Megan Smith is enhancing her undergraduate experience through hands-on research in Indigenous Studies. She is researching one of the Calls to Action from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada’s report. The TRC Report was published in 2015 to redress the legacy of residential schools and advance the process of reconciliation, as well as help pave a way for Indigenous Peoples to have a more equitable role in the Canadian state. Her research focuses on Call to Action 16, which calls upon post-secondary institutions to “create university and college degree and diploma programs in Aboriginal languages”.

Megan is working as a research assistant to Dr. Inge Genee, who is currently conducting SSHRC-funded research on Blackfoot language documentation and revitalization. Dr. Genee is also involved with the 21st century tools for Indigenous languages project, which is a partnership project that supports the revitalization and sustained daily use of multiple Indigenous languages, by developing technological tools and resources for these languages in collaboration with their respective communities.

Part of Megan’s role is conducting groundwork research on what has already been done to address Call to Action 16 in Canada. Working with graduate student Dominik Kadlec, Megan completed an environmental scan on post-secondary programming in Canada. They presented their results at the 27th Stabilizing Indigenous Languages Symposium, which was held online this past June at Queen’s University. Megan is following up on this research by working on an annotated bibliography that will serve as an outline for an academic paper.

Prior to her involvement in this project, Megan took Dr. Genee’s Blackfoot Grammar courses at the U of L, along with an applied study which featured an immersive language program that involved speaking in the Blackfoot language for several hours every day with fluent speakers. She says these experiences are what attracted her to this research.

I was initially interested in Dr. Genee’s classes to learn more about the grammatical structure of the Blackfoot language and of course my personal interest in learning to speak Blackfoot. Since learning so much from Dr. Genee I have become passionate about Indigenous language revitalization, so when this opportunity came up to learn more, I could not pass it up.

Megan, who is in her fourth year of a combined Arts and Science degree in Psychology and Indigenous Studies, adds that this project has provided her with many valuable experiences as she learns all levels of the research process.

As an Indigenous Studies major one of the issues that continually comes up is reconciliation, and how to effectively go about it. This work has provided me with a deeper understanding of the complexities that are attached to one of the major factors that are involved with that process which is language revitalization. The language is so integral to our identity as Niitsitapi, and it is important to me to learn as much as I can about language revitalization to apply that knowledge in my own experience moving forward personally, and professionally.

Megan says she especially enjoyed being able to learn through experience, adding that she has a new appreciation for the amount of time and effort that goes into the research process. Spending time with her coworkers has been a plus as well. Some of the valuable skills that she is taking with her from this project include interviewing, data processing, and meeting organization, something she says will be helpful in her future career endeavours.

When asked if she has any advice for students who are interested in becoming involved in their own research, Megan says her advice would be to not be afraid to ask questions, and “to become very familiar with the outcome of what the research will ultimately lead to. This helped me to be able to stay motivated while doing the work in order to see it all come together at the end with a meaningful purpose.”

You can learn more about Megan's work and the Blackfoot Language Project here: