Who are we?

The Institute for Critical Indigenous Studies (CIS) is an interdisciplinary research unit for Indigenous critical theory and politics, arts research, and applied social practice within the humanities and social sciences at UBC. It hosts First Nations and Indigenous Studies (FNIS) and First Nations and Endangered Languages (FNEL). In addition to providing institutional support for undergraduate and graduate education and a home for visiting scholars in the field and Indigenous artists, CIS fosters ethical research practices and meaningful partnerships with communities that further the social and political health, capacity, and self-determination of Indigenous peoples locally and globally.

What do we do?

This research and teaching institute is unique in North America for its structural commitment to Critical Indigenous Studies, a cognate discipline to Critical Ethnic Studies that is rooted in global Indigenous decolonial, feminist, and antiracist scholarship and politics. Its primary purpose is not cultural education, but rather the robust and ethical engagement of Indigenous political, methodological, and ideological concerns and conditions. Attention is given to the structures of and relationships between domains of knowledge and power, and the ways that experience informs knowledge across and between categories of difference. The commitments shaping CIS are therefore focused on empowering Indigenous peoples and transforming Indigenous and non-Indigenous relationships through sophisticated, engaged, collaborative, and mutually respectful research and practice.

Further distinguishing CIS from other Indigenous Studies programs in Canada and the U.S., the Institute explicitly prioritizes Indigenous critical theory and applied social practice within the humanities and social sciences, with an emphasis on ethical research methods and community-responsive scholarship. Rather than trying to address all areas of scholarship on Indigenous issues, CIS maintains its focus on interdisciplinary research and teaching excellence within the Faculty of Arts, thus complementing the work of other units and Faculties.

The international dissemination of best ideas, practices, and methods beyond the classroom is also a primary commitment of CIS, particularly across BC, North America, and the Pacific. (As UBC is on the Pacific, these engagements and relationships with Indigenous peoples, arts, and research across Oceania are particularly important.)

This includes:

  • Local practicum, co-op, and internship placement relationships dedicated to making high-level research relevant and responsive to the needs of community partners
  • International student and faculty exchanges and networks with academic partners across North America, Oceania, and the Indigenous world
  • Participation in media training and interviews, sponsorship of public events, lectures, symposia, and workshops
  • Hosting of established and emerging visiting scholars and artists
  • Investment in significant research and media projects and programs in the Indigenous humanities.