About the Department


The Department of Indigenous Studies faculty members are active leaders in innovative and transformative teaching and research with community partners on and off campus at the local, regional, national, and international levels. We are recognized internationally for our dedication and commitment to the development of healthy communities; dynamic networks; applied community-engaged research; a leading-edge, relevant and comparative academic program grounded in Indigenous perspectives; and the scholarly excellence of our students and faculty. The Indigenous studies department is central to the life and vitality of the University of Saskatchewan and upholds the pillars—innovation, Aboriginal engagement, research and internationalization.


The Department of Indigenous Studies serves and engages with Indigenous communities and societies at large, at the local, regional, national and international levels. Indigenous Studies is committed to:

  • Indigenous perspectives grounded in Indigenous knowledge, experience, ways of knowing, and geographies.
  • Capacity building by enhancing healthy and sustainable Indigenous communities, knowledge systems, and environments.
  • Graduating Indigenous Studies Students with relevant and innovative skills, insight, and commitment to social justice and transformation.
  • Excellence in the scholarly activities of teaching, critical analysis, applied and community-based research.
  • Knowledge translation that results in the betterment of relations between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples
  • Transformative applied, comparative, and innovative research, community service, and teaching that impacts policy and practice, and preserves and creates Indigenous knowledge.


The Department of Indigenous Studies values the traditional values of our ancestors: honesty, courage, generosity, humility, respect, wisdom and truth. The Department of Indigenous Studies values universal education: community engagement, open mindedness, knowledge translation, innovation, scholarly excellence, local and global concerns, capacity building, social justice, and the betterment of society. The Department of Indigenous Studies also values: balance, humour, hard work, and relationship building.

A significant difference between Indigenous Studies and other disciplines, is that other disciplines tend to examine Indigenous societies exogenously, while Indigenous Studies strives to understand from within. Indigenous Studies asserts that Indigenous collectivities are unique sovereign entities, which need to be understood not just in their local contexts but as part of the global mosaic of Indigenous Peoples.

From this basis Indigenous Studies at the University of Saskatchewan actively supports the promotion and definition of Indigenous Studies as an independent field of study that has at its core the scholarly enquiry into Aboriginal society and societies. The Department of Indigenous Studies seeks to provide an intellectual milieu where teaching and research are well grounded in the priorities and knowledge of Saskatchewan’s Aboriginal communities, all the while placing them within the larger fabric of the Canadian Aboriginal experience and the emergent global, social phenomenon of indigeneity. Researchers and students in Indigenous Studies at the University of Saskatchewan explore and seek to understand the fundamental nature of Aboriginal society. As a centre of academic inquiry based on sound pedagogical and research principles, the Department of Indigenous Studies is striving to develop more expansive and innovative views on Indigenous Knowledge, going well beyond simple binaries like juxtaposing Indigenous knowledge in opposition to Western scholarship. Rather the Department has taken on the more challenging task of demanding excellence in conventional scholarship in addition to developing new and culturally appropriate methodologies and theories sourced in the Aboriginal life.


The idea for an Indigenous studies department at the University of Saskatchewan was first put forward by the hard work and foresight of the students from the Métis Local 126 (University) in 1978-79. These students were asking for a program that affirmed the value and dignity of Aboriginal societies: their histories, languages, philosophies and oral and literary traditions, as well as their traditional institutions and lifestyles.

The College of Arts and Sciences responded to these requests with the formation of an Ad Hoc Committee, which in 1981 recommended that such a program be created. In 1982 the Native Studies Programme was formally introduced and in 1983 the Department of Native Studies was created. Four years later the department was granted the right to offer a graduate program and since 1997 it has offered a complete graduate program.

Teaching Objectives

To effect a three-tiered approach, consisting of local, national and global perspectives, to the study of Aboriginal societies.

To produce graduates who are capable of effectively researching in and for Aboriginal communities, by employing academically sound methodologies that take into account the cultural mores of the communities and individuals concerned, and contributes constructively to Aboriginal intellectual, cultural, political, or economic capital.

The Indigenous Studies curriculum provides a thorough academic examination of aspects of Aboriginal life and histories using a three-tiered paradigm of separate yet interrelated social phenomena at the local, national and global levels. Students will be exposed to a variety of perspectives, worldviews, sources and intellectual traditions while they seek to link the processes of the past with contemporary issues. Successful graduates will have the skills and knowledge that will enable them to contribute constructively to the intellectual, cultural, political, or economical capital of Aboriginal societies. Students pursuing an Indigenous Studies major follow Program Type B, Social Sciences.

The course program consists of three distinct and interrelated themes: a) Society courses, these courses relate directly to the first objective and collectively they offer the stated three-tired approach to examining Aboriginal society and communities as well as covering a range of key issues and situations, b) Indigenous Studies research, these courses focus on research as it pertains to Aboriginal society and communities and are directed at achieving objective two, and c) Indigenous Studies theory, these courses are those that encompass macro-ideas of change within Aboriginal societies and are illustrated in such things as identity, social institutions, tradition, contemporary cultures and economies. They provide a thematic approach that can be applied equally to either historical or contemporary Aboriginal societies. A unique feature of the Indigenous Studies program is the requirement for students to participate in cultural practicum. Personal experience with local cultures is considered an essential ingredient of Indigenous Studies as graduates of the program need to fully appreciate the uniqueness of local Aboriginal communities, as well as being able to operate comfortably in an Aboriginal environment for research and employment purposes.

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