the relationship between Indigenous peoples and Canada?
  • What does the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples contribute to an understanding of a renewed relationship?
  • What shifts must occur within Canadian institutions to move away from the current colonial relationship?

To learn more about McGregor, visit her profile page. To learn more about her new book, visit the publisher’s website. To learn more about Drake, visit her profile page. To learn more about her new collection, visit the publisher’s website.

To learn more about Research & Innovation at York, follow us at @YUResearch; watch our new animated video, which profiles current research strengths and areas of opportunity, such as Artificial Intelligence and Indigenous futurities; and see the snapshot infographic, a glimpse of the year’s successes.

By Megan Mueller, senior manager, Research Communications, Office of the Vice-President Research & Innovation, York University,