Yellowhead Briefs

Yellowhead Briefs provide a platform for perspectives from key thinkers on First Nations issues. 

Our Briefs focus on topical and pressing issues affecting communities on the ground and ideas that challenge the status quo. 


What the Freedom Convoy Protests Reveals About Structural Racism in Canada

In this brief, Krista Stelkia analyzes police responses to the Freedom Convoy in comparison to police responses to Black and Indigenous movements. Stelkia asks how policing is mediated by structural racism and what it means for other inequality gaps in Canadian society.

Let’s Talk about Indigenous Mental Health: Trauma, Suicide & Settler Colonialism

As cabinet returns to work this January, one item on the agenda should be implementing the new UNDRIP legislation. In this brief Kanatese Horn explores the possibilities UNDRIP holds for urban Indigenous governance and political authority.

A Record of Solidarity in the X University Campaign

In the aftermath of the “X University campaign” including the decision to change the name of the University, a group of graduate students encountered an administration that refused to accept their work unless they used the name “Ryerson”. This brief is a record of their solidarity in the submission of their research.

Connection Creating Change: Indigenous Youth Perspectives on Trauma, Storytelling & Healing

In this brief, Alexa Blyan, an Indigenous youth activist, discusses her project “Digital Voices” which seeks to provide a destigmatized space for youth to discuss their experiences. Through Digital Voices, Blyan explains how the platform can promote connection and healing through the process of storytelling.

Murdered by “Bad Luck”: Indigenous Life and Death in Canada

Following the murder of Kristian Ayoungman, Robert Houle and Dallas Hunt analyze disturbing trends in violence against Indigenous people by the hands of settler Canadians, and the seeming impossibilities of justice.

The Climate Emergency & the Colonial Response

In this brief, Eriel Deranger identifies the critical nature of the climate emergency amidst the dangerous exclusion of Indigenous peoples from environmental decision-making being made by colonial governments. Deranger asks, what does a climate plan look like without consideration of Indigenous rights and what should they look like from [an Indigenous] perspective?

Measuring Indigenous Well-Being: What is Indigenous Services Missing?

The “well-being index” has been a bumpy ride for Indigenous peoples, since the decision on what and how to measure has led to misleading results and poor policy. Ethan Guthro outlines the challenges, and possibilities for indigenizing the metric.

Introducing X University: An Open Letter to the Community from Indigenous Students

As Ryerson’s Standing Strong taskforce to “reconcile the history of Egerton Ryerson” begins to wrap up community engagement, Indigenous students at the University have written this open letter and call to action: Introducing X University.

Insolvency, Indigenous Research & the Uncertain Future of Laurentian University

As Laurentian cuts faculty, staff and entire degree programs, what about research at the university? In this brief, members of the LU Indigenous community raise current and future concerns of research collaborations with Indigenous partners.

Toronto Indigenous Harm Reduction in Solidarity with Indigenous Encampment Residents

As the third wave of COVID-19 emerges, Indigenous folks who find themselves unhoused are now being threatened with violence to clear encampments, with no promise of safe, permanent housing. Toronto Indigenous Harm Reduction raised a teepee on March 27, 2010 as a space for healing, community and ceremony in Allen Gardens, a gathering place for many houseless Indigenous people in the city.

The Failure of Federal Indigenous Healthcare Policy in Canada

As multiple crisis in Indigenous healthcare mount around the country, the federal government has announced development of Indigenous healthcare legislation. But considering Canada’s previous record here, what can we expect?

Writing Myself into Existence: An Essay on the Erasure of Black Indigenous Identity in Canadian Education

As various jurisdictions move towards “reconciliatory” changes in the curriculum, what gets left out? Etanda Arden makes a call for the inclusion of Black-Indigenous histories and experiences.

An Indigenous Abolitionist Study Guide

In commemoration of August 10th, Prisoners Justice Day, the Toronto Abolition Convergence shares An Indigenous Abolitionist Study Guide. This guide includes seven themed weeks of curated resources such as readings, films and podcasts relating to abolition.

A How-To Guide for the Settler Colonial Present: From Canada to Palestine to Kashmir

Today, on August 5th, Kashmiris mark and mourn the one-year anniversary of the “official” annihilation of their autonomy. It is one among many anniversaries marked by colonization in Kashmir and elsewhere. In this Brief, Azeezah Kanji recognizes the patterns of settler colonialism and the strategies deployed to make it invisible.

Police Brutality in Canada: A Symptom of Structural Racism and Colonial Violence

As the discussion of defunding police goes on, Krista Stelkia has written a Brief identifying how structural racism operates within the criminal justice and in Canadian institutions more generally. Can we hold systems accountable?

Black-Indigenous Futures in Art, Literature and #BlackLivesMatter

How do we imagine Black-Indigenous futures, free from the violence of colonialism and racism? In this Brief, Karina Vernon looks, and asks us to look, to art and literature so that we can shape these new/old political realities.

The House of Commons, Jagmeet Singh & The Disappearing Trick of Canadian Racism

What does the expulsion of Jagmeet Singh from the House of Commons reveal about structural racism in Canada? In this Brief, Azeezah Kanji details how white supremacy shapes the work of the RCMP, national security, and Parliament itself.

Abolish the Police: The Financial Cost of Law Enforcement in Prairie Cities

How much do Prairie cities, where there are growing Black and Indigenous populations, spend on policing? In this Brief, Emily Riddle breaks down the budget numbers and makes the case for police abolition as one step toward transformative change

Carceral Redlining: White Supremacy is a Weapon of Mass Incarceration for Indigenous and Black Peoples in Canada

Why are Black and Indigenous communities disproportionately imprisoned in Canada? Rai Reece makes the argument for carceral redlining: the practice of identifying and targeting racialized communities for criminalization in order to maintain a white (settler) state

Can We Achieve Climate Action and Reconciliation in a Post COVID World?

t is becoming clearer that COVID-19, and future pandemics, are tied to climate change. How can we prevent that impending reality? This Brief imagines our current moment as transformational for climate policy, our notions of economic development, and reconciliation.

Federal child welfare and Indigenous childhood sexual violence

A timely intervention at a time when Canada is dragging its feet on MMIWG calls, Fallon Simard argues in this brief that Land Back is a call to end sexual violence against children & youth by advocating for an enhanced spectrum of consent in Indigenous governance decision-making.

To Breathe Together: Co-Conspirators for Decolonial Futures

Indigenous communities have kept the cases of COVID-19 relatively low. Yet research by Yellowhead reveals that the numbers are nearly triple those reported by Indigenous Services Canada. This data discrepancy is rooted in a public health system that excludes Indigenous people.


Colonialism of the Curve: Indigenous Communities & Bad Covid Data

Indigenous communities have kept the cases of COVID-19 relatively low. Yet research by Yellowhead reveals that the numbers are nearly triple those reported by Indigenous Services Canada. This data discrepancy is rooted in a public health system that excludes Indigenous people.

Mapping Indigenous Youth Services in Ottawa

Assembly of Seven Generations, an Indigenous youth-led non-profit released a report that maps and highlights Indigenous youth services in Ottawa. This brief shares the methodology and key findings/recommendations from the report.


COVID-19 did not cause food insecurity in Indigenous communities but it will make it worse

Operating alongside the many challenges of COVID-19 is food insecurity, which has long been a significant problem in many Indigenous communities. Few of the current emergency measures that have been enacted by the federal government will substantively address this long term and ongoing problem.


COVID-19 and Inuit Nunangat: Research, Responsibility & Infrastructure Inequality

This brief considers the importance of research and Northern research responses to the pandemic, but also some infrastructure challenges that must be addressed to ensure the health and well-being of Inuit. 


Covid-19 and Indigenous Communities: Family Conversations

As the covid-19 pandemic evolves, Dr. Alika Lafontaine offers clear and simple advice for Indigenous families on what to do, what to look out for and how we can be mindful of each other during this time of uncertainty.

Banking While Brown: Indigenous People and Structural Racism in Canada

The arrest of Max Johnson and his family at the Bank of Montreal follows a long trend in Canada of casually criminalizing Indigenous people. How can these examples of racism be addressed?

Land, Language and Culture in Denendeh: Making Connections with Dene Nahjo

Dëneze Nakehk’o, founding member of Dene Nahjo and a Research Fellow with Yellowhead Institute is interviewed by Hayden King about his work with Dene Nahjo and how the organization enacts its mission of “land, language and culture forever”.

The Indigenous Land Stewardship Circle calls for an immediate ban on pesticides in Toronto’s High Park

Since the Fall of 2018, the Indigenous Land Stewardship Circle has been organizing to protect a number of sacred sites in and around what is now the City of Toronto. Among their campaigns is the effort to manage High Park responsibly. As part of their campaign, they have issued this Call to Action, republished here.

A Response to “Decolonizing Clean Energy?”: The Case of the BC Indigenous Clean Energy Initiative

This brief is a response to a previous Yellowhead brief on decolonizing clean energy. It outlines the Indigenous participation and leadership in the BC clean energy sector where First Nations are involved in true partnerships with government, serving as a model for other clean energy partnerships involving First Nations.

Reclaiming Indigenous Place Names

Indigenous peoples in Canada are working to restore their place names and revitalize their languages after colonial policies and law sought to eradicate them. This brief offers several examples of Indigenous nations who are actively reclaiming jurisdiction to their lands, and provide recommendations for how federal and provincial/territorial governments can help to undo some of these past harms and injustices.

“Decolonizing” Clean Energy Policy in Canada?

As provinces and territories work to develop policies to promote clean energy, they will also need to come to terms with the fact that climate change and renewable energy are fundamentally Indigenous rights issues. While Indigenous peoples could play a key role in Canada’s transition to a low carbon economy, a recent review of 57 provincial and territorial energy programs and policies show that Indigenous inclusion in such programs is severely lacking.

Answering Calls to Justice: A National Action Plan on Ending Violence

The National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls’ final report, “Reclaiming Power and Place: The Final Report of the National Inquiry into MMIWG,” has been released. Now what? Courtney Skye discusses the importance of implementation and some requirements for that promised National Action Plan in this brief.

The Current State of Indian Gaming in Alberta: Are First Nations Subsidizing the Province?

Since the establishment of Alberta’s First Nations Gaming Policy in 2001, Indian Gaming in the province has been a much discussed topic. To date, a majority of the discussions and questions revolve around the way revenue generated on-reserve through gaming is distributed. This is an important conversation, and one that requires a renewed debate on how the revenue is shared. This Brief considers the current formula, highlights some inequities, and hopefully opens the space for more critical questions.

How Canada’s proposed Indigenous Languages Act fails to deliver

Bill C-91 is headed for third reading in Parliament, with time to still amend and improve it. This brief provides a critical analysis of the Bill, highlighting issues that need to be addressed including its problematic funding model and how it outlines general objectives without any corresponding positive obligations on the Government.

Education and Crown Paternalism: Reviewing the New On-reserve Education Funding Model

Leslee White-Eye provides a critical analysis of the ‘new’ approach to funding First Nations schooling on-reserve, the Interim Funding Approach (IFA). The brief explicates why this approach remains rooted in colonial ‘Indian’ federal education policies and offers the requirements for a strong First Nation led model of education.

Report Launch | RED WOMEN RISING: Indigenous Women Survivors in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside

Yellowhead Institute supports the release of the Downtown Eastside Women’s Centre report, Red Women Rising, based on the live experience, leadership and expertise of Indigenous survivors. This comprehensive report is the culmination of a participatory process with 113 Indigenous women and 15 non-Indigenous women regarding the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls.

Strengthening the Indigenous Languages Act – Bill C-91

Bill C-91, An Act Respecting Indigenous Languages was introduced in the House of Commons on February 6, 2019. This brief is a review of key provisions of the Act, highlighting key weaknesses and suggested amendments for improvement in select sections.

Dear Qallunaat: Racism, Public Government and Inuit Nunanga

In the era of Inuit self-government, non-Inuit seem to talk up a lot of space and racism remains an issue. In this Yellowhead Brief, Sandra Inutiq offers advice in the form of 21 tips how true allyship and how non-Inuit can improve the relationship

The Promise and Failure of First Nation Policing in Ontario

While the original intent of the Anishnaabek Police Services (APS) was to deliver peacekeeping in a more traditional sense to our communities, lack of recognition and support has resulted in a system that produces First Nation OPP officers who aren’t trained in the specificities of policing / peacekeeping in a First Nation context and a service that is disconnected from First Nation aspirations for self-governance.


UPDATE | The 176 Million Dollar Question: Are the Promised Federal Education Funds for First Nations Actually Flowing?

This brief examines the status of the $2.6 billion in new funding promised by the federal government for First Nation education. Since publishing this brief, the Department of Indigenous Services Canada contacted Yellowhead, providing specific information with respect to expenditures in First Nations elementary and secondary education.


Eliminating the Ontario Child Advocate Threatens the Rights of Indigenous Kids

Last week, the Ontario government announced the elimination of the independent office of the Ontario Child Advocate. This move severs the investigations and advocacy function previously housed in the Advocate’s office, cutting this critical level of oversight. Removing this protections for First Nations, Inuit and Metis children and youth should raise concern for every family and community.

Happy Cannabis Day? First Nations, Legalization & the Ongoing Failure of Canadian Federalism

Today marks Canada’s newest national holiday, Cannabis day. This brief outlines four critical issues that must be addressed so that First Nation communities can reap the potential economic opportunities while balancing the health and safety of their members and also upholding their culture and values.


An Indigenous Housing Innovation Challenge? Start with the Foundation

Earlier this year the federal government launched the Indigenous Homes Innovation Challenge, an award of $30 million dollars for a project that improves people’s health, safety and security on reserves. Lost in the critique of this challenge, are any in-depth, community-based responses to the Challenge. This is not the ideal solution. But if there is genuine engagement with community needs, could it offer some relief?


Can the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girl’s Inquiry be Reclaimed?

Given the challenges the Inquiry has faced to date, a number of issues need to be addressed in order to restore confidence in the Inquiry’s ability to affect change.

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