Indigenous Studies

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Terms of Reference

McMaster University is committed to building relationships and enhancing its engagement with local First Nations, Inuit and Métis communities, supporting and encouraging Indigenous students, staff and faculty members, promoting Indigenous education and the study of Indigenous knowledge and culture, and ensuring the participation of First Nations, Inuit and Métis representatives in the University’s decision – making process. 


McMaster’s Indigenous Education Council is the primary body  responsible for promoting and advocating for the advancement of Indigenous education at McMaster. The Council also champions the needs of Indigenous students, staff and faculty members, and provides advice and support to the University on all Indigenous matters. 


The Indigenous Education Council will include representatives from the University’s senior administration, ensuring a direct link to the governing bodies. In keeping with the Aboriginal Postsecondary Education and Training Policy Framework 2011 developed by the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities, the Indigenous Education Council shall “ensure that Aboriginal people are consistently and regularly engaged indecision making within the institution.” 


In undertaking its mandate, the Indigenous Education Council shall foster understanding and respect of the local and Haudenosaunee cultural history duringthe development of the Indigenous student learning experience at McMaster. The Council shall also encourage positive and collaborative working relationships that respect and promote Indigenous academic leadership and expanded reputable scholarship in Indigenous Studies in order to promote the preservation of culture and address the outstanding knowledge gap about Indigenous peoples. These principles are in keeping with both Haudenosaunee ways of knowing, as exemplified by the Two-Row Wampum, and the President’s ‘Forward with Integrity’ initiative. 


In 2021, following a campus-wide collective effort with Indigenous groups, a new Indigenous Strategic Directions Plan was developed by the Indigenous Education Council and McMaster Indigenous Research Institute. 


Read the McMaster Indigenous Strategic Directions Plan 


The Indigenous Education Council (IEC) is an advisory committee, whose purpose is to: 

  • 1.1. Identify, anticipate and prioritize issues affecting Indigenous (First Nation, Métis and Inuit) students, staff and faculty within the University, and, where appropriate, to advise the President, Provost, Faculty Deans, the University Senate, or Board of Governors regarding such issues. 
  • 1.2. Assess and advise on existing and potential opportunities for Indigenous initiatives and provide advice to the University on any systemic or structural issues that might impede such initiatives or create a barrier for the advancement and success of Indigenous students, staff and faculty. 
  • 1.3. Review and advise on issues pertaining to the recruitment and retention of Indigenous students, staff and faculty, including advice on the development of initiatives to facilitate and support such recruitment and retention. 
  • 1.4. Advise the University on the planning and development of policies and programs that would support and enhance the participation of Indigenous people in all aspects of University life; 
  • 1.5. Evaluate, review and provide advice on new and existing programs designed to promote Indigenous education and the study of Indigenous knowledge, history and culture within the University. 
  • 1.6. Provide a forum for members from local Indigenous communities to inform the University about matters that affect their communities. 
  • 1.7. Provide a forum for discussion, reflection and learning on issues of inclusion, equity and community-building. 
  • 1.8. Advise the University on strategies to support and enhance its engagement and knowledge-sharing with Indigenous communities, including the way in which courses of study may be offered in Indigenous communities, and the way in which Indigenous knowledge, history and culture may be integrated into and inform the research and teaching mission of the University. 
  • 1.9. Provide recommendations for specific initiatives to the relevant University committees (University Planning Committee / Undergraduate Council, as appropriate), in order to channel advice through the University structure and thus sustain a University culture that advances the inclusion of Indigenous people and engages Indigenous expertise in the decision-making process. 
  • 1.10. Provide reports to the President (as Chair of the Senate) from time to time in order to highlight initiatives underway, provide guidance and advice on issues falling within the mandate of the IEC and outline any areas of concern that have been identified.


  • 2.1. The membership of the IEC shall include representation from the McMaster community and from local Indigenous communities, as follows: 
  • 2.1.1. Three faculty members from different faculties, at least one of whom shall identify as First Nations, Inuit or Métis. 
  • 2.1.2. Three members from local Indigenous communities; one from an urban community (rotating among such urban organizations as the Friendship Centre, the Hamilton Executive Directors Aboriginal Coalition, etc.),one from the Grand River Post-Secondary Education Office, and one from New Credit; all preferably McMaster Alumni. 
  • 2.1.3. One Elder. 
  • 2.1.4. One Confederacy Council representative. 
  • 2.1.5. One University staff member. 
  • 2.1.6. One undergraduate student from McMaster First Nations Students Association (MFNSA). 
  • 2.1.7. One graduate student from McMaster Indigenous Graduate Students(MIGS). 
  • 2.1.8. Ex-Officio Members: Dean of Social Sciences Associate Vice-President (Students and Learning) and Dean of Students Indigenous Studies Program Director Aboriginal Program Manager Aboriginal Students Health Science Office Director. 
  • 2.2. Members shall serve three-year terms, which can be renewed, except for student and Confederacy Council representatives who shall serve two-year terms, which can be renewed. 
  • 2.3. The IEC will have two Co-Chairs, an Academic Co-Chair and a CommunityCo-Chair. Both shall be elected by the members and both shall identify as people of Indigenous heritage (as specified in section 2.1.1.) The Academic Co-Chair shall be selected from among the Indigenous faculty members of IEC and the Community Co-Chair from among the community representatives. The Co-Chairs shall serve three-year terms, which shall be renewable once. 
  • 2.4. All University representatives (being those members specified in Clauses 2.1.1. 
  • 2.1.5, 2.1.6 and 2.1.7) to the IEC shall be appointed by the President. 
  • 2. 5. When new community representatives (being those members specified in Clauses 2.1.2. 2.1.3 and 2.1.4) are needed, the Co-Chairs shall extend a call for new members. These potential new members will be presented to the existing members of the IEC for review and approval prior to formal Appointment by the President. 
  • 2.6 The Academic Co-Chair shall be granted “Observer” status on Senate and shall be accorded all privileges granted to Observers, including the right to attend all meetings of the Senate, including Closed Session, and to receive the minutes thereof, with all appendices. 
  • 2.7 The term of appointment for all members, including that of the Co-Chairs, shall take effect on July 1 of a given year. 
  • 2.8A member of the IEC who ceases to belong to the category of membership under which he or she was appointed shall be replaced.


  • 3.1. The IEC shall meet regularly in open meetings at least twice each year. A minimum of fourteen days advance notice of meetings shall be given to members. 
  • 3.2. Quorum shall be 50 per cent of the members, plus one, including at least two representatives of the community and at least two representatives of the University. 
  • 3.3. Decisions will be based on consensus. If consensus cannot be attained, decisions will be made by a majority vote. All members of the IEC shall have a single vote. 
  • 3.4. Any proposed revisions to these Terms of Reference shall be presented to the President for approval and, once approved, shall be presented to the Senate and the Board of Governors for information purposes. 
  • 3.5. Administrative and financial support to the IEC shall be provided by the Office of the Provost.