Historian Ken Coates to chair YukonU's Indigenous governance program

Ken Coates is the new chair of Yukon University's Indigenous governance program. (Submitted by Ken Coates - image credit)
Ken Coates is the new chair of Yukon University's Indigenous governance program. (Submitted by Ken Coates - image credit)

A few months from now, Ken Coates is heading home to the Yukon.

The historian and scholar, who grew up in Whitehorse and currently works at the University of Saskatchewan, has been named the new chair of Yukon University's Indigenous governance program. He'll officially start in that role on July 1.

Shelagh Rowles, provost and vice-president academic at Yukon University, said Coates's appointment should give the university an opportunity to help students understand the history of Indigenous land claims and self-government agreements, as well as what the future of those agreements could look like — subjects Coates has studied and written extensively about.

"It's really a pivotal time, I'd say, for our Indigenous governance program and for young people to really invest in that understanding and exploration of those agreements," Rowles said.

In a news release Thursday, Yukon University said Coates has had a "long connection" with it. Among his many achievements, he helped design the curriculum for the Northern Studies program, and co-founded The Northern Review journal, which he still edits.

Coates stated in the news release that he's looking forward to joining the university.

"Yukon First Nations and, indeed, the Yukon as a whole, have co-created one of the most imaginative and creative governance environments in the country," he stated.

He added he wants to work with students and faculty "in supporting the realization of the dream of Indigenous re-empowerment and territory-wide reconciliation."

The Indigenous governance program is a bachelor of arts degree. Rowles said she believes Coates's appointment is also an opportunity for him to "give back" to the territory where he grew up.

"What [he] brings to us is an opportunity to really establish pathways for young Indigenous scholars to build their academic background and knowledge to actually become our future faculty," she said.

"It's a very reciprocal opportunity, and it just makes sense. The timing was so good, and we're at a point right now where this was our first degree program as a university and we really want to be able to strengthen it and make it the best it could possibly be."

Formerly a college, Yukon University officially became a university in 2020. The Indigenous governance program focuses on legislation and policy as it relates to Indigenous self-government and self-determination, through an Indigenous lens.