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Cheyanne Connell (Dunne-Za Cree, West Moberly First Nations) is a Doctoral Student in Socio-Cultural and Indigenous Anthropology at the University of British Columbia (UBC), UBC Public Scholar, and Canada Graduate Scholarship recipient. She holds a Master of Arts (2021) and Bachelor of Arts, Honours with Distinction (2019) in Anthropology from Simon Fraser University (SFU).

Presently, Ms. Connell works as a Teaching Assistant in the Department of Anthropology and Institute for Critical Indigenous Studies (CIS), as well as a Research Assistant (RA) and Graduate Academic Assistant (GAA) with Dr. Aynur Kadir (Asian Studies and CIS, UBC) and Dr. Amir Shiva (Anthropology, UBC) respectively. Previously, she worked as an Editorial Assistant for leading academic journal American Ethnologist (2019—2022), GAA for the Department of Anthropology (2023), and RA for Dr. Michael Hathaway (David Lam Centre for Asia Pacific Studies, SFU) (2018—2022). Currently, she is assisting and collaborating on two major research projects: Transnationally Indigenous (2018—), and on course curriculum development for courses in the Department of Anthropology at UBC.

Since 2019, Ms. Connell has also worked with and hosted urban Indigenous folk from North America and Japan in support of her joint quest to understand how dominant expectations of being Indigenous impact processes of identity-making and belonging. She has volunteered to moderate presentations by Indigenous scholars and presented several talks on Indigenous research approaches and Indigenous histories in Canada. Most recently, she was part of formal event and dialogues aimed at 1) discussing the challenges and opportunities of decolonizing universities and 2) helping Ismaili immigrants learn about Indigenous peoples in Canada, created Indigenous Language children's books for a local Indigenous community, and published in American Ethnologist.


For research, Ms. Connell is interested in Indigenous Language and culture; Indigenous identity-making; identity performance and representation; urban Indigenous studies; and global Indigenous world-making. She is principal investigator for Naachin of Past and Present (2021—), an ethnographic and collaborative project that focuses on the histories, practices, and meaning of traditional Language within her home community of West Moberly First Nations. She asks: How does traditional language, including the feelings, memories, and histories surrounding this practice, shape one’s Indigenous identity in present day? As part of this project, Ms. Connell, who is also a freelance Illustrator, will be creating a publicly accessible graphic novel, depicting select community member experiences with Language (un)learning and revitalization. Mainly, this project seeks to address the realities of Indigenous identity-making and importantly contribute to growing representation of what it means to be Indigenous in the twenty-first century.

Ms. Connell's efforts to privilege the voices of young Indigenous peoples whose diverse experiences of Indigenous identity-making are often overlooked in public and academia, extends to all her projects. For her MA project (2019-2021), Ms. Connell explored Indigenous Ainu identity-making in North America and through digital spaces. Based on in-depth interviews, online observations, and data collection and analysis, she argued that whereas Ainu identity-making of those who grew up in Japan is primarily rooted in Ainu in Japan experience, American Ainu identity-making is largely informed by and rooted in North American Indigenous experience. With this comes uniquely North American-based experiences and anxieties of culture appropriation, identity gatekeeping, and Indigenous authenticity—a reality that acknowledges many overlooked issues of lateral violence within Ainu and online Indigenous communities. For her BA, Hons. (2019), she explored and critiqued the use of the diaspora model in framing urban Indigenous peoples, experiences, and livelihoods. She argued the need for a more inclusive framework with respect to some urban Indigenous peoples, given that many of them, especially in Canada, are: 1) geographically not displaced; 2) have rooted cultural experiences and practices in urban environments; and 3) have fostered a sense of belonging to an urban homeland. This research spoke to the need to recognize and meaningfully engage with urban Indigenous experience and livelihoods as being authentically Indigenous and not in terms of a cultural, traditional, and land deficit.

Through her research, writing, and teaching, Ms. Connell is one of a few early career scholars advocating for better and more accessible public and scholarly representations of Indigenous youth identity diversity that speaks to the realities of being Indigenous and part of a global and tech-driven world.



This project is part of the requirement for my PhD degree at UBC, started in September 2021. It builds off my MA research, but shifts focus to my own community of West Moberly First Nations (WMFN). With a particular focus on the movement towards language revitalization, this ethnographic project will work collaboratively with my own community of WMFN in northeastern British Columbia, Canada to employ Indigenous research methods and perspective to advance knowledge on the realities of being Indigenous in Canada and as part of a global, digitally connected society. It in part asks: How do local and global Indigenous community members influence, inspire, and disrupt each other’s identity-making processes? As a note, the term 'naachin' stems from the Dunne-Za word for Dreamers, which are/were community members gifted with unique knowledges through their dreams. My aim is to develop and advance academic and public understanding of multifaceted identity performance among Indigenous youth and community. As an urban Indigenous woman myself and community member, this project will offer first-hand and community-driven insights into the contemporary realities of being and becoming Indigenous when registered in a First Nations community of diverse and geographically dispersed members, and will serve as in part an autoethnography. This project is in the 'preliminary research' phase. The next phase of 'research fieldwork' will be conducted in Fall 2023, contingent on successful completion of my PhD comprehensive exams.

Mark Turin (Supervisor)

Patrick Moore (Committee Member)

Michael Hathaway (Committee Member)



From project website: "This project explores the hidden legacies of transnational Indigeneity and Indigenous diplomacy by examining two pivotal trips during which a group of Ainu delegates from Japan and a group of First Nations delegates from British Columbia traveled to China in the mid-1970s. They were impressed with what they saw in terms of education and Indigenous language promotion, and began to envision new kinds of activism in their home countries. Our Indigenous-majority team of Investigators, Collaborators and students will work collectively to carry out four key objectives: 1) engage with scholarship in Transnational Studies to provide alternatives to state-centered accounts, 2) show how Indigenous transnational diplomacy expands Indigenous Studies beyond domestic studies and offer non-oppositional frameworks that expands understanding of Indigenous agency; and 3) contribute to Asian Studies by analyzing transpacific connections, not just comparisons." Click here to learn more about this project.

Michael Hathaway (Co-Principal Investigator)

Aynur Kadir (Co-Principal Investigator)

Rick Colbourne (Contributor)

Glen Coulthard (Contributor)

Scott Harrison (Contributor)

Regina Baeza Martinez (Contributor)

Kate Hennessy (Collaborator)

Ann-Elise Lewallen (Collaborator)

George Nicholas (Collaborator)

Deanna Reder (Collaborator)

Rudy Reimer (Collaborator)

Saki Murontani (Artist)

Jacquelyn Yu (Web Developer)




This project was conducted through digitally-mediated fieldwork from 2020 to 2021, as part of the requirement for my MA degree at SFU. It's main goal was to seek to understand how Ainu in North America experience Indigenous identity-making. Working with eight young adults of self-identified Ainu ancestry, at various stages of their Ainu journeys, but all started within the last few years, I ask how Ainu and Ainuness is learned and understood through their primary connection and access to Ainu community and culture: digital spaces. My findings suggested that the Ainu identity-making of those who grew up and live in Japan is primarily shaped by Japanese Ainu experience, whereas for some American-Ainu, their identity-making is largely shaped by North American Indigenous experience. I argued that this in turn made American-Ainu uniquely subject to North American-based experiences and anxieties of culture appropriation, identity gatekeeping, and Indigenous authenticity, and what I call precarious indigeneity. The aim of this project was to expand public and academic narratives of Ainu identity-making that speaks to the diverse realities of learning what it means to be Ainu and Indigenous in present day and as multiethnic and digitally connected individuals and communities. As part of this project, I created a series of illustrations to demonstrate media representation of Ainu and North American Indigenous peoples, and various findings and ideas in my research. Click here to learn more about this project.

Michael Hathaway (Supervisor)

Kate Hennessy (Committee Member)



This project was part of my undergraduate degree, and resulted in the successful complete of my BA Honours thesis, titled “Decolonizing Urban Indigenous Studies: Defining and Redefining Indigeneity." It is a literary exploration and critique of the use of the diaspora model in framing urban Indigenous peoples, experiences and livelihoods. In it, I argue the need for a more inclusive framework that speaks to the diversity of urban Indigenous peoples, given that many of them, especially in Canada: 1) still reside on (urban) ancestral land and are therefore not displaced; 2) have little to no connection to a non-urban traditional homeland and as a result, may feel little to no cultural loss; and 3) live in places where recognized traditional territories are often either only a fraction of or not at all one’s ancestral lands, thus, showing that homeland-making can and does occur outside of ancestral lands. From this, I suggest the need to recognize and meaningfully engage with urban Indigenous experience and livelihoods as being authentically Indigenous and not of an inherent cultural, traditional, and land deficit. Growing up off-reserve and in densely populated cities, this project was what inspired my thirst for knowledge and passion in interrogating public and academic assumptions, generalizations, and expectations of Indigenous peoples, that are often rooted in colonialism, nation-state governance, and Christianity.

Michael Hathaway (Supervisor)

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