A revelation launched Gregory’s career-long drive to uncover the truth.

Gregory Younging Professor of Indigenous Studies,
Irving K. Barber School of Arts and Sciences,
Okanagan Campus

Member of Opaskwayak Cree Nation, Manitoba

Assistant Professor and Coordinator of the Indigenous Studies Program at the Irving K. Barber School of Arts and Sciences at UBC’s Okanagan campus, and Assistant Director of Research for the federal government’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), Gregory Younging didn’t find out about his personal connection to residential schools until his late teens. That was when his cousin told him that his mother was a residential school survivor and suffered abuse in the schools, a revelation that launched Younging’s career-long drive to uncover the truth and raise awareness about the colonization of Indigenous peoples and atrocities that took place in residential schools. “It opened my eyes and compelled me to start looking into it,” Younging says. “I’ve been on a journey since then that is blossoming into a fuller understanding.”

His work with the TRC involves researching the gaps – critical issues that need addressing. “There are almost 100 different gaps, but due to time and funding limitations, we have chosen about 20 key gaps to focus on, including things like UN and League of Nations treaties that Canada may have been obligated under, Rights of Indigenous Peoples that have been breached, as well as various health and social issues and their multi-generational impacts.”

Younging also brings some of these issues into the classroom to share with his students. “I’ve been looking at the colonization process and its ongoing severe impact on Indigenous people. A lot of students are interested in the TRC – in Indigenous studies it’s probably the hottest Indigenous issue in the country right now.”
Younging also believes it’s critical to bring awareness of these issues to all Canadians. “Most Canadians have no idea this happened. Major public awareness and knowledge of residential schools is just as important for Canada as it is for the Indigenous community.”

Younging, who joined the TRC a year ago, has undergone his own healing process with his family, including talking about it with his mother, who has herself pursued research on the subject through her master’s and PhD theses at UBC. “My family really encouraged me to do this work. We have a matrilineal tradition so if my mother and aunties say I should do this, then I have to do it.”

Indigenous Studies at UBC
UBC’s Indigenous Studies program prepares graduates for work in a growing number of fields such as Indigenous government, treaty negotiations, land and resource management, land claims, law and law enforcement, public policy development and analysis, and community development. The new UBC Aboriginal portal profiles UBC’s growing aboriginal community.

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