Billy-Ray Belcourt

Study program:
PhD English
Current affiliation:
University of Alberta

Billy-Ray Belcourt (English, University of Alberta) looks at his personal history and the works of contemporary Indigenous artists and writers to explore the theoretically significant ways that Indigenous peoples enact care in Canada.


The Conspiracy of NDN Joy

In this creative-theoretical project, Billy-Ray Belcourt attends to a diverse archive of art, literature, cultural and political phenomena, and autobiographical experiences to illuminate the ways in which those who are Indigenous and/or queer and denied care as a result of ongoing histories of structural violence enact it with one another. Belcourt writes in a mode that is at times poetic, critical, and tongue-in-cheek, which allows him to take on hard topics like reservization, intimate life, the toxicities of graduate school, and sexual health in a way that always brings us back to joy, to the what-could-be and the what-is-to-come. The essays invite us to feel in the direction of racial, feminist, and queer freedom.



Billy-Ray Belcourt is from the Driftpile Cree Nation. He is a Ph.D. student in the Department of English and Film Studies at the University of Alberta. He read for an M.St. in Women's Studies at the University of Oxford, where was the first-ever First Nations person from Canada to hold a Rhodes scholarship. His debut book of poems, This Wound is a World, was published by Frontenac House in the fall of 2017. It was named by CBC Books as the best “Canadian poetry” collection of 2017 and won the 2018 Griffin Poetry Prize, making him the youngest person to win the award. His sophomore book, NDN Coping Mechanisms: Notes from the Field, is due out in the fall of 2019 with House of Anansi Press. A public intellectual, his work has been featured in Canadian Art, GUTS: A Canadian Feminist Magazine, and He has taught creative writing at the Edmonton Remand Centre and the Banff Centre for Art and Creativity; he was Mount Royal University’s 2018 Emerging Scholar-in-Residence in the Office of Academic Indigenization. His research interests stretch from queer and trans Indigenous studies to visual culture to ethics.

  • June 29, 2018
    On 7 June 2018, 2018 Foundation scholar Billy-Ray Belcourt received the $65,000 Griffin Poetry Prize for his debut collection of poems, This Wound is a World, becoming the youngest winner in the prize’s history. Blending the codes of love song, elegy, prayer, and manifesto, Billy-Ray’s poetry evokes the intimacy and violence of Indigenous embodied experiences in Canada.
  • June 21, 2018
    The Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation appoints fifteen doctoral scholars across the country Outstanding students in the social sciences and humanities see their careers taking off.