NUICC Visits Westcoast, Launches Urban Indigenous Governance Series

Keynote featuring Kanatase Horn & Matthew Norris

March 10, 2022 | Simon Fraser University | Vancouver, British Columbia


The National Urban Indigenous Coalitions Council met on the lands of the Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh Nations (aka Vancouver) for an in-person multi-day planning meeting. The meetings were held at Skwachays Lodge Indigenous social enterprise hotel, SFU Vancouver, Drawing Wisdom Studio, with community walking tour to RayCam Cooperative Centre and UNYA. We were also able to learn about our hosts with Takaya Tours as we paddled the Salish Sea and saw the lands and waters upclose. Council planning meetings were held, as well as social and educational events.  

Building Upon the Work of Our Ancestors: Kinship Practices in Urban Spaces

On the first day NUICC launched it’s Governance Series with SFU Vancouver Research Commons hosting keynote speaker Kanatase Horn (Mohawk) with a presentation “Building Upon the Work of Our Ancestors: Kinship Practices in Urban Spaces.” Kanatase is an Associate Professor at the University of Ottawa and a researcher on urban Indigenous justice issues.

We also heard a response to Kanatase’s talk from Matthew Norris (Cree) who is the Board President of UNYA, pursuing his PhD from UBC, and an expert advisor to the BC government’s UNDRIP implementation work. Matthew is also running for city council in Vancouver elections this Fall. Matthew’s response focused on how urban Indigenous peoples must politically organize and mobilize in ethical and relational ways with nearby Indigenous nations. 

The keynote and discussion was facilitated by Chantelle Spicer (Mi’kmaq) who has supported the NUICC Knowledge Mobilisation Hub work since summer 2021. A lively and engaged Q&A between the speakers and those in attendance followed the main presentations.

Keynote Presentation and Discussion and the 3 Key Takeaways:

  1. Reframing Service Delivery: Seeing Indigenous Kinship and Politics 

A key theme that emerged from the keynote presentation and the discussion that followed was the need to see urban Indigenous social service delivery as inherently political. Rather than situating service delivery solely in terms of addressing the unique socio-economic needs of urban Indigenous Peoples, we must begin to situate urban Indigenous service delivery as political, and rooted in Indigenous understandings of kinship practices.

  1. The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and the City

Another key theme that emerged was to think about and properly articulate the goals of urban Indigenous peoples in relation to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP). Considering UNDRIP protects the social and political rights of all Indigenous peoples, it will be critical for urban Indigenous peoples to strategize their broader ambitions, and framing mobile rights in light of the rights UNDRIP outlines, including the right to self-determination, and urban systems to actualize what UNDRIP beckons.

  1. Relational Approaches to Urban Indigenous Organizing: Working with Local Indigenous Communities

A final key theme that emerged from the discussion was to think about political organizing in ways that are ethical and in relation to local Indigenous communities. For instance, when thinking about local urban land issues, a local Indigenous nation may have unresolved claims to land and territory that encompass the city in question. In this instance, it will be important for urban Indigenous peoples to politically mobilize in ways that support, or at least do not undermine “host” First Nation’s structural efforts.