Statements on Indigenous identity

Statements on Indigenous identity

Principal Deane and Chancellor-Designate Sinclair issue statements calling for a national conversation on Indigenous identity.   

June 28, 2021


Statement from Queen’s University Principal Patrick Deane

Hello, I am Patrick Deane, Principal and Vice-Chancellor of Queen's University, here on the territory of the Haudenosaunee and Anishinaabek. It is important to recognize this territory and its significance for the Indigenous Peoples who lived, and continue to live, upon it and to acknowledge that many of us, including myself, are guests and settlers on this land.

Over the past few weeks, we have heard from many voices, inside our university and from around Canada, on the need to rethink and review the ways in which institutions like ours approach the question of Indigenous identity. We’ve also heard arguments about shortcomings in Queen’s recent practice. 

I want to say unequivocally that the university hears and understands these arguments, and that our aspiration is to address the question of Indigenous identity in a way that comes from and expresses the will of, the Indigenous community itself. We can see a different path forward.

We know that questions have been raised about processes that have been followed in the past. The way Indigenous identity has been factored into hiring and other internal processes may not have been what it should be – may not have been done in a way that meets the real needs of Indigenous scholars, students, academics, and communities.

But reconciliation is a process. The ways in which institutions like Queen’s participate in and contribute to the process of reconciliation is an ongoing journey, a process of evolution, and ensuring that our engagement and commitment to Indigenous scholarship and consultation is a significant part of this.

As a university that values diversity and equity, it is our intention to be transparent, open, and willing to learn so we can move forward together in a meaningful, collaborative way.

We have already been involved in conversations on this subject, and we will increase the intensity and robustness of our involvement – but to get to where we need to be on this will take time, intention, self-reflection, and concrete action. I commit the university to all those things.

How we thought of Indigenous identity as an institution – decades ago, 10 years ago, even five years ago is not how we must see it now. There is room for new directions that move us away from the legacy of colonial thoughtlessness.

I am so pleased to welcome Chancellor-Elect Hon. Murray Sinclair to Queen’s. His expert leadership and passion will be invaluable to guide our work as we move forward.

Statement from Queen’s University Chancellor- Designate Hon. Murray Sinclair on Indigenous identity

On July 1, I will join Queen’s University as their incoming Chancellor. This appointment comes at a time when critical conversations are happening at the university and across communities in Canada.

Queen’s University – like all institutions in Canada – has significant work to do. To date, the process for ensuring that Indigenous scholars are truly representative of Indigenous communities and experiences has been far from adequate.

It is clear that self-identification of Indigeneity no longer works. Self-declaration is an important part, but it is just the beginning. We must go beyond an honour system and include voices from Indigenous communities across Turtle Island.

Queen’s, and all universities, must work in allyship to build better processes that honour Indigenous self-determination, practices, and approaches to create a space that affirms Indigenous academics and students alike.

Queen’s will begin a process to look inward to address the concerns raised by Indigenous voices by reviewing and re-evaluating hiring practices and practices of engagement with Indigenous communities. At the same time, we must also look outward to begin a dialogue on who is the arbiter of Indigenous identity.

This is a complex conversation – one that is made more complicated by the ongoing legacy of colonialism and the intergenerational trauma caused by residential schools, child apprehension, and cultural genocide. It is one made difficult through the systematic, intentional disenfranchisement by the Canadian government to Indigenous claims of status. But it is a conversation that we must have now with an eye towards meaningful change and decolonization.

Our approaches to Indigeneity may differ from community to community and from nation to nation. How we make these determinations and understand these differences must be part of the conversation we take on together.

Many people in Canada are beginning a renewed period of reflection of the painful and ongoing legacy of colonialism after it has been ignored for far too long. To put reconciliation into action, to engage in real allyship, and to truly dismantle oppression, we need institutions like Queen’s to start on this path. The conversation we are having at Queen’s is just the start of something that must happen across universities, communities and many other institutions.

I invite all who wish to be part of this conversation to reach out as we begin this process of reflection.

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