Aboriginal Research

Aboriginal Research

SSHRC is committed to supporting and promoting social sciences and humanities research by and with Aboriginal Peoples, including First Nations, Métis and Inuit Peoples. This commitment is a fundamental part of SSHRC’s mandate, approach and efforts.

As an integral part of this commitment, SSHRC works to support the advancement of Aboriginal researchers, including Aboriginal graduate students and Aboriginal postdoctoral researchers working in the social sciences and humanities.


In 2002-03, SSHRC sponsored a national Dialogue on Research and Aboriginal Peoples, which resulted in the report Opportunities in Aboriginal Research. Based on this work, SSHRC launched the Aboriginal Research Pilot Program, offering competitions in 2004, 2005, 2007 and 2009. In 2008, SSHRC commissioned an evaluation of the pilot program. The evaluation was based, in part, on the work of a panel of knowledge-keepers drawn from First Nations, Métis and Inuit communities.

In May 2015, in the context of ongoing dialogue with First Nations, Métis and Inuit Peoples, and in close collaboration with its Aboriginal Advisory Circle, SSHRC launched its Aboriginal Research Statement of Principles and related resources in support of Aboriginal research and talent, including a revised definition of Aboriginal research.


SSHRC has a number of tools specifically intended to support applicants working in Aboriginal research; merit reviewers assessing applications related to Aboriginal research; and communities and other research partners engaged in Aboriginal research. These include:

Following are some additional resources those involved in Aboriginal research may find helpful:

SSHRC Funding Opportunities

All of SSHRC’s Talent, Insight and Connection funding opportunities welcome applications involving Aboriginal research. See the Funding search tool for a complete list of SSHRC funding opportunities.

Aboriginal Talent

SSHRC is implementing several pilot measures intended to support research by and with Aboriginal Peoples. These are aimed at supporting graduate students and postdoctoral researchers applying for SSHRC Doctoral Fellowships, Joseph-Armand Bombardier Canada Graduate Scholarships Program—Doctoral Scholarships or SSHRC Postdoctoral Fellowships.

The pilot measures include opportunities for applicants to:

  • self-identify as Aboriginal, using their preferred identity terms, thereby allowing SSHRC to track and assess participation and success rates for First Nations, Métis, Inuit and other Indigenous doctoral and postdoctoral applicants (note: this information is optional, will remain confidential and will not be used in adjudication);
  • identify a proposed program of study as Aboriginal research, such that SSHRC’s Guidelines for the Merit Review of Aboriginal Research will apply; and
  • specify additional circumstances that might impact the academic careers of some Aboriginal applicants.

Concerted efforts will be made by SSHRC to include experts in Aboriginal research in the doctoral and postdoctoral adjudication committees. Committee members will also receive guidance on how to interpret Aboriginal research applications, as well as any special circumstances related to cultural or community responsibilities and/or socio-economic contexts. Other measures of support for Aboriginal talent could follow in subsequent years.

SSHRC welcomes feedback and questions on any or all of these pilot measures. 

To learn more, please consult Aboriginal Talent Measures.

Imagining Canada’s Future

Aboriginal research is a key element for all of the Future Challenge Areas identified though SSHRC’s Imagining Canada’s Future initiative, and, in particular, the question, “How are the knowledge systems, experiences and aspirations of First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples essential to building a successful shared future for all Canadians?” This future challenge area includes issues and subquestions in areas such as Aboriginal youth and employment; historical and modern treaties; Aboriginal values, cultures and knowledge systems; and endangered languages and cultures.

In 2015, as part of the Imagining Canada’s Future initiative, the Canadian Association for Graduate Studies organized a series of roundtable discussions in postsecondary institutions across Canada to gain the views of graduate students on the future of Aboriginal Peoples in Canada. See the discussion and summary reports.

SSHRC also launched a Knowledge Synthesis Grants competition in this challenge area in June 2016. Watch the Knowledge Synthesis Grants: Aboriginal Peoples video to learn more about this challenge area.

Funded Aboriginal Research Projects

The concept of research “by and with” Aboriginal Peoples, originally introduced in the 2000s with SSHRC’s Aboriginal Research Pilot Project, has enabled SSHRC to support many Aboriginal research projects, in areas ranging from education, literacy, language retrieval and retention, to governance, laws and treaties, the environment, cultural resources, knowledge systems, histories, violence and corrections, digital infrastructure, economics, poverty and homelessness, youth engagement, employment and many other areas.

Following is a selection of stories on recent SSHRC-supported Aboriginal research:

SSHRC-funded research supporting the revitalization of Indigenous languages


Researcher: Andrea Sterzuk, University of Regina

UKâlalautta Inuttitut!

SSHRC funding supports Labrador Inuit revitalization of Inuktitut

Researcher: Tom Gordon, Memorial University

And justice for all


Researcher: John Borrows, University of Victoria

Big hockey in small places

The game really matters to Canada's First Nations

Researcher: Michael Robidoux, University of Ottawa

Bridging the rural gap

Research helps First Nations communities stay connected

Researcher: Susan O'Donnell, University of New Brunswick

Facing crime

Forensic anthropologist Tanya Peckmann works to find missing Aboriginal Canadians

Researcher: Tanya Peckmann, Saint Mary's University

Rediscovering Blackfoot science

How First Nations helped develop a keystone of modern psychology

Researcher: Ryan Heavy Head, Red Crow Community College

For information on additional funded Aboriginal research projects, use SSHRC’s Awards Search Engine or search our indexed Research Stories.

SSHRC Impact Awards

A number of Canada’s top researchers have been recognized for their outstanding achievements in Aboriginal research through SSHRC’s prestigious Impact Awards, including:

Karen Bakker

Connection Award

Carol Kauppi

Partnership Award

Beverley Diamond

Gold Medal

Hadley Friedland

Talent Award

Marguerite MacKenzie

Insight Award

Nico Trocmé

Connection Award

George Nicholas

Partnership Award

SSHRC Storytellers

SSHRC-funded Aboriginal research has also been the focus for a number of the winners, finalists and honourable mentions of SSHRC’s annual Storytellers contest:

Bryan Gallagher
2015 winner

Thomas Burelli
2015 honourable mention

Kyla Mottershead
2015 honourable mention

Daniela Navia
2015 honourable mention