Spencer Greening is one of 15 graduate students from across Canada who has received a Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation Doctoral Scholarship, one of the most prestigious awards in Canada in the Social Sciences and Humanities field.
Greening is an Indigenous scholar and University of Northern British Columbia alumnus, who is currently a PhD candidate at Simon Fraser University in Burnaby, B.C. He comes from the Gitga’at First Nation, situated in the coastal village of Hartley Bay in northwestern B.C.
His PhD thesis is situated in the Archaeology department, but revolves around interdisciplinary research on Indigenous expressions of history, occupancy and stewardship, and the management of Indigenous territories.
“I am excited to learn more and understand my place in this relationship with the Trudeau Foundation community and my cohort,” said Greening. “Increasingly, academia is recognizing the importance of Indigenous perspectives in the pursuit of knowledge and ideas.
“I feel both humbled and a large responsibility in my role as an Indigenous student, to utilize my own research in bettering academia for Indigenous communities and the process of decolonization. The Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation encourages research that strives to make societal change through academia. Being part of such an influential academic community will have great challenges but also great opportunity to move forward in making room for Indigenous people and our knowledge systems in research, policy, law, environmental awareness, and the betterment of society in Canada.”
Even though his research is specifically situated in his home territory, Greening believes this kind of work is relevant across Canada given the “longstanding inadequate relationships between Indigenous and Western governments.”
While at UNBC, Greening completed a Bachelor of Arts degree in First Nations Studies and more recently a Master of Arts degree in Interdisciplinary Studies 2018.
His graduate thesis research focused on Tsimshian governance, law, and identity where he discovered that he could combine traditional Tsimshian knowledge with western academic practices in order to enrich the value of research within both his own nation and the academy.
As a graduate student, he also returned to the Gitga’at First Nation and worked as a Cultural Research Co-ordinator and Environmental Assessment Co-ordinator.
In 2015, at the request of the Gitga’at Elders, he ran and was elected as a Band Councillor, a position he held for two years.
He was involved in several Tsimshian communities for his MA research to learn from Elders and immerse himself in the culture and language.
Greening was a First Nations Studies teaching assistant and was a research assistant for the late Dr. Jim McDonald and worked on another project with UNBC Professor Emeritus Dr. Antonia Mills.
The Trudeau Foundation receives nominations from top PhD candidates in the Social Sciences and Humanities Field from universities across in Canada. About 300 exceptional PhD students are nominated and only 15 are chosen after a grueling application process, including flying to Ottawa or Quebec for personal interviews.