Groundbreaking Secwépemc ethnography presented at Douglas College

Photo of Marianne Ignace and Ronald E. Ignace by Elizabeth Nygren for the 'Omega'

Photo of Marianne Ignace and Ronald E. Ignace by Elizabeth Nygren for the ‘Omega’

Ignace and Ignace hosts talk on their new book and the changing face of Indigenous academia

By Greg Waldock, Staff Writer


On March 29, Marianne and Ronald Ignace appeared at the Indigenous Gathering Space at Douglas College to talk about Secwépemc—anglicized as Shuswap—land claims, tradition, and history; all presented in their new landmark book, Secwepémc People, Land, and Laws: Yerí7 Re Stsq’ey’s-kucw.

Combining personal experience, academic research, and traditional knowledge, it is a landmark ethnography and one that aims to educate both Secwépemc people and the general public. The talk was a combination of slideshow, lecture, personal stories, and a question and answer period.

Marianne Ignace is a professor at Simon Fraser University (SFU), working in both the Department of Linguistics and the Department of First Nations Studies. Her studies have taken her from a small community in Germany to Masset and on to Haida Gwaii, earning her Masters and later PhD on the island. She became a member of the Secwépemc nation after spending time researching with elders and archaeologists, and currently lives in Kamloops with Ronald.

Ronald Ignace is a Secwepemc chief and adjunct professor with SFU. He was raised speaking Secwépemctsin by his great-grandmother, and he fled the Kamloops Indian Residential School in Grade Eight. He was eventually accepted into the University of British Columbia, where he earned his high school diploma within a year and went on to earn his Bachelors and Masters on Indigenous land claims. After earning his Masters, he was called back by his elders to become chief of his band, a position he has held ever since. His personal experience as a leading member of the Secwépemc community contributes enormously to the book, and he shared his memories and stories readily at the talk.

Their talk focused on how information for the book was collected and gathered, and how Secwépemc culture and Western academia were used in unison for a clearer and more personal picture than a traditional ethnography can provide. They discussed Secwépemc storytelling forms and focused on the Tlli7sa Epic, a story concerning the shaping of the land. This was used as an example of how geology, archaeology, traditional storytelling, and lived experiences can lead to a greater understanding of a culture—the Tlli7sa Epic was discovered to be in line with real geological changes in Secwépemc territory some 6,000 years ago.

Marianne and Ronald held an open question and answer period at the end, and the questions varied from the spiritual to the historical to the scientific. Marianne’s linguistic background shone through when describing Secwépemctsin and its non-gendered, self-diminutive nature. Ronald’s twin roles as an academic and as a holder of cultural knowledge was apparent with his detailed understanding of Secwépemc religion and philosophies, from the Transformers to the concept of land. These topics and much more are available in tremendous detail in Secwépemc People, Land, and Laws: Yerí7 Re Stsq’ey’s-kucw, which is available on Amazon and through many other major retailers.


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The Other Press, Douglas College's student newspaper since 1976. Articles, insight and updates from the New West and Coquitlam campuses.

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