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U of W Graduate Students Present Research on Indigenous Knowledge

Graduate Studies


On March 17th and 18th, eight graduate students from the University of Winnipeg presented at “Rising Up: A Graduate Students Conference on Indigenous Knowledge and Research in Indigenous Studies” at the University of Manitoba. The students came from four different graduate programs (Cultural Studies, Indigenous Governance, Development Practice, and Peace and Conflict Studies), exemplifying how important research based in and on Indigenous knowledge is happening across the academy. The Faculty of Graduate Studies contacted Juliana Coughlin, Crystal Flamand, Charlene Moore, and Cassandra Szabo to learn more about their research and to hear about their conference experiences.

Juliana Coughlin: Peace and Conflict Studies

Please tell us a little about your research into the structural violence against Indigenous women and what you took away from the Rising Up conference.

The work I presented at the “Rising Up” Conference last month focused on understanding the structural violence against Indigenous women living in urban, and rural areas and how Indigenous women experience homelessness. My research drew connections between the lack of affordable and accessible housing for Indigenous women in both rural, and urban areas and the ongoing physical and sexual violence many Indigenous women experience. My research also focused on what the steps forward should look like, such as, the development of a National Housing Strategy and Action plan with both a gender analysis and a clear component on how the lack of affordable housing affects all women differently. I argued that there needs to be additional funding for housing and safe spaces for Indigenous women and youth in both rural and urban areas, including 24 hour safe spaces that are culturally appropriate.

 I am very thankful for the opportunity to be invited into the space to discuss and be part of the dialogue. I learned about the importance of understanding and working collaboratively with all people through this ongoing process of decolonization, and what real reconciliation looks like. It’s always  great when graduate students have the opportunity to share their perspectives, work, and to listen. I believe it’s one of the many ways we can make education and research more accessible for all people.

 Crystal Flammand

Crystal Flamand: Indigenous Governance

Could you tell us a little bit about your research project “Youth Empowerment through Culture and Identity: Soul of the Powwow”, what inspired it, and how you would describe your experience at the conference?

My working title of “Youth Empowerment through Culture and Identity: Soul of the powwow” is a practicum research based study.  The research focused on youth and their interest in Powwow culture.  The purpose of the practicum work was to grasp and enhance the interest of youth and to assist in their aspirations to learn the powwow culture.  What inspired me to take on this practicum work was an employed position I held within the community. Back in 2007 I started working as a “Youth Intervention worker” with the Nishnawbe-aski Legal Services Corporation. Within the position I had the chance to hear from the youth about how they desired to learn all aspects of the powwow.  It was then that I felt the urge that more work needed to be done based on culture and identity.

My panel presentation at the “Rising Up” conference was my first time presenting my research practicum.  As a panelist I was overwhelmed and thrilled that a significant amount of the audience took interest on what the research involved.  I was given an abundant amount of information from suggestions and recommendations on what more I can do to move forward by the audience; therefore, overall, the presentation on my practicum work took flight with interest at the conference.

Charlene Moore 

Charlene Moore: Indigenous Governance

You recently completed a documentary entitled Moccasin Stories that inspired your master’s thesis. Could you tell us a little bit more about the documentary and the research you developed from Moccasin Stories and presented at Rising Up?

Moccasin Stories is a documentary about the women at the forefront of keeping the art of moccasin making strong. The documentary looks into how moccasins relate to connection and healing individually and communally. When I was working on this documentary I learned about the benefits that come with moccasin making in an economic and social sense. I had already done research into the topic and when my advisor suggested I do my thesis on this area. It seemed to be a natural fit. In addition to this I found out that my community was looking to open a store in Churchill to sell moccasins, so the progression from film to thesis flowed well. My thesis is tentatively titled "Moccasin Making for Community Economic Development in York Factory First Nation". I have been doing research on the history of the community and development theory from a Western and Indigenous perspective. The goal so far is to find where York Factory stands on economic development and how that plays a role in moccasin making. 

“Rising Up” was the first place I have ever presented this research, or any of my research in general. I was nervous to present something that was still in progress but excited for the opportunity. The conference was a great first place for someone just stepping into academia as a new researcher. The audience was responsive and receptive to what I had presented, offering their opinions on the topic and asking questions. The other researchers I presented with also all had interesting interrelated topics that offered informed points for further discussion.

Cassandra Szabo

Cassandra Szabo: Development Practice

Your presentation at the “Rising Up” conference took a look at University of Winnipeg undergraduate students’ perceptions of Indigenous course requirement. Could you please tell us a little bit about your findings and the response your paper received at the conference?

We found that the vast majority of students surveyed felt it was a crucial requirement to have, and of those students that have taken it they have had profound changes in their perceptions of issues relating to Indigenous peoples. However, we also found that many students would not take it willingly if they had the option, and to us this showed the importance of having it as a requirement.  I believe this research was a good starter project to show that the course requirement is necessary, however it also showed us that there is still work that needs to be done on the requirement. A larger project should be conducted that can assess other important factors of the course such as the instructors and their perceptions, the content taught in the course, and how Indigenous students are able to shape the course. 

The presentation and information was well received at the conference, many people were very interested to hear what students thought about the requirement, and one student from a United States University said he wished that this would be done in American universities due to misinformation and biases. 

You can read an abstract for each of the U of W presentations, including  and more about the conference panel presentations in the “Rising Up” program at http://umanitoba.ca/student/indigenous/media/RisingUp2017.pdf and find more information on the “Rising Up: A Graduate Student Conference in Indigenous Studies” Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/RisingUpConference/.

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