Legacies of BC's Colonial Past Examined During Conference at VIU

From left to right: VIU students Troy Barnes, Chantelle Spicer, Morgan Mowatt and Kurstin Decker are presenting in the Everyone’s Responsibility: Indigenizing the Academy from a Student Perspective panel during the BC Studies conference hosted at VIU’s Nanaimo Campus May 4-6.

April 28, 2017 - 3:45pm

The BC Studies 2017 conference takes place May 4-6 at VIU’s Nanaimo Campus and features research on the theme of (Un)Settling British Columbia

British Columbia’s colonial past and the legacies of colonialism is the timely topic of this year’s BC Studies Conference hosted at Vancouver Island University (VIU) May 4-6.

BC Studies is both an academic journal and the name of a biannual, multi-disciplinary conference hosted by a different BC university every two years. VIU last hosted a BC Studies conference in the 1990s. The theme for this year’s conference is (Un)Settling British Columbia, a theme organizers thought was appropriate given what VIU and other institutions have been doing around the topic of reconciliation, says Dr. Katharine Rollwagen, co-organizer and VIU history professor.

“We wanted a theme that would bring into focus the issues of Indigenous peoples and their communities,” she says. “The presentations at this year’s conference will focus on the colonial histories of British Columbia, and the legacies and consequences of the province’s colonial past – a timely topic given the work VIU has been doing in terms of engaging with our communities on the important topic of reconciliation. It’s an opportunity to engage in discussions about the province’s past, present and, ultimately, its future, especially in relation to Indigenous issues.”

More than 100 professors, students and community group members from across BC, Washington, the rest of Canada and even England will present their research over three days. From cultivating territorial claims through horticulture, to reconciliation in an intercultural context, to the politics of Indigenous title in BC, to using augmented reality and drones to recover, record and present Indigenous military history, Rollwagen is impressed with the diversity of the conference program.

“Our presenters’ list shows there’s an international interest in what’s happening in BC, especially in terms of Indigenous history and issues,” says Rollwagen.

The conference opens Thursday, May 4 with a keynote address from Grand Chief Stewart Phillip of the Union of BC Indian Chiefs. VIU Chancellor Louise Mandell, one of Canada’s foremost Aboriginal rights lawyers, will also be moderating a panel discussion on May 4 based on the prize-winning book Unsettling Canada: A National Wake-Up Call. The conference theme is inspired by this book by Arthur Manuel, who passed away in January.

In the book, Manuel, one of the most forceful advocates for Indigenous title and rights in Canada, wrote about the place of Indigenous peoples within the country’s political and economic space and sets out a vision for a new, sustainable Indigenous economy. Both the keynote address and the panel discussion will be livestreamed through the conference website.

Dr. Laura Cranmer, a VIU First Nations Studies Professor from ‘Namgis First Nation, says from her perspective, the (Un)Settling BC theme closely parallels the focus of her department’s core courses.

“I welcome the attention the conference brings to the essential work of questioning settler assumptions of authority over traditional territories and resources, and of re-asserting traditional knowledge systems, Indigenous languages and respectful stewardship of the environment,” she says. “I look forward to participating in the round table on ‘Unsettling Archaeologies,’ where I will be presenting examples of local Kwak’wala concepts and attitudes.”

Dr. Imogene Lim, a VIU Anthropology Professor, is presenting research undertaken by the Asian Canadians on Vancouver Island: Race, Indigeneity, and the Transpacific project.

“The theme is timely given the availability of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Final Report, as well as changes in the province’s K-12 school curriculum,” says Lim. “What ‘we’ think of BC’s (and Canada’s) history has been unsettled, especially for those who never questioned the Eurocentric narrative that has, for the most part, been presented and taught.”

On Friday, May 5, there will be a free film screening of All Our Father’s Relations in the Malaspina Theatre (Building 310) at 7 pm. The film is about the Grant siblings, who travel to China from Vancouver in an attempt to rediscover their father’s roots and better understand his fractured relationship with their Musqueam mother. After the film, Elder Larry Grant, Producer Sarah Ling and Director Alejandro Yoshizawa will take questions from the audience. Anyone from the community is welcome to attend this screening.

The conference is open to the public and people can register for a single day or all three days. The film screening on Friday night is free. For rates, to register and for more information, visit ah.viu.ca/bcstudies.



Jenn McGarrigle, Communications Officer, Vancouver Island University

P: 250.740.6559 | C: 250.619.6860 | E: jenn.mcgarrigle@viu.ca | T: @VIUNews

Tags: Research