Name change for aboriginal governance program

New indigenous studies department formed

Dr. Julie Pelletier is the chair and associate professor in the newly named U of W department of indigenous studies, formerly the aboriginal governance program. Andrew Israels

For the former aboriginal governance program, there’s more to a name than meets the eye.

This month the program gained department status and changed its name to the department of indigenous studies.

Changing the name means the degrees offered by the department will have a broader reach for students.

“In terms of indigenous instead of aboriginal, we had been receiving feedback from students, faculty and other scholars as well as indigenous people in Winnipeg who don’t see the term aboriginal as being internationally understood ... it’s a very Canadian term,” said Dr. Jennifer Pelletier, chair and associate professor in the department of indigenous studies.

“Using the term indigenous is more reflective of an international understanding of first inhabitants of a land.”

The aboriginal governance program existed six years prior to being made a department, which was a big step for the program. Pelletier stated that when a program has developed enough courses and has enough students, it can apply for departmental status.

The program began with help from president and vice-chancellor of the U of W Dr. Lloyd Axworthy, former director of the aboriginal governance program Larry Chartrand, executive director of government, indigenous and community affairs Jennifer Rattray and elders in the indigenous community who advised the program.

“There was a need to develop governance with strategies for indigenous students and community members so that we could develop our community governance structure capacity,” said Jerry Daniels, master’s student and executive assistant for the department of indigenous studies.

Pelletier is a new addition to the department, only starting this year.

“It’s really exciting for me to come on board,” she said. “I took the position as director of aboriginal governance and within a few weeks became the chair of indigenous studies.”

The department offers both master’s and bachelor’s degrees, and students currently enrolled in the program will be able to choose the title of their degree.

“When they graduate they get to choose what their degree is called ... a degree in indigenous studies or aboriginal governance,” Pelletier said.

“It’s a part of our institutional commitment to provide continuity to students.”

Daniel Swan is a U of W student interested in the new department.

“I think it’s great that our university provides such a specialized degree that could be helpful for a lot of people,” Swan said.

Pelletier hopes the new department will have a positive impact on indigenous peoples everywhere.

“The more indigenous students and non-indigenous people who know about this topic will benefit people in Winnipeg and around the world,” Pelletier said.

For more information on the program, visit

Published in Volume 65, Number 12 of The Uniter (November 18, 2010)

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