Message from the President

Hey there, Matthew Ward here, incoming President of FNSSA and also UBC’s unofficial resident pizza-lover. I am from Driftpile Cree Nation in Northern Alberta and am going into my…5th (ugh) year here at UBC and have been involved with the First Nations Studies Program (yay!) for 2 years. During this time, I’ve done a lot of learning, and with that, a lot of growing.

I’ve had to take seriously questions surrounding my identity; my Cree father and white mother, and the critical identity politics that surround being a full-status, yet mixed-identity Indigenous person. I’ve had to confront my queer identity, as a gay man, and how that positions me within my school, Vancouver, my family, my community (Driftpile Cree Nation), my hometown (Slave Lake, Alberta), my relationships, my language, and my culture. It seems hard to believe that I’ve only been involved with FNSSA for a year and a half, and in that time have been able to contribute to the community through supporting the fantastic projects that have come to life through this student group; from the journal (coming soon!) to the blog (where you’re reading this!). From our fantastic member-appreciation events (Double DD Pizza anyone?) to the successful fundraisers (like the $1200 raised this past Spring!). None of this would have been possible without the support of our team, and the community we have built. Our support for one another is matched only by our accountability to each other. With FNSSA, I’ve been given the opportunity to explore my identity and ask difficult questions around people that, not only genuinely care, but are experiencing these life changing (and often crisis-inducing) questions too!

As a club, we operate so closely in our personal lives, our academic lives, and our extracurricular activities that we get comfortable sitting together, walking together, spending every waking moment together (kidding, but only a little). I’m here to tell you that you’ve got absolutely nothing to worry about if you are wanting to get involved with our tight group! FNSSA is an inclusive community that values all of its members, new and old, and the wonderful contributions they make! What made becoming a part of FNSSA so easy is that I didn’t need to know everything about myself or the world, I didn’t need to be able to explain how I live decolonization through my life, and I definitely didn’t need to be Indigenous (though I am). What mattered to this group of people was that I supported the work we felt was right, ensured everything we did was rooted in giving back to the community, and to make sure we held each other accountable to our actions. It is through these values that I’ve lived the last 3 years of my life at UBC, and it is these values that I give credit to for the many successes our student club and its fantastic members have achieved. This club has supported me at my highs and lows, and has been a contributing factor in my decision to continue my studies in academia. As one of many leaders in FNSSA, I want to ensure that this space, this club, continues to offer that to FNSP students, UBC students, Indigenous peoples, and non-Indigenous peoples. All it took was for me to show up at a meeting where I didn’t know a single person (which happened to be the first meeting for the journal) and 1.5 years later, here I am among many others, working to better our communities, challenging each other, growing, and having fun along the way.

It is my hope that through this post, you will see just how amazing FNSSA has been; a highlight of my experience here at the University of British Columbia, and I want you all to be a part of it. FNSSA is always looking for fun, passionate, and excited people to take on a multitude of projects. Among those already stated, we’ve presented at conferences (F-Word, Student Leadership Conference), we’ve facilitated workshops, and we manage online content through our blog and a social media presence on Facebook. We’ve engaged multiple levels of community organizations, faculties, and student groups in dialogue around Indigenous issues on and off campus. We’ve got a number of upcoming projects in the works too AND we host really fun parties so we can get our groove on!

All this and more could be yours, and I sincerely hope you get to experience what I’ve had the opportunity to experience being a part of this fantastic student club. If you’re interested in getting involved, like us on Facebook to find out when our meetings are, send an email to As an alternative, you can contact me personally at

I look forward to (hopefully) getting a chance to know you!

Many thanks, and keep it real,

Matt Ward

‘Garbage Baggage’ from Halfbreed’s Reasoning

I wasn’t going to major in Native Studies.

I just wasn’t going to.

When I came to university, I had decided that I was going to earn a “legitimate” major: economics, political science, anything but Native Studies.  I wasn’t going to major in Native Studies because I didn’t want to be that Native kid.

I came to university with four garbage bags of luggage: two were my clothes and bedding and the two others were my internalized racism and shame.

I struggled so much in my first semester of university.  I felt disconnected from my classmates who seemed to know way more than I did in these topics.  I felt disconnected from home and I desperately clung to any I could that made me feel less away and more at home where I was.  I failed two courses my first semester: French and Economics.  I struggled to grasp and understand the topics at hand, I felt nothing towards them.  I hated university, I regretted coming my second week into school.  I drank with my friends, I gossiped with my roommate, and I didn’t do my homework.  I spent nights crying, thinking that I didn’t belong here.  I was a fake, an imposter, and that my failing was just proof that I needed to go home and stay home.  I needed to just give up and realize this place wasn’t for me.

I left my first semester of university with 46% and a hope and prayer I didn’t fail out.  It was that Christmas break at home I spent crying because I thought I had let my family down that I realized that  to make it in this system, that I had to fight to be here.  So I pretended to know what the hell I was talking about.  From Kant to Macroeconomics, I pretended that I could keep up with kids who seemed to be so far ahead of me and my Northern education.  These kids from the city knew so much.  I had no Native friends, no community, no connection, no feeling of belonging.  I made friends, and to this day, my friends I made in my first year are still near and dear to my heart, but something was missing.

In my second year I took the plunge and enrolled in First Nations Studies 100 and my entire academic and personal life changed: my world was turned upside down.  I sat in lectures with students who looked like they came from where I’m from, students who were just as mixed-up in this institution like I was.  I re-learned my history, I learned things about myself and my people that I never knew.  I finally felt connected to something at this school, I felt belonging.  I felt really fucking angry. I was angry because I was feeling feelings that thus far, the education system said I shouldn’t.  I was angry because I realized that everything I have learned about my country was a lie.  I was angry because I had realized just how much I was ashamed of who I am as a Metis woman and student.

Through my degree I have learned how to be angry.  I learned to be angry at the systems that made me feel so ashamed of myself, I learned how to identify them and resist them.  I learned acceptance and the responsibility I have to this land.  But, yet, I think most importantly, I’ve learned how to love: myself, my family, and my community (in all its forms) just as they are.  I have learned that colonial trauma presents itself in our lives in so many different ways, that we have to learn to love ourselves and others as they heal.  We have to have patience and understanding for one another because we are all on a rough and complicated journey to a destination that is still undefined.

Now that I’m graduating (god willing), I look back to my first year at UBC and I realize how scared I was to be here, how disconnected, and how tough I pretended to be.  I’m not saying that every Indigenous student needs to major in Native Studies, I’m saying that there’s an obvious flaw in the education system that I didn’t learn these integral things until I was 19.

Now that it’s over, I realize that even though I have no idea what to do with my life, I have fundamentally changed as a person.  My degree has given me so much and now I want to begin giving back.

It is coming to a point in my life, in all our lives as graduating students, that we have to learn to begin a new journey.  I am thankful everyday that the knowledge I have now has taught me how to fight, love, and resist through my next adventure.

Samantha Nock is a recent graduate of the First Nations Studies Program at UBC. She assisted in starting up the Indigenous Studies Undergraduate Journal as Editor, and served as Vice-President of the First Nations Studies Student Association (FNSSA). Her personal blog, Halfbreed’s Reasoning, has been shared across Canada and engages with Métis identity politics, academia, representation, and more. Her blog can be found here.

Happy New Year!

From all members of the First Nations Studies Student Association, the Indigenous Studies Undergraduate Journal, and here at the blog, we hope your New Year is off to a great start, and we would love to share it with you! Check out some of the information below to see how to see how you can get involved.

2014 Student Leadership Conference

On January 11th, blog members Anna McKenzie and Matt Ward will be doing a highlighted project presentation at the 2014 Student Leadership Conference on their processes and experiences as contributing members to the Journal and Blog projects throughout the past year and offer their own advice and experiences when it comes to becoming student leaders. Be sure to register soon, as entry is limited! Register here!

FNSP Courses

Still looking for a course that will squeeze into your schedule? Look no further! Check out course descriptions of some very informative courses being offered by the First Nations Studies Program here at UBC! Space is limited so be sure to do so quickly here.

FNSSA Facebook Page

To keep up to date with upcoming events, meetings, and important conversations happening in and around the UBC and Vancouver community, be sure to like FNSSA’s Facebook page.

Blog Submissions Open (As Always)

As per usual, the blog is always accepting creative, academic, and intersectional approaches to Indigenous issues and we would love to hear from you! If you think you have some content that would look great on the website, just send us an email with your content attached and you could be featured! Send your work to We look forward to seeing what you’ve been up to!

To conclude, we would like to wish you all the best in the upcoming second semester, and hope to see you around campus at one of our events! If you’d like more information on how to get involved, don’t hesitate to email us here on the blog, or contact us through our Facebook page!

Happy New Year!

Reflections on “Decolonizing the Language Revitalization Process” by Katherine Carey

Tonight I attended a lecture on “Decolonizing the Language Revitalization Process” given by April Charlo (Bitterroot Salish people) and Khelsilem Rivers (Sḵwx̱wú7mesh-Kwakwa̱ka̱’wakw). There were two points that I found particularly earthshattering. One was that there is no word for sorry in Salish. Apology, regret, and a hope to make it better are not something that you can express in a single word. The concept is much bigger than a single word in the Salish dialect that April speaks and it is something that you have to express in your actions, words, thought and in the impact that it has on another person. What came to mind for me was how Beverley Jacobs responded to the Prime Minister’s apology “What is it this government is going to do in the future to help our people?” How valuable is a word like sorry without all those other expressions behind it? What would an apology from Stephen Harper on behalf of the Government of Canada look like, feel like, sound like if there was no word for sorry?

It is easy for me to tell Stephen Harper he should embody what he talks about, but Klhesilem River said something that made it harder for me to just do that. He was talking about the difference between linguistics and revitalization, where one is the study of a language, which is not focused on creating a healthy community of fluent speakers. Linguistics is learning about a language, not learning a language itself, and yet our language classes are often focused on learning the suffixes and the pronouns and the verbs and all the other parts of the language, or on the translation of words in one language into another, and not on the actual practice of speaking the language. I was feeling really great after the lecture, like I had learnt a lot. And then on processing a bit, it hit me then that in studying decolonization or reconciliation as I am often in First Nations Studies, I am not (necessarily) practicing decolonization, maybe at all. This is a challenging thing for me to face, because FNSP feels lovely and safe, and I feel pretty confident in my ability to discuss decolonization and reconciliation. How can I begin?

By Katherine Carey, a fifth year First Nations Studies student who grew up on the unceded territory of the Bantu people and the Coast Salish people. She has worked for various women’s centres in Vancouver, and is currently completing a practicum for the First Nations Health Authority. This reflective piece was written after she had attended the event on September 25th, 2013 at SFU Goldcorp Centre for the Arts.

‘The Raven’ and FNSP 433A

Hey guys! There have been a few updates in the past few weeks. First off, the First Nations Studies Program, have announced their new newsletter, ‘The Raven’. Thanks to the hardwork of Erica Baker, Dr. Daniel Justice, Shelley Long, and Kathy Moyou, students now have a bi-annual newsletter that features the on-goings of First Nations Studies Program students and staff. The newsletter can be accessed on the FNSP website and in the blog’s gallery, and happens to feature a section on the ISUJ Blog you’re currently reading! Check it out and get aquainted with what we’ve been up to!

Secondly, a new FNSP student directed seminar course is now being offered in the 2013 academic year. FNSP 433A: The Politics of Indigenous-Settler Reconciliation in Canada will be exploring the topic of reconciliation in relation to Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples in Canada. This course is coinciding with the Vancouver National Event of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission that is happening September 18th-21st, and also with the City of Vancouver’s official ‘Year of Reconciliation’. For more information on this course, click here to be directed to FNSP’s course listings and register today!

Finally, an update from the Journal team is that all submissions have been collected, and they are currently reviewing materials sent in. We look forward to announcing upcoming welcoming events for the new academic year in the Fall, along with an announcement on the release of the Indigenous Studies Undergraduate Journal.

Happy Summer Days!

Journal Submissions CLOSED

As of June 14th, 2013, submissions have officially closed. We thank everyone who submitted their work, and the journal team looks forward to reading and reviewing all the great work that has come in. For those anxiously awaiting their copy of the the journal, we have high hopes to have something available come Fall 2013. Keep checking back for more details on the journal, and for upcoming work being posted on the blog!

Hope you’re all enjoying your summer!

– Matt

Journal Submission Date EXTENDED

The call for submissions to xʷnaʔələmxʷ sχəχi:ls has been EXTENDED TO JUNE 14th, 2013. Accepting essays, stories, poems, and visual artwork. If you have something that exists outside these realms, feel free to contact us here at the blog, or the journal team in the Contact Us tab. Check the Submissions criteria in the menu bar as well for any other information you may require. We look forward toseeing your work published in our brand-spankin’ new journal!


– ISUJ Blog Team

Looking for Submissions!


My name is Matthew Ward, currently going into my 4th year of studies at UBC in both Political Science and First Nations Studies. As you may or may not know, I am one of the blog editors here. The team and I have been taking time to relax after bringing this blog and the coupling journal to life. Now that we’ve settled into our summer lifestyles, we’re ready to start accepting and reviewing materials to be posted on the blog! This is open to everyone (students, faculty, citizens from anywhere and everywhere!) and we will accept almost any format of submission! Feel free to share the current submissions and get inspired to share something with us!

Remember, send submissions to in order to be considered, and check out the ‘Submit Your Work’ button above!

Ekosi maka,

Matt Ward

Grandfather by Ookishkimaanisii Johnston


no one would ever call you traditional

you’re not an oldschoolindian bristling with sage and sweet grass

you sing in church, sit in your chair strum your banjo smoke drink

shoot squirrels and raccoons from the porch.

But your mother wrapped you in the Indian way, and she taught your sisters

who swaddled me tight and secured, stopped my squalling

I fell asleep right away

You were in the bush when you were three years old

(did you carry a gun bigger than you)

(did you talk to the spirits then, did you walk in their world, before the priests?)

I’ve seen you hunt; I’ve seen you clean your kills. You taught me.

Mishom, Nimishomis,

I know you beat that priest up when he hit your brother

that you ran away from the residential school, that you made it all the way home

how many days, how many nights, did you spend alone in the bush, on the road

(but you were never really alone, were you?)

You joined the army then, you’re a veteran now. You carry the flags

into the pow wow grand entry, handsome in your pressed uniform, shined buttons

Mishomis, you’re a warrior, aren’t you, but no one would ever call you traditional.

Who would you be

Who would I be if they never took you? Would your low voice

burn warm with the words of our people? Would you sit next to me in ceremonies

I got my clan from you. What’s your name, the one

Creator gave you before you were born in the same room where you watch TV?

My mother reads the missionaries’ records and tells me stories

she translates to English from French from our language,

Nimishomis, those stories should come from you.

New Beginnings A Success


The First Nation Studies Student Association would like to sincerely thank everyone for their support and enthusiasm surrounding our ‘New Beginnings’ Blog Launch. The event honoured the First Nations Studies Program and also introduced the xʷnaʔələmxʷ sχəχi:ls Journal and blog you’re currently reading (the Indigenous Studies Undergraduate Blog)! Thanks to the dedication of the FNSSA Execs, Journal and Blog teams, a night of celebration was shared with a full house at the Rhizome Café.  The evening began with notable speeches, followed by an exciting dialogue over what the community was interested in seeing in the journal and blog. The responses were overwhelming and our thanks go out to those in the community that shared their thoughts with us.

Our team put in a lot of love and dedication to create an event to showcase our blog that supports the voices of undergraduate students at UBC. This event was only the beginning however, and now that we are launched, we wish to encourage anyone who wants to share their work to submit to the blog or to the first addition of the Indigenous Studies Undergraduate Journal.

We would also like to extend our thanks to the many people that helped make this event possible. To Rhizome Café for their amazing hospitality and delicious food, to the First Nation Studies Program at UBC, to Alexandra (Allie) Downing for her photographs of the event, to all those that shared their work with us and for everyone that made an appearance despite the exasperating rain. We hold our hands up to you for  inspiring us in our pursuits and interests in Indigenous academia.