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Study Plan and Advisor

Master of Arts in Indigenous Governance


The Master of Arts in Indigenous Governance program offers the students the choice of completing the requirements of the degree via three unique streams. Students can choose to write a thesis, which is defended orally and assessed by a committee.  They may choose to write a comprehensive exam. The third option is to complete a practicum assignment with a relevant indigenous organization, community or government.

All students are required to take a total of 30 credit hours of work including 21 credit hours of required courses and 3 credit hours of elective courses. The remaining 6 credits are earned through the thesis, practicum, or comprehensive exam depending on the stream chosen.


Required Courses

  • GIS-7021(6) Pathways to Indigenous Wisdom
    In this course, students’ assumptions and world views are challenged and enriched by a deep and complex understanding of Indigenous ways of knowing. By decolonizing and indigenizing the mind, students are open to imagining and, later, implementing strategies that are embedded in indigenous teachings. The course emphasizes the importance of critical thinking through the examination and immersion into indigenous epistemologies and brings to the program the instructor’s expertise in First Nation’s governance, development efforts and systems.

  • GIS-7022(6) Indigenous Research Methodologies and Ethics
    This course provides a review of the movement towards the decolonization of the Western model of research and the revitalization of Indigenous research frameworks and methodologies. The course also offers analysis of Western research methods and both their histories in colonial practices as well as their potential usefulness in Indigenous community-based research. The unique issues and principles involving ethical research in Indigenous communities are explored. The course also includes an overview of the governance by Indigenous communities of their own research and ethical review processes.
  • GIS-7020(3) Indigenous Self Determination
    This course brings to the academy a pivotal concept for the present and future of Indigenous peoples. How Indigenous peoples face and deal with colonization, imperialism, and globalization will depend upon the critical understanding and realizations of self-determination. The legal, political, social, and cultural connotations around self-determination for Indigenous peoples are considered. The course is focused not only on theoretical considerations but is designed to bring issues of self-determination into the collective and individuals lives of those who identify themselves with the concerns of Indigenous peoples.

Language Requirement*

  • GIS-1101(6) Introductory Cree
    This course is intended for students who are not fluent in Cree and have never taken a course in the language. The emphasis is primarily on oral work for the purpose of learning basic sounds, vocabulary, and grammatical patterns. Structural differences between Cree and English are highlighted.
    OR
  • GIS-1201(6) Introductory Ojibwe
    This course is intended for students who are not fluent in Ojibwe and have never taken a course in the language. The emphasis is primarily on oral work for the purpose of learning basic sounds, vocabulary, and grammatical patterns. Structural differences between Ojibwe and English are highlighted.

Elective Courses**

  • GIS-7023(3): Indigenous Peoples, Globalization, and Development
    Indigenous peoples today are enmeshed in the expanding modern economy, subject to the pressures of both market and government. More and more indigenous communities are rejecting the traditional capitalist vision of development as human and environmental exploitation and focusing on new types of local development projects. This course analyzes some of the conflicts associated with traditional development projects in indigenous communities Taking indigenous peoples as actors, not victims, as its starting point, the class will then examine innovations in indigenous economic development that are culturally respectful, environmentally responsible and build a new sense of community
  • GIS-7024(3): Biocultural Diversity Conservation: Balancing Scientific and Indigenous Knowledge.
    The interconnectedness between biological and cultural diversity underscores the critical need for protecting biodiversity and Indigenous cultures. The course addresses worldwide concerns regarding the loss of biological and cultural diversity. The central premise of the course is the interrelationship between Indigenous people and their environment. The course provides comprehensive reading material and learning strategies for developing a holistic understanding of the current global trends on conservation and bi- prospecting activities. The course discusses strategies and mechanisms for the protection of Indigenous peoples’ ancestral rights to traditional knowledge and biological resources

  • GIS 7703 (3) Indigenous Education in an Era of Globalization
    This course examines various Indigenous learning systems and their adaptations within a global world. As societies become more integrated through globalization, traditional Indigenous learning systems are being challenged as to their viability. In response, Indigenous peoples are adapting their learning systems to meet the challenges that are occurring to the social fabric of their cultures. More generally, this course brings Indigenous perspectives on education to the analysis of globalization.

  • GIS-7026: Indigenous Food Security
    Community food security is gaining wider recognition and importance. The course focuses on a rich diversity of selforganized food systems to improve, maintain and enhance their health, well-being, resilience and ecological sustainability originated and nurtured by Indigenous and socially-economically under-represented local communities. It also examines Canadian and International case studies and empirical research on Indigenous voices, knowledges and perspectives on their own food systems.  This course explores and critically engages students with the concepts, approaches, practices and challenges of Indigenous food production, consumption and distribution and their role in achieving community food security.

  • GIS 7228 (6): Human Rights and Indigenous Rights in Latin America
    This course studies the dynamic situation of Indigenous and human rights and related social conflicts in Latin America. Indigenous nationalities and other marginalized minority groups have developed innovative strategies, alliances and forms of political participation to achieve recognition of their rights and contribute to a new political configuration in the region.  Although Indigenous peoples face similar cultural, political and economic challenges as a result of colonization and neoliberalism, their strategies of political participation produce different outcomes. A country or sub-region may be selected for an in-depth case study, and may vary in different times that the course is offered.

  • GIS-7030(3/6): Directed Readings
    In this course, readings and assignments in the area of Indigenous Studies are arranged between an individual student and the instructor. Topics may not duplicate regular course offerings in Indigenous Studies or other departments. This course is an opportunity to explore a specialized topic in the interdisciplinary context of the field. Examples of potential topics: comparing Canadian and New Zealand/Aotearoa treaty rights efforts; analyzing artistic forms of Indigenous political resistance; exploring health implications of indigeneity in settler societies; or ethno-historical research on early Winnipeg Aboriginal community organizations.

  • GIS-7200(3/6): Seminar in Selected Topics
    This course focuses on particular aspects of Indigenous Studies, with a particular focus on Indigenous governance/policy. The selected topic is discussed in seminar format. It may be approached in a variety of ways, including philosophical, ecological, social/cultural, economic, political, or artistically. The course may be repeated for credit when the topic varies.


Some courses offered as Selected Topics have included:

  • GIS 7200-001(3): Seminar: Indigenous Languages: Culture, Rights, And Conflict
    This course is designed to provide students with an overview of Indigenous language issues related to culture, rights and conflict. It will also cover a variety of themes such as language advocacy, revitalization, and resistance. Students will be encouraged to critically compare and contrast the treatment of Indigenous languages through legislation, policy, grassroots activism, and educational and systemic efforts in countries such as Canada, the United States, New Zealand, Norway, and Sweden.
  • GIS 7200-002(3): Seminar: Old Way - New Money: Indigenous Economic Development
    Students will study theories and practices related to indigenous economic development. Of particular interest is the relationship between economic development, related policies, and indigenous sovereignty or self-determination. Students will become familiar with a range of indigenous economic development activities in Canada and globally, including entertainment such as tourism and casinos, and extractive industries such as mining and fishing. The course will provide insights into attitudes toward indigenous economic development from within as well as from outside Indigenous communities as well as the implications of those attitudes on theories, practices, and policies.


Graduation Requirement

  • GIS-7101(6) Master´s Thesis
    OR
  • GIS-7102 (6) Work Practicum

*The program may accept proof of proficiency or study in another indigenous language to waive language requirement.

** Please note that not all elective courses are offered every year. In addition, in consultation with their advisor, students may take relevant courses in other Master Programs including, but not exclusively: the Master in Development Practice, History, Religion and Culture, Economics, Anthropology, and Political Science.  Courses taken through other departments must be at the graduate level (7000). 

For additional information on courses, please view the academic calendar.