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QNS in Indigenous Literatures and Languages

Position Profile and Institutional Context

The field of Indigenous Studies has evolved rapidly in recent years, with a marked increase in practice-oriented research and publications in a variety of subfields. Since the emergence of Native Studies programs and departments in the 1970s and 1980s, the discipline has had a strong focus in the areas of Indigenous Governance, Indigenous Law, Political Studies, Public Policy, Sociology, and Social Work, among others. At Queen's, a number of internationally renowned faculty are working in these and related areas, but there is also a much broader research focus here than at other institutions on Indigenous languages, literatures, and other cultural and performative practices across a number of Humanities and Social Science units, including the Departments of Languages, Literatures, and Cultures, English, Drama, Gender Studies, Cultural Studies, Art History, Geography, and the School of Music. The QNS in Indigenous Literatures and Languages builds upon the recently allocated SSHRC Tier 2 Canada Research Chair at Queen's in Indigenous Studies and distinguishes itself by focusing specifically on the areas of Indigenous Literatures, Indigenous Languages, and Indigenous cultural and artistic practices. The possibility of Queen's having two new cross-disciplinary appointments in Indigenous Studies, focused variously on social sciences and humanities disciplines, is an exciting opportunity to consolidate the University’s emerging strength in this area and to advance several major goals of the Academic Plan and the Strategic Research Plan.

The Department of English, the Department of Languages, Literatures and Cultures, and the Department of Drama believe that this is a much-needed contribution to Indigenous Studies in Canada and to the advancement of Queen's research profile in the field. The Department of English is already developing an impressive research cluster in this area: Sam McKegney, appointed as a specialist in Indigenous Literature in 2008, is renowned as a scholar of Canadian Indigenous literature and currently has research collaborations across scholarly and Indigenous communities; Glenn Willmott has produced important work on modernist appropriations of Indigenous heritages within the context of post-Maussian gift economies; Laura Murray has edited two seminal works on the textualization of Indigenous oral narratives; and Petra Fachinger has been employing comparative literary methodologies in the study of Indigenous and diasporic literatures. English has a strong group of active settler scholars working (each in her or his own way) in Indigenous literary studies and adjacent fields; the addition of a QNS in Indigenous Literatures and Languages would give us among the strongest faculty cohorts in this area in the country.

In the Department of Languages, Literatures and Cultures, several faculty members conduct research in the area of Indigenous Studies: Daniel Chamberlain is working on an international literary history project on orality and oral traditions of Indigenous cultures; Bonnie Jane Maracle is an educator and researcher in Aboriginal Teacher Education and Indigenous language revitalization; Jill Scott researches the role of Indigenous legal traditions and storytelling practices in developing culturally appropriate models of redress and justice. In addition, the Department of Languages, Literatures and Cultures has been expanding its offerings in the area of Indigenous languages and cultures, with new courses in Mohawk and Inuktitut. Finally, the Department has collaborated with the Four Directions Aboriginal Student Centre and Aboriginal Council to propose a BA General Plan in Indigenous Studies, which has recently received approval by the office of the Provost. If approved by Senate, the interdisciplinary Plan, with participation from fourteen Departments across the Faculty of Arts and Science, will be available to students in Fall 2013.

The Department of Drama is proud to have playwright, poet and essayist Daniel David Moses as a faculty member. One of Canada’s foremost First Nations writers, Moses is a member of the Delaware tribe who was born and raised in the Six Nations community. Moses has a large body of work—plays, essays and poems—all reflecting on the historical and contemporary experiences of First Nations people. He teaches the course “First Nations Playwrights,” which is cross-listed in Drama, Indigenous Studies, and English, and is co-editor (with Terry Goldie and Armand Garnet Ruffo) of An Anthology of Canadian Native Literature in English (Oxford University Press), an indispensable central text for Indigenous Studies which recently appeared in its fourth edition. He is also the editor of The Exile Book of Native Canadian Fiction and Drama (2010) and is the author of numerous award-winning plays involving First Nations themes, including Coyote City, Almighty Voice and His Wife, and The Moon and Dead Indians. Moses maintains strong ties to indigenous artistic communities, having served as an advisor to the Institute for American Indian Arts (Santa Fe, NM), the Association for Native Development in the Performing and Visual Arts, and Native Earth Performing Arts. Also in the Department of Drama is Julie Salverson, whose current research project, The Secrets of Others: An Atomic Memoir, in part explores the recorded testimony of indigenous people with regard to the effects of uranium mining on their communities. The QNS in Indigenous Literatures and Languages builds upon the research strengths and curricular innovations of all three Departments to establish an exceptionally strong cluster of expertise in this area at Queen's.

Four Directions Student Centre

Four Directions Aboriginal Student Centre

More broadly, a QNS in Indigenous Literatures and Languages presents an unrivalled opportunity to expand research relationships between Queen's and regional First Nations communities. Research connections have already proven strong with the Ardoch Algonquin First Nation through the work of Robert Lovelace in Global Development Studies, through the presence of Ardoch Algonquin elders at Four Directions Aboriginal Student Centre, through the first annual academic and community-based Indigenous Studies conference hosted by the Ardoch Nation this year on 27 October (“Gathering Knowledge Community Symposium”), and through current research being conducted by graduate students like Ian Fanning (Cultural Studies) who, as a member of the community, is currently undertaking a community-based research project on Algonquin masculinities. There are also important existing connections between Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory and Queen's: the University has held Aboriginal Council Planning Retreats on the reserve; members of Aboriginal Council are from the community; multiple staff members at Four Directions are Mohawks from Tyendinaga, including Director Janice Hill Kanonhsyonni; and the Department of Languages, Literatures, and Culture’s course in Mohawk language and culture is taught by a member of the Mohawk community of Tyendinaga. Unlike standard language acquisition courses, this course integrates linguistic competency with Indigenous pedagogies of experiential learning and traditional teaching methods, and in so doing is strengthening learning partnerships with local First Nations communities. And, of course, as Queen's University in the King’s town, it should be stressed that the Iroquois Confederacy—of which the Mohawk are a member nation—entered into a series of historic treaties and agreements with the British Crown, known as the Covenant Chain embodied in the Two Row Wampum, that precede the Dominion of Canada by centuries. These are intriguing conditions for unique and meaningful work to be done at this institution on Indigenous/Settler relations, on tribal-specific Iroquoian and Algonquin cultures, and on Indigenous literary and language study more specifically.

As is the field of Indigenous Studies itself, this QNS position profile is inherently interdisciplinary and, while focused on humanities scholarship, potentially straddles all four thematic foci of Queen's Strategic Research Plan (PDF). Most prominently, this position would support and advance the research cluster in Exploring Human Dimensions: Society, Culture and Human Behaviour, but depending upon the specific area of expertise of the appointed scholar, the position could also contribute to the cluster in Human Health and Wellness and/or to our strength in any of Understanding and Sustaining the Environment and Energy Systems: Ecology and the Natural Environment; Creating, Discovering and Innovating: Creative Production and Expression; and Securing Safe and Successful Communities: Information and Communication, specifically in Media Studies. The Departments of English, LLCU, and Drama believe that universities have a strong role to play in assisting First Nations communities with the revitalization of Indigenous Communities. Working to integrate Indigenous ways of knowing into research and curricular initiatives, post-secondary institutions like Queen's can also be important repositories for the longevity of cultural knowledge and can provide important resources for knowledge creation and regeneration.

Beyond the Strategic Research Plan, this QNS position in Indigenous Literatures and Languages is also in keeping with the institutional priorities of Queen's University as a whole, as stated in the senate-approved Academic Plan (November 2011, PDF),(note) “Meeting the Needs of Aboriginal Students, Staff and Faculty,” Equity Report (July 2011, drawing on the Aboriginal Vision Gathering (February 2011)),(note) and the Aboriginal Education Policy Objectives (PDF, developed by Queen's University Aboriginal Council, June 2012).(note) While furthering important and much-needed research in the field of Indigenous Literary and Language Studies, a QNS in this area will support the BA General Plan in Indigenous Studies (now in the approval process) and thus provide students at Queen's with enhanced opportunities to gain foundational knowledge in the languages, literatures, and cultures of First Nations, Métis and Inuit peoples as well as global Indigeneities. Just as importantly, when Indigenous-identified students, staff and faculty see themselves reflected in the research strengths and curriculum, it creates a more welcoming environment for Aboriginal people and a learning opportunity for the Queen's community as a whole. For this reason, the QNS appointee will be expected to teach at both undergraduate and graduate levels, undertake graduate supervision, pursue a vigorous research program, and engage meaningfully with members of the Queen's and regional Aboriginal communities.

This proposal is in keeping with the Academic Plan’s pillar on “Diversification of Curricula and Integration of Indigenous Knowledge,” which states: “Adequate representation of Indigenous issues in curricula across campus needs to be a major objective. The University must take meaningful steps to raise consciousness of Indigenous issues across Canada and abroad. To become a national and global leader, Queen’s needs to enter into an equal partnership with the Aboriginal Community, recognize Aboriginal history, culture, and ways of knowing as educational core competencies for all students, and make Queen’s a welcoming place where Indigenous values and knowledge are respected” (29).

The Equity Report expresses regret that “there is no Indigenous studies program at Queen’s” and notes that previous efforts to address the weaknesses in Indigenous offerings in the curriculum have suffered from “fragmentation and a lack of coherence” (38).

Aboriginal Council has been given the mandate to establish three working groups to achieve educational policy objectives, one of which is the working group on Indigenous Knowledge, Curriculum and Research, the specific goals of which are:

  • To ensure and enhance partnerships between Queen’s University and Aboriginal communities with the goal of developing collaborative research and learning projects that explicitly honour and value Aboriginal culture, ways of knowing and languages;
  • To more fully integrate the teaching of Aboriginal perspectives and content in courses and programs across the university to recognize Aboriginal history, culture and ways of knowing;
  • To develop academic programs to meet the needs of Aboriginal students at Queen's University