Matthew Ward (2015)




Hometown (Nation): Slave Lake, AB (Driftpile Cree Nation)

Graduation Year: May 2015

Degree Specialization: FNIS Major, Political Science Minor

Research Practicum Topic: Queer Indigenous Feminism & Performance Art



After a difficult first year at UBC, I struggled to find something I was passionate about. My father suggested I take an FNSP (now FNIS) course while I figured out what I wanted to major in. That first FNSP 100 course was one of the most difficult, but most rewarding classes I've taken. Not because the workload was overwhelming per say, but due to the amount of personal unlearning I had to do about myself as an Indigenous person and the issues my community face. It quickly became apparent that a lot of the beliefs I had about myself and Indigenous people I had learned throughout my life in public education were being challenged; before I took FNIS I thought I knew everything I needed to know about Canada and Indigenous people. While I started out as a Political Science Major and FNIS Minor, I found myself taking more and more FNIS courses and less and less POLI. Not because Political Science didn't interest me anymore, but because my interest in Critical Indigenous Studies was growing. Throughout my years in the Program, the more courses I took, it seemed like even more were being offered. I ended up with my FNIS degree because I loved the Program so much, I couldn't say no!


Am I allowed to say all? FNIS 452: Indigenous Social Movements and FNIS 451 Indigenous Feminisms both deal with the importance of community, women, 2-Spirit people, and land. These courses really shaped my writing style, made me ask a lot of important self-reflective questions, and made me a better writer, scholar, and community member. I was able to use skills from these courses in upper-level classes, such as POLI 449B: Theorizing Indigenous Politics, or POLI 562A: Global Indigenous Politics, where I got to take everything I learned and apply it to a global context to think about how Indigenous struggles are a global phenomenon, and see our resistance to colonialism as a powerful tool of unification. The Program also offered FNIS 401F: Indigenous New Media, which reconciled some of my favourite things about Critical Indigenous studies and the role of New Media in the world today. Then to top all these off, I got to do a research project on the intersections of all these things within the FNIS 400: Practicum with my placement at the grunt gallery.


I think the community the Program is able to make for students has been responsible for many of the memories. Being the past President of the First Nations Studies Student Association (FNSSA), I had the opportunity to be witness to a number of amazing events. I think the fondest memories were whenever we were able to bring people together over the issues we were passionate about. Whether it was presenting at student conferences on campus, hosting a fundraiser at the longhouse, grabbing pizza at DD's, organizing the annual Pow-wow, or just studying together in the lounge, times were always good when we were together.


Leading up to graduation I was working for an Indigenous consulting firm, which gave me an opportunity to learn how to collect and apply qualitative and quantitative data in report writing and research documents. After I graduated, I was offered an internship at Homeward Trust Edmonton in Research & Planning. After a few months, I was hired on full-time as a Coordinator of Planning & Research where I am currently working. Between graduation and my current position, I've had opportunities for social work, government policy analyst, and curriculum development positions. I've found that this degree has really offered me a diverse skill-set, which has translated to diverse opportunities outside of the classroom.


If you're interested in challenging yourself, getting involved with a passionate student & staff community, and are generally curious about Indigenous issues, then I say try out FNIS and see how it goes. In my opinion, everyone should take at least the introductory. You're gunna learn a lot about the world, but a surprising amount about yourself too. The skills you’ll get from this degree are going to translate to a lifetime of wonderful, self-reflexive work. I wouldn’t trade my experience with FNIS for anything.


I would just tell them that they're going to be fine. Remember that the work you're doing is important, but that you are human too. Make your deadlines, take care of your relationships with your organizations and with each other, and don't forget to make it fun too. Just because something is important doesn't mean you can't laugh once and awhile. Be forgiving of yourself when things go awry and be forgiving of others when things get tough. Finishing your degree and doing your practicum are not easy feats so celebrate your achievements too! Don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it and hold each other up. I don’t remember the tests I failed or the papers I made mistakes in, I remember the people that were there for me and that I was there for. It all comes back to community!