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Have you ever considered getting a degree in indigenous studies? If you're an aboriginal student and want to pursue a degree that'll help you (and your community), these programs are both direct and practical. There are a variety of Canadian programs that take an in depth look at aboriginal culture, traditions, history, and communities'and they're available to anyone who's interested, not only to aboriginal students. Some universities have certificate programs; others have one-off courses offered by their arts department; and some offer full blown bachelor's degrees, masters, and Ph.D. programs. We've taken a look at several such programs and picked the three that stood out.

UBC Okanagan; ISP (Major, Minor)

UBC Okanagan (in Kelowna, B.C.) offers both a major and a minor in indigenous studies. The program is interdisciplinary, meaning it'll offer you a wide range of courses and perspectives. If you pursue a major, you can participate in the community research project option, providing hands-on experience as you develop a project that directly relates to a specific aboriginal community. It doesn't get any more real than this. A minor, meanwhile, is a great option if you're taking a social sciences or humanities program.  

Here's why this program's so unique: it directly works with the Okanagan community. According to Dr. Margo Tamez, an assistant professor of indigenous studies at UBC Okanagan, the program developed as a result of a unique social history of the Syilx peoples' social justice movements for the recognition of Indigenous rights to language, culture, history, revitalization, and knowledge protection.  

The involvement of the Okanagan Nation and the En'owkin Centre in the development of the program provides a strong connection to the Okanagan community, ensuring continual input from indigenous perspectives.

McMaster University; ISP (Combined B.A. in Indigenous studies, or Honors B.A. with Minor in IS)

McMaster, based in Hamilton, Ont., has always been a school which invested in the needs of indigenous students and aboriginal communities. Their program has grown steadily since its inception in 1992, and continuously has substantial enrolment. A new building is set for construction in 2013, and will be the new home of the Indigenous Studies program. McMaster offers a combined B.A. with indigenous studies and any other subject of interest within the Humanities or Social Science programs.

So what are the benefits of attending the Indigenous Studies program at McMaster? I'm glad you asked. Their faculty is largely made up of elders and other members of the aboriginal community, so you're getting an authentic perspective on native issues that matter. Additionally, they've recently introduced several new courses to the program, including Iroquoian languages, oral tradition and culture, and health, diet, and traditional botany. 

Trent University; ISP (Diplomas, Masters, Ph.D)

Trent University, in Peterborough, Ont., was the first Canadian school to dedicate an entire department to aboriginal studies. Accordingly, its ISP program is well-developed. I'm sure you've heard the old adage bigger is better, but I will continue my plight to prove the opposite. Use Trent as an example:  It's a small university, but it creates an intimate atmosphere that'll benefit your studies by fostering better relationships with your peers and professors. 

So Trent is small, great. Why is it unique? Because, it gives you the option to pursue indigenous studies at different academic levels. You can take one of their diploma programs, pursue your masters, or even get your Ph.D. Members and elders of the Anishnaabe and Haudenosaunee communities are actively involved in all levels, so you'll benefit from their first-hand experience and knowledge. People who graduate from the Ph.D. program can become professors, policy makers, consultants, and administrators.

The universities we've highlighted here stand out, but quality programs exist across the entire country. Check out the following universities that also have notable aboriginal studies programs. 

The University of Winnipeg (Winnipeg, Man.)

Simon Fraser University  (Burnaby, B.C.)

The University of Lethbridge (Lethbridge, Alta.)

University of Saskatchewan (Saskatoon, Sask.)

Patrick is currently a staff writer and editorial assistant at Jobpostings Magazine. He spends most of his free time being awesome. That keeps him pretty busy. Otherwise, you'll most likely find him perusing the streets of downtown Toronto, spending a significant portion of his income on coffee and trying to make it as a musician. He hasn't quite made it, yet.

Follow Patrick on Twitter: @PJErskine

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