Calgary professor won't use capital letters unless it's to acknowledge Indigenous people

Published Sept. 6, 2021 3:05 p.m. ET
Updated Sept. 8, 2021 10:46 p.m. ET

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TORONTO -- A Calgary professor says she won’t use capital letters in her name or anything she writes, unless it pertains to Indigenous people.

linda manyguns, associate vice-president of Indigenization and decolonization at Mount Royal University, made the decision to “support the movement for equality,” following the ongoing discoveries of unmarked graves at residential schools in Canada.

She is refusing to use capital letters because she said it shows complicity with systems of oppression. She called on people to reject symbols of hierarchies, such as churches and the government, and be more critical of them because “these institutions have been responsible for atrocities.”

“i'm joining that [lower case] movement in order to create a resistance to their oppression; identify and bring attention to the fact that these entities are the oppressors of Aboriginal people,” manyguns told in a phone interview on Monday.

So far, there have been more than 1,000 unmarked graves found at the former sites of church and government-run residential schools. The Truth And Reconciliation Commission estimates that between 4,100 to 6,000 children died while they attended these schools.

For decades, more than 150,000 First Nations, Inuit and Metis children were forcibly removed from their families to attend these schools which sought to strip away their culture and languages.

So out of respect for them, manyguns said she’ll only use capital letters when it comes to words, such as “Indigenous,” “Indigeneity,” or references to the “Indigenous struggle for recognition.”

Although her specific university department will follow her example, manyguns doesn’t want to force anything on anyone else. But she did urge institutions pledging to bring in more Indigenous voices or perspectives in their decision-making to first deeply think about de-colonization and how systemic oppression persists today.

Last week, she announced her decision to only use lowercase in a post on the university’s website, where she said, “Indigenous people have been actively engaged in a multidimensional struggle for equality, since time immemorial.”

“we strive for historical-cultural recognition and acknowledgment of colonial oppression that persistently devalues the diversity of our unique cultural heritages,” she wrote.

“these sites of struggle are generally found at blockades, where demonstrations against racism occur, where racialization and cultural domination, and discrimination leave the mark of imbalance and abuses of power.”


If you are a former residential school student in distress, or have been affected by the residential school system and need help, you can contact the 24-hour Indian Residential Schools Crisis Line: 1-866-925-4419

Additional mental-health support and resources for Indigenous people are available here.

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