Dr. Ronald E. Ignace (Stsmél̓qen) is a member of the Secwépemc (Shuswap) Nation. He recently retired after serving as the elected Chief of the Skeetchestn Band for more than 30 years since the early 1980s. He also served as Chairman of the Shuswap Nation Tribal Council and president of the Secwépemc Cultural Education Society during the late 1980s and 1990s, co-facilitating the repatriation of human remains from the Royal BC Museum.
For many years he was the co-chair of the Aboriginal university partnership between the Secwépemcc and Simon Fraser University in Kamloops, BC, and he continues to teach courses in Secwépemc Language and First Nations Studies through SFU. He holds BA and MA Degrees in Sociology from the University of British Columbia, and completed his PhD in Anthropology at Simon Fraser University in 2008 with a dissertation titled Our Oral Histories are Our Iron Posts: Secwépemc Stories and Historical Consciousness.
He has published and co-published, with Marianne Ignace, several articles and book chapters on Secwépemc history, ethnobotany, language and culture, and most recently co-wrote the epic Secwépemc People, Land and Laws: Yeri7 re stsq’ey’s-kucw (McGill-Queens University Press 2017), a journey through 10,000 years of Secwépemc history. With Marianne Ignace, he was awarded the Governor General‘s Award for Innovation in 2019.
Having been raised by his great-grandparents, Ron is a fluent speaker of Secwepemctsin and has more than sixty years of practical experience in Secwépemc traditional food gathering, having learned these skills from his own elders, who shared their stories and teachings in the Secwépemc language with him.
Ron says his work preserving Indigenous language stands out the most in his time as Chief. He contributed to Bill C-91 which was passed in the House of Commons in 2019, recognizing Indigenous language rights. Ron says, “It’s going to make transformative change in Canada, having Indigenous languages recognized in law in Canada.”