"Our Legacy: Indigenous-African Relations Across the Americas" is organized by the Race, Ethnicity and Indigeneity Program in the Department of Equity Studies and the Centre for Feminist Research, at York University.

The Race, Ethnicity and Indigeneity Program , Department of Equity Studies, York University.

The Race, Ethnicity and Indigeneity Program is an interdisciplinary undergraduate degree program which integrates the areas of anti-racism, diaspora studies and Indigenous studies into a cohesive program, enabling students to develop a broad understanding of issues facing a society which maintains an official policy of multiculturalism and relies on a primarily immigrant/diasporic labour force while maintaining itself in a colonial relationship to Aboriginal peoples.

bonitaBonita Lawrence (Mi’kmaq), who was awarded the SSHRC grant to create “Our Legacy: Indigenous/African Relations Across the Americas” coordinates the REI program.

Her research interests on mixed-race identity and questions of belonging (resulting in the book “Real” Indians and Others: Mixed-Race Urban Native People and Indigenous Nationhood) and questions of legally imposed identities and federally-unrecognized Indigenous people (resulting in the upcoming publication: Fractured Homeland: Land and Idenity in Federally-Unrecognized Algonquin Communities in Ontario) led naturally to her interest in Indigenous/African peoples and their histories.

Her publication Decolonizing Anti-Racism, co-written with Ena Dua, the coordinator of the Centre for Feminist Research, challenged the manner in which anti-racism in Canada excludes Indigenous peoples, thereby subverting the possibility of Indigenous/African relations even being conceptualized in most contexts.

She subsequently co-published, with Zainab Amadahy, an article entitled “Indigenous Peoples and Black People: Settlers or Allies” which explored the intellectual and spiritual frameworks needed to address Indigenous/African relations in Canadian contexts.

The Centre for Feminist Research:

The Centre for Feminist Research promotes feminist activities and collaborative research at York University and works to establish research linkages between York scholars and local, national, international and transnational communities.

Established in 1991, CFR carries out its mandate by supporting individual and collaborative research, developing research materials, communicating research results, providing opportunities and training for graduate students, fostering relationships with community organizations and government personnel, and through hosting visiting scholars from outside the university nationally and internationally.

CFR is coordinating the Our Legacy: Indigenous/African Relations Across the Americas conference, taking primary responsibility for every aspect of the conference.


We wish to acknowledge those individuals who have contributed to the conference in a variety of ways, below.

leah_stewartLeah Stewart (Harpy Eagle Lokono Arawak) is a PhD student working on her dissertation entitled "Arawaks Who Drive Cars: Indigenous Identity in the Postcolonial Caribbean". Her areas of expertise include Indigenous history and culture in the Caribbean, Indigenous resistance to colonialism across the Americas, Caribbean cultures of resistance and Caribbean popular culture.

From the beginning, Leah has built most of the connections between Caribbean Indigenous leaders and scholars and the conference organizers. As the conference research assistant she has also made the primary arrangements for travel, accommodations, and generally keeping us "on our toes" about protocols and requirements in Caribbean contexts.

Finally, Leah will be presenting her work on one of the Caribbean panels.

Kimberley Palmer is a PhD student in the Faculty of Environmental Studies at York. Her work with the Garifuna Heritage Foundation in St. Vincent has provided the connections which enabled us to bring an Indigenous leader and scholar from St. Vincent to speak at the conference. Kimberley has spoken in a number of international contexts on Garifuna resistance; her work will also be presented at the conference.

Scott Macklin who provided the photographs of Pankaruru and Pataxo Indigenous people, as well as other Indigenous/African people from commuities and quilombos in Brazil for our conference website.

Miguel Gonzalez who assisted us in reaching out to South and Central American researchers and provided the photographs of Miskito Indigenous people from Nicaragua for our conference website.

amanda_murrayAmanda Murray, who provided the conference logo. Amanda is a Saulteaux (Pine Creek First Nations: Manitoba) artist, born in Toronto. As a singer, dancer (Fancy Shawl) and visual artist, her urban upbringing and traditional teachings are reflected in her work.

You may contact her at or by phone at 647-213-1783.


As the first international conference addressing Indigenous/African relations across the Americas to be held in Canada, the conference owes much, intellectually, to the following scholars:

Robert Keith Collins (Choctaw), from the American Indian Studies Department at San Francisco State University, was the keynote speaker who launched the Race, Ethnicity and Indigeneity program at York University, and who provided much of the initial intellectual material which enabled the first course in Canada to be taught on that subject, in the REI program.

Maximilian Forte, from the Department of Sociology and Anthropology at Concordia University, whose extensive work on Indigenous (particularly Carib) resurgence in the Caribbean has enabled scholars based in Canada to begin to grapple with complex questions of race and Indigeneity in Caribbean contexts.

Jonathan Warren, Chair of Latin American Studies and Associate Professor of International Studies at the University of Washington whose work on racial formation and racial identity in Brazil opened up an entire discursive field addressing contemporary struggles of Indigenous/African peoples to recreate their Indigenous identities in the wake of genocidal pressure to relinquish Indigeneity, in Brazilian contexts.

Paula Madden. Currently a PhD student at Sussex University, UK, Paula has the unique honour of having published the first book on African/Indigenous relations ever written in Canada. African Nova Scotian-Mi’kmaw Relations (Halifax: Fernwood, September 2009) explores how concepts of “Indigenous Blackness” adopted by Nova Scotian Black people to highlight their longevity in Canada ends up effacing the presence of the Indigenous peoples of Nova Scotia—the Mi’kmaq people. Paula currently explores how Blackness is written in Canada in a manner which too frequently can erase Indigenous presence


It is also important to credit the intellectual contributions that students have made in addressing these concepts in Canada.

Zahir Kolia and Beenash Jaffrey, both PhD students respectively in Social and Political Thought and Women’s Studies at York, have been among the first academics to have taken up the challenge that Ena Dua and myself made in Decolonizing Anti-Racism to address the erasure of colonization and Indigenous presence within anti-racism in Canada. They are seeking to understand their positions in Canada as racialized settlers on Indigenous lands, and seeking the means of building solidarity between Indigenous and racialized peoples. Both will be presenting, at the conference.

Finally, it is important to credit the undergraduate students in REI 3570 6.00 Black Indians and Native-Black Relations who have, each time the course has been taught, responded with tremendous intellectual passion and fervour (indeed, even they even brought other community members to sit in on the class and contribute). Their overwhelming interest in this topic has taught the organizers how important it is to begin to address this subject in Canada. Developing an international conference on Indigenous/African relations across the Americas is in many respects the legacy of the REI 3570 course.


We would like to thank the following institutions for their assistance in advertising the conference:

The Harriet Tubman Institute for Research on the Global Migrations of African People at York University

The Native American and Indigenous Studies Association