Indigenous History Month graduate student research panel


TUGSA, together with the History Anti-Racism Taskforce (HART) from the University of Waterloo hosted its final student research panel of the season, in honour of Indigenous History Month, on June 28, 2023 via Zoom.

Dr. Susan Roy, of the University of Waterloo, chaired the session. Dr. Roy's research examines the history of Indigenous-non-Indigenous relationships in Canada with attention to cultural performance, resource and urban development disputes, and land rights activism. Her current research includes a collaborative book project that examines the intersections of shíshalh (Sechelt First Nation) genealogies, land rights, and colonial encounters on the Northwest Coast; Songs in the Key of Cree, an arts-based Cree language revitalization project led by Cree playwright Tomson Highway, and, with Phil Monture of Six Nations of the Grand River, Six Miles Deep: Mapping Environmental Transformation in the Haldimand Tract Territories of the Six Nations of the Grand River. Dr. Roy also incorporates digital technologies and other forms of multi-media presentation to bring historical research to wider publics.

After a summary of their presentations, the students offer reflections on their research.

Presentations and researcher bios

Elizabeth Best

C. Elizabeth Best - Identity, Memory, and Documents: How Structural Barriers Impact Scoop Survivor Histories 1945-2023.

C. Elizabeth Best is a Scoop survivor. They are Metis (maternal) and Vietnamese. Elizabeth was raised in foster care (Saskatchewan). They were adopted out to a non-Indigenous family (Ontario). Elizabeth is working on their PhD dissertation in History at York University. Elizabeth’s research interests are Indigenous activism, art, and child welfare policy in the post war period. They currently reside on the Haldimand Tract which belongs to the Haudenosaunee, Anishinaabe, and Neutral Peoples.<--break->

Emma Rain Smith - Presenting Oral History in Regional Museum - My Curatorial Experience on Dibaajimowin: Stories from the Land.

Emma Rain Smith (She/They) is Aniishnaabe from Walpole Island First Nations. Emma is working on her Masters in History at the University of Waterloo. With a background in visual arts their research was originally focused on beadwork but has since shifted to curatorial work. They joined a local team of researchers attempting to Indigenize the regions historical narrative. The culminating exhibition Dibaajimowin: Stories from this land can be viewed at the Woodland Cultural Centre right now. She currently works as the Program Coordinator of the Waterloo Indigenous Student Centre.

Sarah Stavridis

Sarah Stravridis - Disgraceful and Dangerous Conditions: Six Nations Indian Day School Records from Library and Archives Canada’s RG 10.

Sarah Stavridis is an incoming JD student at the University of Ottawa Faculty of Common Law and a recent graduate from Western University, where she worked as a Research Assistant in Indigenous History under Professor Cody Groat who is also a PhD candidate in the Tri-U based at Wilfrid Laurier University. Sarah and Cody’s work investigated Indian Day School records from Six Nations of the Grand River. She currently works on Residential School files as a Qualitative Data Analyst for Narratives Inc.

Research reflections

What was your presentation about and what drew you to the topic?

Elizabeth Best: I am a Scoop survivor. I research the history of Indigenous child welfare to better understand how I got into this situation. My learning and healing journey are intimately connected. My entire life is defined by the Canadian child welfare system. 

Sarah Stavridis: My presentation was based on a research project I completed with Professor Cody Groat entitled “Investigating Six Nations Day School Records from 1879 to 1953”. I reviewed over 8000 records regarding Six Nations day schools, summarized their contents in a database, and collected notable findings. These findings pertained to school conditions, schoolteachers, students, and the treatment of students and community members. The project stemmed from Professor Groat’s research tracking seven generations of his family, some of whom attended day school in Six Nations, and my desire to contribute to the growing body of research on the truth of day schools.

What sources and/or research processes did you use?

Elizabeth Best: My research is a mix of archives, child welfare case files, and Indigenous research methods which transcend written documents. I spend much of my time away from documents. Visiting, art, relationship building, and sports are how I experience the world day to day. My worldview is informed by my urban Indigenous experience. I work very hard at making my PhD research the least interesting part of my life. Learning away from campus is the most important aspect of my research.

Sarah Stavridis: This research project investigated primary sources accessible through Library and Archives Canada’s Record Group 10 (RG10). RG10 is an archive of Department of Indian Affairs records, including many residential school and day school records. Since the purpose of this project was to investigate Six Nations day school records in RG10, this was our main source. We identified the microfilm reels pertaining to Six Nations day schools, and I read and summarized each document to identify notable records. I then compiled a summary of notable records in a spreadsheet to organize data so it could be translated to a research poster.

How does accessibility inform your approach to research? (Privacy legislation, institutional constraints, etc.)

Elizabeth Best: Accessibility is a central theme in my research. Privacy legislation took over the direction of my research due to the excessive redactions in my case file. At least 60% of my case file is redacted, most notably my birth name. State control over Indigenous information continues to perpetuate the erasure of our histories and cultures. I will make sure that my dissertation research is available to as many Scoop survivors as possible because the concept of university is inaccessible to most.

Sarah Stavridis: The primary goal of this project was to make the contents of these records more accessible to members of Six Nations of the Grand River and to researchers working in the space. Since the records are publicly available, we can share the database without constraints. The database is contained in numerous Word documents to eliminate barriers to access caused by advanced databases or software. It provides simple instructions to search the database, and I can support searches should its accessibility be an issue. If you have any questions or would like access to the database, please contact me at