New Institute of Critical Indigenous Studies in the works for September

The Institute of Critical Indigenous Studies, a new interdisciplinary unit in the Faculty of Arts for engaged research in Indigenous-centred topics, is currently being established at UBC.

According to Daniel Heath Justice, a co-director of the program and an associate professor of First Nations and Indigenous Studies, the new institute will bring the First Nations and Indigenous Studies program and the First Nations and Endangered Languages program into one organized structure. This will bring the two programs closer into collaboration and open up future prospects such as graduate studies programs and research opportunities.

“It really give us an opportunity to expand some of the work that we’re doing," said Justice.

The institute was approved by the Senate on March 18, but still needs to be approved by the Board of Governors before it can become fully implemented.

Currently, the First Nations and Indigenous Studies program uses humanities and social sciences perspectives to analyze Indigenous politics, law, art, geography and knowledge. The First Nations and Endangered Languages program encourages the learning and strengthening of endangered Indigenous languages. The new institute will keep these two faculties, but it will bring them closer together in a more prominent structure to allow for greater opportunities for students.

In particular, a graduate studies program will be developed, as well as various co-op programs and practicums.

“A lot of our students kind of plateau when they finish with their undergraduate program, but this actually gives them the opportunity to be thinking much more long term about possible graduate work,” said Justice. “We’re also hoping to do more co-op and practicum programs to help students actually take the learning that they’re doing in the program and embed it into working relationships within the community.”

Additionally, Justice hopes that the new institute will attract more scholars, artists and influential Indigenous leaders to UBC.

The institute will also greatly acknowledge the university’s placement on unceded Musqueam land.

“That’s absolutely a commitment of the institute,” said Justice. “Engagement and in relationship with Indigenous communities is our foundational principle.”

If the Board of Governors approves it, the institute is expected to open by the start of fall classes this year.