Indigenous identity is complex due to centuries of colonialism and racism. UM has followed a practice of honouring Indigenous self-declaration because it allowed for an Indigenous-led process that may accept government-stated guidelines and is flexible to include Métis, First Nation, non-status or Inuit-specific ways of acknowledging our community members.

As universities and other institutions face cases of Indigenous identity fraud, UM recognizes the need to review how we support the declaration of Indigenous identity. As we evolve together on the path or reconciliation, we must take the next step (with the Indigenous community) of identifying a process to support self-declared claims of Indigenous identity.

Dr. Catherine Cook, Vice-President (Indigenous) will provide an update on the engagement process to the UM Community on May 9, 2023. Visit the Indigenous Events Calendar for details. Registration is required.

Indigenous Identity Report

Listening to First Nations, Métis and Inuit Communities: Engagement on Recognizing and Supporting Indigenous Identity and Kinship.

The nine recommendations from this report are outlined below.

  • The University of Manitoba is responsible for developing and implementing an Indigenous identity policy to uphold opportunities for Indigenous Peoples and to prevent identity fraud. Created in collaboration with Indigenous governments and organizations, this policy must be a living, evolving document.
  • The policy should include formal documentation and alternative mechanisms for people to provide verification for Indigenous-specific staff and faculty positions, scholarship eligibility and applicable student admissions. The documentation process, to be determined by the Policy Development Committee, could include a tiered process as follows:
    • written documentation and identification issued by accepted federal, provincial, and Indigenous governments and organizations
    • genealogies, community connections and identity circles
    • a signed declaration that demonstrates community connection or involvement with a specific First Nation, Inuit, or Métis Nation community

    To honour the oral traditions of Indigenous Peoples, UM may consider alternative mechanisms for verification such as oral submissions ( e.g. testimonials in collaboration with communities and nations) and assistance with application processes for those who need it.
  • The policy should base the definitions of identity on Indigenous sovereignty, use a distinction-based approach (recognizing nations are distinct and unique) and highlight these are First Peoples who originate from these lands. Indigenous Peoples are descendants of the original inhabitants of Turtle Island/North America. Preference will be given to all Indigenous Peoples of Canada, which includes First Nations, Inuit and Métis, as well as Indigenous communities whose original boundaries straddle an imposed international border between Canada and the United States. We must work with First Nation, Métis Nation and Inuit governments, communities and Nations to incorporate and understand their preferred processes for determining identity.
  • UM should create safe spaces for Indigenous Peoples to discover who they are, while also providing nation-specific support to Indigenous employees and students on how to access identity documentation.
  • The UM community should continue to build and nurture strong partnerships with Indigenous communities and governments. The identity review policy should include a process of how to validate a claim of connection with specific nations’ membership registries.
  • UM must create Indigenous-led committees to review declarations of Indigeneity for:
    a) all Indigenous candidates applying for academic, research or administrative positions
    b) student seats or awards designated as Indigenous where the verification provided is different from accepted “formalized documents” as identified elsewhere in the policy
  • There must be cultural training for the entire UM community so there is a fulsome understanding of the complex issues surrounding Indigenous identities, histories, languages and cultures, and anti-racism. There must be training for all departments and faculties on Indigenous identity policies and processes.
  • The Human Resources (HR) department, in collaboration with the Indigenous community, must play a lead role in identity verification for HR processes. They need to:
    • prioritize the hiring of Indigenous Peoples
    • include Elders on hiring committees
    • ensure an Indigenous liaison within the HR department is experienced in Indigenous identity and connected to community
    • work closely with the Office of the Vice-President (Indigenous), Elders and Knowledge Keepers to maintain strong relationships and to ensure policies and processes are constantly evolving.
  • UM should appoint a Policy Development Committee consisting of First Nations, Métis Nation and Inuit community members and citizens, as well as relevant leaders from the UM community. The policy must be transparent and should clearly state the process for verification of identity as well as a process for review of complaints of Indigenous identity fraud. It should not allow for anonymous complaints of fraud. It should clearly outline processes for:
    • how to make an accusation of Indigenous identity fraud at UM
    • appeals
    • repercussions for fraud

Consultation process

Led by the Vice-President (Indigenous) in 2022, UM hosted a series of engagement sessions on Indigenous identity declaration.These sessions will help inform the proposed Indigenous Identity Policy and Procedures.

Dr. Catherine Cook, Vice-President (Indigenous), invited three respected Knowledge Keepers to co-lead the engagement process:

  • Ovide Mercredi, First Nation Leader, Citizen and Knowledge Keeper
  • Barbara Bruce, Métis Leader, Educator and Knowledge Keeper
  • Marti Ford, Inuit Leader, Educator and Knowledge Keeper

A working group – comprised of Indigenous Elder and Knowledge Keepers, faculty, staff, students, community collaborators and First Nations, Inuit and Métis organizations and governmental bodies – was struck to provide guidance, share knowledge and experience in the areas of identity concerns, and to raise issues of concern. Please see the Terms of Reference for more information.

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For more information, please contact:

Maria Morrison
Director, Office of the Vice-President (Indigenous)
University of Manitoba
Winnipeg, MB R3T 5V6 Canada