Indigenous Maps, Films, Rights and Land Claims Certificate 

Background   Costs
Program info                           Entrance requirements
Instructors      How to apply
Location   How to graduate



The term 'land claim' is typically used to describe any action involving the attempt by Indigenous peoples to recover lands and resources taken by expansionist European settler states during the imperial and colonial periods.  Typically, this was accomplished through the negotiation of treaties, but these were, as often as not, only part of a far more complex process involving introduced disease, deterritorialization on reserve, legislative action, and a range of culture practices generally referred to as the 'civilizing mission'.  This allowed, it is often through the negotiation of modern day treaties, and a range of related territorial and cultural strategies that many of these lands and resources are now being returned to their original Indigenous owners. 

Put alternately, this certificate is about the various ways by and through which Indigenous lands and resources were taken  - and in this sense the telling of a story that more people still need to hear - but more importantly is about the various ways by and through which Indigenous peoples are getting them back - and in this sense a manifesto about truth, justice, and reconciliation, and how cultures relate to each other and the lands they now necessarily share in an increasingly interconnected world.

This certificate is mostly 'about' land claims in British Columbia - where they come from, why they have to be resolved, but mostly how to do them.  This is partly because British Columbia is one corner of the world where all the tactics of colonization and disenfranchisement, but also the wondrous and myriad ways by which hearts and minds are being decolonized, and cultural revival and reinvention, are so visibly on display.  Partly, however, it is because it is delivered in the heart of traditional Sto:lo territory, itself one of many Indigenous territories in a region where, for the most part, few historical treaties were ever negotiated, but where modern day versions are now, if slowly and hesitatingly, being settled, and where the ground is literally shifting beneath our feet. 

Even so, and while some 65 First Nations representing 114 Indian Act bands in British Columbia are presently involved in a formal treaty process, this certificate is about more than that.  It also takes a serious look at Indigenous rights and title actions as effected and pursued through issue-specific kinds of claims, interim measures agreements, in Indigenous schools, and through litigation in court - and critically reflects on the promises and perils of either.  Where appropriate, comparative studies of tactics and methods used in other parts of Canada specifically, and the decolonizing world more generally, will also be investigated. 

Some of this certificate is avowedly philosophical and reflective in tone.  Most of it is decidely critical, practical, in the field, and on the ground.  All of it is necessary - constitutionally, politically, economically, and spiritually.  Academic treatise and travelogue all at once, the University of the Fraser Valley is pleased to be delivering the fifth edition of this critically acclaimed (see below) certificate.   

The Program

This intensive four-week, three-course, twelve-credit certificate offers students the opportunity to learn a range of conceptual and practical skills that are of direct relevance to the history, communication, implementation, and critique of rights, title, and land claims. It focuses on a range of representational practices, including, but not limited to, film, oral histories, documentaries, surveys and maps, and legal discourse analysis, and their importance to the Indigenous land and rights process generally, but with a focus on British Columbia in particular.

The in-class portion of this certificate will be offered for four weeks from June 22 through July 16, 2015 on a 'four-day-on, three-day-off' schedule, with the remainder of the summer semester (through to the second last week of August) used by students for completion of assignments. In-class learning is supported by practicum work, visits to field sites, and guest lectures or visits by Aboriginal or non-Aboriginal experts working in the area of comprehensive land claims and treaty negotiations.

'Week 1' (June 22 - July 16, 2015)   
HIST 399e: Special topics in History I: Films, Histories and Land  (4 credits)

This intensive one-week (see Note  below) course offers students an account and analysis of how film and historical writing have been used to make the invisible (the heritage and land use of First Nations) visible (films and texts created to reveal and explain Indigenous peoples' relationship to their lands and cultures). By critically evaluating film and text, students will learn about the challenges of land claims research, and how to enhance research methodologies developed to advance land rights and land claims processes in Canada and other parts of the world. The focus will be on the place of creative work in research.

Hugh Brody, author, filmmaker and Tier I Canada Research Chair in Aboriginal Studies at UFV read bio

'Week 2' (June 22 - July 16, 2015)
GEOG 300f: Special Topics in Geography: Maps, Territories and Land  (4 credits)

This intensive one-week course (see Note  below) introduces students to the conceptual and practical challenges of making maps to advance and support land claims in British Columbia. Students will learn about the history of First Nations cartography and wayfinding in British Columbia and elsewhere, and how to use maps and other forms of spatial representation such as stories, songs, artifacts, blockades or occupancies, and the law to advance claims to territory in the modern period, and some of the perils and promises associated with these processes.

Dr. Ken Brealey, Department of Geography / Associate Dean of Faculty, College of Arts at UFV (extensive experience in the research and mapping of oral and documentary history, and comprehensive and specific claims) read bio

'Week 3' (June 22 - July 16, 2015)
HIST 396i: Special Topics in North American History: Rights, Title and Land 
(4 credits)

This intensive one-week course (see Note  below) introduces students to the history of the Sto:lo, their relations to land and resources, and rights, title, and land claims issues. Students will watch films, read texts, hear oral interviews and presentations, view maps, and tour the Sto:lo cultural landscape as a 'thick' or 'embedded' way of learning about the Sto:lo and the challenges facing them in their relationship with non-Native newcomers and government authorities. Sto:lo rights and title issues involve local and broader histories of litigation, negotiation, direct action, and land/resource management. The course will challenge students to be creative in thinking of ways to understand, convey, and address rights and title issues, using a variety of methods and media.

Dr. David Schaepe, Director and Senior Archaeologist Sto:lo Research and Resource Management Center at Sto:lo Nation (extensive experience researching Sto:lo title, rights and heritage) read bio
Naxaxalhts'i (Albert 'Sonny' McHalsie), Hon. PhD, Cultural Advisor/Historian Sto:lo Research and Resource Managament Center(extensive experience in the negotiation of Sto:lo title and rights) read bio

Note: Each of the three courses is effectively 'one week' (five day-long classes, Monday through Thursday) in length, and the responsibility of the designated instructor, but in practice they will be interwoven with each other, 'stretched over' a four week period, instructors alternating with one another as required.  In part, this is because of the availability of certain facilities and/or guest speakers relevant to the material covered by each instructor, but also because it enhances the interconnected nature of the courses in the certificate as a whole.  The exact rotation of the classes will be made clear at the start of the certificate on June 22.

Some reviews from the first four editions of the certificate:

"Instructors were the best and from a good variety of personality, attitude and focus.  They are passionate and sensitive....I felt honoured to be part of this learning program.  I was really impressed by what the people who put this certificate together accomplished."

"The course fitted amazingly with my other courses...and I feel gave me great new insight of First Nations peoples, which I can apply to my other education."

"I loved the resource manual."

"I just want to thank you all for this wonderful experience. I have more than enjoyed myself and hope that you are able to have more classes that I can sign up for."

"I learned a lot from the certificate program.  I liked the way the course was delivered, it inspired thought.  It would not be near as powerful if it was taken as 3 separate classes once a week.  The intensity of the program works well.  It is a journey."

 "I was blown away by how much I learned and how engaged I got in the classes."

"I feel fortunate that I was given the opportunity to attend class on Stó:lō territory and honored to have been taught by the four of you….I'm so proud that our institution provides and supports this certificate. Very rarely in a lifetime can you take a course or program that changes you intellectually, emotionally, and spiritually. But that is exactly what your teachings have done for me, and I thank you."

"It has been an immense opportunity for me to learn about the world beyond…and has really transformed my outlook of the Fraser Valley in particular."

"Cultural history tour was awesome...and seeing some of the films was great."

"This has been an amazing opportunity and I feel very privileged to have sat in this room and learned from everyone.  The enthusiasm of the instructors is contagious...a unique learning environment on many levels."


Classes for the 2015 edition will be delivered in the Sto:lo Nation's Cultural Research Center, 7201 Vedder Rd., Sardis, B.C. V2R 4G5.  This building is state of the art and the Sto:lo people have graciously offered to welcome instructors and students into their traditional territory. 

Students coming from outside the lower Fraser Valley may wish to consider accommodation in UFV's student residences, which are located at the main campus in Abbotsford, approximately 40 km west of Chilliwack. The cost is approximately $210 per week and students would be responsible for their own bedding and toiletries. Each suite has two bedrooms and a shared bathroom. Contact for further information or bookings.


The course consists of 3 four-credit courses at $134 per credit, plus ancillary fees of $160.80, and SUS fees of $148.25. Total cost of the program $1,917.05 in tuition and fees. Students should also be prepared to cover the cost of a course pack of reference materials (~$75). Note that new students (see next section) to UFV will also be responsible for the $45 application fee to the institution.

Entrance Requirements

  • applicants must have completed thirty (30) university level credits with a CGPA of 2.5 on all credits attempted (and submit an official transcript directly to Admissions and Records University of the Fraser Valley 33844 King Rd., Abbotsford, B.C. V2S 7M8 as proof)


have a demonstrable professional experience (e.g. having a significant position or role of at least two years duration in an Aboriginal band or tribal council [e.g. as an elected leader, elder, etc.], paralegal or legal firm, government ministry or other organization involved in land claims [and submission of employment record or letter of reference to the above same address as proof]) and/or permission of instructors

  • applicants must submit a covering letter of intent not exceeding two pages in length that explains a little bit about who you are, your present circumstances and/or experience, why you want to apply to the certificate, and your willingness to meet general requirements (see weighting criteria, below)
  • applicants must state clearly in their letter of intent whether or not they are seeking to complete the certificate on an academic (alpha-numerically graded) or straight credit/no credit (CR/NC) basis  
  • in some circumstances, applicants may be asked, or have the option, to follow up their letter of intent with an interview with the instructors   
  • applicants must have the flexibility and freedom to participate fully in the certificate program, including acceptance of intensive seminar based courses spread across daily day-long classes, and a willingness to participate in group activities
  • applicants must have a level of fitness to permit engagement in moderately strenuous field work

Applicants will be assessed/weighted according to the following criteria:

  • interest in and motivation in learning about maps, films, rights and their history and application to the resolution of Aboriginal land claims (as covered in the letter of intent and/or in the interview) (up to 20 points) 
  • academic credentials or demonstrable equivalent professional experience (as covered in the official transcript or supprting documentation and/or interview outlining professional qualifications) (up to 20 points) 
  • willingness to commit to intensive in-class experience in a condensed four week period that includes external field trip requirements and conditions (as covered in the letter of intent) (up to 10 points) 
  • competency in English (as demonstrated in the letter of intent or in the interview) (up to 10 points)

Note: Applicants must score 45 out of 60 for acceptance into the certificate.

How to Apply

Current UFV or other university registered students should submit their letter of intent and all supporting documents to Admissions (OReg). Current students must still complete the Application for Admission form and check off “Certificate” and write “Land Claims” in the box.  The form is available from any admissions or Student Services office, but you can also print the form from the admissions webpage. There is no fee for current students.


New students must submit the same documents and their application for admission to UFV along with the application for admission fee to Admissions (OReg).  Application for admission forms are available from any admissions or Student Services office, but you can also print the form from the admissions webpage or apply directly through the Internet at

How to Graduate

  • graduation is based on the completion of all three courses in the certificate, with a minimum GPA of 2.0 in each of the courses for students seeking academic (alphanumeric) credit)


completion of all three courses in the certificate with accreditation (CR) in all three courses for students not seeking academic credit 

  • students will have followed appropriate protocols for cultural, educational and safety reasons, participated in field trips, met project deadlines, and been willing to participate in a self-evaluation
  • students seeking academic credit may be able to use the certificate courses to satisfy requirements for the UFV Bachelor of Arts degree or, subject to consultation with the program advisor, other UFV bachelor degrees


Please contact Ken Brealey, Associate Dean of Faculty, College of Arts, 604-504-7441 ext 4605 or


12-credit, 4-week course on indigenous land claims

Embark on an exciting journey of discovery, led by renowned experts, to learn about historic representations of indigenous land claims in maps, films, or texts.

Learn more

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