Department of Indigenous Studies


Welcome to the Department of Indigenous Studies


The World Council of Indigenous Peoples define Indigenous peoples as ”people, living in countries which have populations composed of differing ethnic or racial groups, who are descendants of the earliest populations living in the area and who do not as a group control the national government of the countries within which they live.” ​

Indigenous Studies at the University of Lethbridge is dedicated to community-engaged scholarship, and research of the priorities and aspirations of Indigenous peoples in Canada and throughout the world. Within the department, Indigenous and non-Indigenous students have the opportunity to learn and think about Indigenous knowledges in creative, transformative and critical ways. The department offers courses that engender a rigorous and respectful understanding of Indigenous peoples’ languages, knowledges, cultures, histories, politics, arts, intellectual traditions, and research methodologies.


Department Highlights

Inter-institutional panel affirms commitment to Indigenization and decolonization

University of Lethbridge faculty and former students, along with City of Lethbridge and Galt Museum staff, recently presented a panel at the Thinking with and Alongside Critical Indigenous Scholarship Conference at the University of Oxford. Organized by The Oxford Research Centre on the Humanities (TORCH) and its Critical Indigenous Studies Network, the conference sought to engage Indigenous epistemological and ontological perspectives and the contributions of Indigenous knowledge systems in diverse contexts.

The panel, Indigenization and Intercultural Collaboration in Municipal and Postsecondary Contexts, was convened by Dr. Patrick Wilson (Modern Languages and Linguistics and Prentice Institute Research Affiliate) and included contributions from Camina Weasel Moccasin (Curator Galt Museum), Perry Stein (Prentice Institute Research Affiliate, BA ’09), Ross Kilgour (City of Lethbridge Senior Community Planner and Prentice Institute Research Affiliate), Tara Million (Indigenous Studies and Prentice Institute Research Affiliate), Dr. Michelle Hogue (Indigenous Studies and Prentice Institute Research Affiliate), and Dr. Andrea Cuéllar (Anthropology and Associate Director of the Prentice Institute).

The panel was organized as a Talking Circle, following Indigenous protocols and ways of sharing knowledge, and consisted of conversations among panelists around four major themes — the TRC Calls to Action in institutional contexts, intercultural collaboration and cross-cultural learning, multiple constructions of Indigeneity and Indigenous identities, and decolonization and Indigenization — as they relate to their work in the City of Lethbridge, the University of Lethbridge and the Galt Museum and Archives.

These themes are connected to the ongoing commitment of each panelist to the work of reconciliation, and participation in this conference allowed them to see the relevance of this work in Lethbridge as well as a broader context.

Lena Russell - Obituary

The Department of Indigenous Studies extends its deepest condolences to the family, friends, students and colleagues of Ikkináínihki (Gentle Singer) Dr. Lena Heavy Shields Russell (BEd ’77, LLD ’06) who passed away on March 29, 2024.

Lena’s lifelong connection to Iniskim began in the 1970s, when she earned a Bachelor of Education in 1977. She spent her entire working life promoting and teaching Niitsi’powahsin, the Blackfoot language. She taught in the public schools on and off reserve as well as at the university, where she taught Advanced Spoken Blackfoot courses in the early 2000s.

To support Blackfoot language teaching in the schools, Ikkináínihki published a series of textbooks for the middle and high school level that remains one of the most comprehensive teaching resources available.

Dr. Heavy Shields Russell collaborated extensively with faculty of the Department of Indigenous Studies (formerly Native American Studies) on language-related projects, especially professors Don Frantz and Inge Genee. She was one of the principal consultants of the Blackfoot Dictionary of Stems, Roots and Affixes, co-edited by the late Donald Frantz with Lena’s daughter Norma Russell. Frantz also acknowledges her important contribution to his understanding of the language in his Blackfoot Grammar.

Lena Russell travelled to Vancouver with Inge Genee in 2006 to deliver a plenary lecture at the 38th Algonquian Conference. In 2014 they co-published Ákaitsinikssiistsi: Blackfoot Stories of Old. Lena and Inge also worked with visiting professor Fernando Zúñiga from Switzerland on several projects, one of which resulted in a co-authored article in the journal Linguistic Discovery in 2012. Lena was the principal mentor and language consultant of Inge’s master’s student Madoka Mizumoto, who graduated in 2016. In 2015 Lena, Inge and Madoka were invited participants in a workshop on Blackfoot language at the University of California Berkeley, where Lena was the main language consultant.

Dr. Heavy Shields Russell was rightfully proud of her accomplishments. Her important work was recognized by an Honorary Doctorate of the University of Lethbridge in 2006. In 2018 she received the Esquao Lifetime Achievement Award from the Institute for the Advancement of Aboriginal Women (IAAW). In 2021 she was inducted into the Alberta Order of Excellence

We are grateful and proud to have known Ikkináínihki and thankful for her long life and the professional and personal impact she has had on so many people.

On behalf of the Department of Indigenous Studies prepared by Inge Genee (Piitáákii)

A full obituary can be viewed here.

A condolence notice from the University of Lethbridge can be found here.

Shining Student Malit'i (Satisfied wherever you go or are at), Georgia Walkus

At the University of Lethbridge, inspirational professors and mentors have played a pivotal role in expanding Maliťi, Georgia Walkus's worldview and encouraging her to dream big, leading her to contemplate pursuing Indigenous law …

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Shining Educational Leadership Graduate litspyaapainskiaki (Singing in the Wind), Irene Young Pine

Guided by her past, Irene Young Pine (MEd '24 (BA/BEd '11)) continues her journey towards cultivating the next generation of teachers. Drawing from the reconciliation of her own lived experiences, she looks …

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Fine Arts Shining Student Jackson Paquette

Shining Student Jackson Paquette takes inspiration from his surroundings, from the concrete hallways of the University of Lethbridge, to the sweeping grasses in the coulees.

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Career Bridge: Centre for Work-Integrated Learning and Career Development

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