September 25, 2013


McMaster celebrates gift from iconic Ojibway author, marks 20 years of Indigenous Studies


Hamilton, Ont. September 25, 2013A program that began with aboriginal students, leaders and scholars seeking to increase awareness of First Nations culture and issues through education is now celebrating 20 years of success.


This week, McMaster celebrates two decades since the formal establishment of its Indigenous Studies Program with events that include the announcement that Ojibway author Basil Johnston is donating his archives to the University’s library.

Dawn Martin-Hill, now a professor of Anthroplogy, was still a student when she and others began advocating for an Indigenous Studies Program. She says the main challenge then was to develop trust among leaders at Six Nations and at McMaster that each was interested in the other.


While the program continues to grow and develop, when she looks back, she says she is proud of what its proponents have achieved, both at Six Nations and at McMaster.


“We were both frustrated and hopeful,” she remembers. “In a way, it seems like it hasn’t even been 20 years, and in a way it seems like it’s been 100.”


Anniversary celebrations begin on campus today (Sept. 25) with the announcement that Basil Johnston has donated his papers to the university. (The event takes place at 7:30 p.m. in the University’s Council Chambers, Gilmour Hall, Room 111.) 


Johnston is the author of such books as Moose Meat and Wild Rice, Ojibway Heritage, Indian School Days and Crazy Dave. His work is recognized for its authority in describing the richness and complexity of Anishinaabe life, including its humour.


His collection includes manuscripts, correspondence, research materials in languages that include English, French, Ojibway/Chippewa, Cree and Latin.


Johnston, 84, said it was simply time to gather up his archives and get them into the hands of people who might use and preserve them. He said he respects McMaster’s Indigenous Studies Program and knows that the university’s central location will make the collection accessible to as many users as possible.


“It’s important that young people -- university students -- begin to study their backgrounds from our language and from our stories themselves,” Johnston says. “We have our own valid way of looking at life and trying to live it out. I would hope that McMaster would carry that vision on.”


Martin-Hill said Johnston’s decision is a rewarding affirmation.


“For him to choose McMaster for this kind of valuable collection, I think it’s a demonstration of the impact Indigenous Studies has had on the McMaster community becoming identified as a place that values Indigenous knowledge,” she says.


Anishinaabe scholar and writer Hayden King, a PhD candidate at McMaster and an instructor at McMaster and Ryerson universities, is to discuss Johnston’s significance at the event.


“His work has helped preserve and promote Anishinaabemowin (the language of Anishinaabe peoples) as well as ceremony and history,” King says. “When Basil started writing, much of this knowledge was being threatened by policies designed to erode Indigenous cultures. So in many ways, Basil has been leading Anishinaabe peoples through the Seventh Fire Prophecy to pick up what Anishinaabe peoples left behind. There are very few accomplishments more worthy of celebration than this one.”




For more information, please contact:


Andrew Baulcomb

Public Relations Coordinator
McMaster University
905-525-9140 ext. 23585