About Us


Yellowhead Institute generates critical policy perspectives in support of First Nation jurisdiction.

The Institute is a First Nation-led research centre based in the Faculty of Arts at Ryerson University in Toronto, Ontario. Privileging First Nation philosophy and rooted in community networks, Yellowhead is focused on policies related to land and governance. The Institute offers critical and accessible resources for communities in their pursuit of self-determination. It also aims to foster education and dialogue on First Nation governance across fields of study, between the University and the wider community, and among Indigenous peoples and Canadians. 

Why Yellowhead?

For too long, the relationship between First Nation peoples and Canadians has been characterized by inertia: the same old, paternalistic and racist policies and the corresponding apathy and neglect. Yet, the resistance of Indigenous peoples continues to grow and today, there is an acceptance on behalf of governments and Canadians that change is required. This is a tremendous opportunity. The challenge is ensuring the direction of change is towards the transformational. Yellowhead Institute can play an important role here, scrutinizing government policy, advocating for the rights of First Nation peoples, and models of change that support First Nation jurisdiction.

Outside of First Nation political organizations, activists, or academics, there is no national entity bringing an evidence-based, non-partisan, and community-first perspectives to the discussions. This is a glaring absence in First Nations ability to organize and mobilize to protect their rights and jurisdiction. The Yellowhead Institute aims to address this gap.

Five Core Objectives

01. Shaping new governance models and supporting governance work in First Nations communities and urban communities

02. Influencing policy development and holding governments accountable for policies affecting First Nations

03. Contributing to public education on the legal and political relationship between First Nations and Canada

04. Facilitating opportunities for, and supporting Indigenous students and researchers

05. Building solidarity with non-Indigenous students and researchers

About Chief Yellowhead

William Yellowhead (1760-1865), known as Misko Aki or “Red Earth”, was an Anishinaabe leader in what is now Southern Ontario. His traditional territory stretched from East Toronto, through Lake Simcoe, and to hunting grounds in Muskoka, Ontario (the township is named after Yellowhead). While a British loyalist during the War of 1812, Yellowhead also led his people through some of the most oppressive periods of British colonization. This included being at the first reserve experiment in Canada and subject to numerous fraudulent land surrenders. In spite of this, Yellowhead defended Anishinaabe jurisdiction against British encroachment, was an advocate of inter-national Indigenous unity and treaty-making, and preserved Anishinaabe ceremony and philosophy, even after adopting elements of Christianity. Yellowhead eventually founded and spent much of his later life on Rama First Nation (Mnjikaning).

With support to name our Institute after Chief Yellowhead from the Yellowhead family as well as Rama First Nation Chief and Council, we strive to honour the legacy of Misko Aki.


The Yellowhead Institute is supported by the Faculty of Arts at Ryerson University.  

Unless otherwise noted, the black and white images on this site are licensed photographs taken by Stan Williams (Mohawk and Anishinaabe). They are not to be used or reproduced without the express permission from the Yellowhead Institute. 

Creative Commons Licence
The research and publications on this site are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 2.5 Canada License.

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