Peigan Trail and Blackfoot Trail are well-known roadways in Calgary that many people use daily. But for Amber Bedard, these are more than just roads — they hold a deeper personal connection to history that not many people are aware of.
“I have two grandfathers who signed Treaty 7,” says Bedard, manager of UCalgary’s new Indigenous Research Support Team. “Peigan and Blackfoot Trails were named to honour our communities. It's a tangible reminder, and it’s a privilege to be so deeply connected to these areas.”
This connection to her roots taught her about community and guided her career path in Indigenous research ethics. While completing her undergraduate degree at Simon Fraser University, Bedard, a member of the Piikani First Nation, worked for Reciprocal Consulting, an Indigenous research and evaluation firm in West Vancouver. It was there that she learned the true meaning of honouring Indigenous ways of being in research.
“A lot of where I come from is the result of community,” says Bedard. “I’ve been mentored by Indigenous women who have brought me along to where I am. The world of research is usually very male-dominated, but Reciprocal Consulting was an all-women Indigenous research firm. Working there helped me think critically about my career, community and post-secondary experience.”
During her time in post-secondary, Bedard studied political science and First Nations Studies. However, there were a lot of challenges.
“I didn’t see myself in the institution as it relates to my values and my degree in a western education setting,” says Bedard. “I felt lonely, isolated and away from my community. I never thought I would go to university — I was the first one in my family to do so, and I struggled. I’m so grateful for the opportunities I’ve had to learn alongside community as it has shown me that I can honour myself as an Indigenous person in a colonial space. The reason I’m here is because of strong Indigenous women and community.”
Today, Bedard’s journey of mentorship and community has led her back to Calgary, where she leads UCalgary’s new Indigenous Research Support Team (IRST), along with team members Alexandra Kanters and Kimberly Marie Van Patten. IRST is an advisory entity that provides guidance on Indigenous research and scholarship, as well as opportunities that support culturally responsive and collaborative research.
For UCalgary researchers and academics, IRST will be the point of contact for all UCalgary researchers doing any work within the broader Indigenous landscape. For Indigenous communities, IRST acts as a touchpoint where Indigenous communities, entities, and organizations can directly inquire and ask information. IRST can help communities and leadership interface with a broader research network, facilitating meaningful partnerships and opportunities to produce collaborations that reflect the needs and ambitions of community.
“Supporting Indigenous research in all of its forms is a priority for our institution,” says Dr. William Ghali, vice-president (research). “The creation of the IRST is a tremendous opportunity for us to strengthen our resources for Indigenous research, increase our intercultural capacity and pursue research that emerges from meaningful, mutually beneficial partnerships with Indigenous communities.”
“I’ve seen first-hand how research has affected my community, and the importance of representing people how they want to be represented,” says Bedard. “Historically, Indigenous Peoples have been studied by government and academic channels in ways that benefited one party and created mistrust.
IRST seeks to ensure ethical, accountable research that reflects Indigenous ways of being, and I want to help break down existing barriers. It’s a way of honouring the legacy that came before me.
Bedard is impressed by the desire to engage in ethical Indigenous research processes at UCalgary and encourages researchers and scholars to reach out to the IRST office.
“If your research falls into the field of Indigenous Peoples and lands, we are the place to come to,” says Bedard. “There are so many strengths in having western and Indigenous research combined. I feel we can learn from each other and am honoured to help facilitate that. I was called home in such a good way.”
Interested in learning more about IRST? Make sure to attend the IRST Virtual Launch on Monday, Nov. 2, 3 to 5 p.m. on Zoom. Register now.
ii’ taa’poh’to’p, the University of Calgary’s Indigenous Strategy, is a commitment to deep evolutionary transformation by reimagining ways of knowing, doing, connecting, and being. Walking parallel paths together, ‘in a good way,’ UCalgary is moving toward genuine reconciliation and Indigenization.
Research Support Fund and Incremental Project Grant
The federal government’s Research Support Fund (RSF) assists Canadian post-secondary institutions and their affiliated research hospitals and institutes with the expenses associated with managing the research funded by Tri-Council agencies (CIHR, NSERC, and SSHRC). The Research Support Fund helps the university create an environment where researchers can focus on their research, collaborate with colleagues, and translate their discoveries and innovations. The Incremental Project Grant is a new stream of the RSF that focuses on innovation and commercialization activities, facilities renewal, information resources, and equity, diversity, and inclusion. Read more about how UCalgary uses the Research Support Fund.