Fallon Burner Wins 2020 Rita Ross Prize in Canadian Studies

Fallon Burner

We are pleased to announce that Fallon Burner is the 2020 recipient of the Rita Ross Undergraduate Prize in Canadian Studies. Named in honor of our program's longtime associate director, the prize recognizes outstanding original research on a Canadian topic by a UC Berkeley undergraduate student.

Ms. Burner's winning project, "Healing Through Language: Revitalization and Renewal in the Wendat Confederacy", was undertaken as a year-long capstone honors thesis for Berkeley's history department, and was partially sponsored by Canadian Studies. The thesis examines the history of the languages of the Wendat Confederacy, showing the vital role that language plays in the Indigenous community, how its history is tied to issues of erasure and survival, and the role that language revitalization projects have in addressing transgenerational trauma. It also advocates for increasing Native voices in the field of history, and suggests ancestral language proficiency is a key aspect of this process.

Ms. Burner, herself a Wendat descendant, accordingly made learning to speak Wendat a central goal of her project. During her research, she conducted oral histories with members of the Wendat community at several locations, most notably at the Wendake Reserve in Québec. She also attended a First Nations Language Keepers Gathering in Saskatoon to discuss Indigenous language programs with representatives from other Canadian Indigenous communities. Ms. Burner presented the results of her research at a special panel hosted by Canadian Studies in late April, where it drew significant interest.

Now an official Berkeley graduate, Ms. Burner will be continuing her research at the University of Saskatchewan next year under Dr. Kathryn Labelle. She expressed her "profound gratitude" to Canadian Studies for providing "crucial funding in the early stages of this project"; in return, we extend our warmest congratulations to Ms. Burner for her excellent scholarship, and wish her well in her continued academic endeavours.