Dr. Jeannette Armstrong

Dr. Jeannette Armstrong

Chairs

Canada Research Chair in Okanagan Indigenous Knowledge and Philosophy

Biography

Dr. Jeannette Armstrong was born on the Penticton Indian Reserve in 1948, and, aside from the two years in Victoria when she was attending university in 1977 and 1978, she has lived all of her life in the Okanagan. Yet she has become an internationally recognized writer and activist – a novelist, poet and spokesperson for Indigenous peoples’ rights to land and justice, education and language, and a healthy environment.

Armstrong helped to establish the En’owkin Centre for that purpose in Penticton in 1979, which was first called the Okanagan Indian Curriculum Project. It became clear that an important component of relevant curricula was writing by Indigenous authors. Armstrong, in an effort to encourage the development of Indigenous literature, decided to put into practice what she was advocating, and set out to write the novel Slash. In 1982, Theytus Publications, an Indigenous-run press, was established in Penticton under the wing of En’owkin, and in 1989, Armstrong became a key force behind establishing a centre for creative writing. The En’owkin Centre became the En’owkin International School of Writing, offering Canada’s only creative writing program run by and designed for Indigenous people. Indigenous scholars and writers from all over Canada and the US came to the Okanagan to teach and study. Throughout the 1990s, this institution played an important role in encouraging many authors to get into print and furthering the development of a national network of Indigenous writers in Canada. Today, the En’owkin Centre, with Armstrong as Director, has expanded to include the study of Okanagan culture and history, language and traditional arts, as well as fine arts and education. It has established joint degree programs with the University of Victoria and the University of British Columbia, Okanagan. Meanwhile, Armstrong has contributed to the development of Indigenous Studies at UBC Okanagan, and taken on the job of Assistant Professor in Indigenous Studies at that institution.