Indigenizing Higher Education

Dr. Shelly Johnson (Mukwa Musayett), Saulteaux is the world’s first Canada Research Chair in Indigenizing higher education and an Associate Professor at Thompson Rivers University.

Johnson is a recognized leader in Indigenous research methods and leadership. She arrived to take on her new role as CRC in January 2017 after spending more than four years as an assistant professor in the School of Social Work at UBC. She received her Master of Social Work from the University of Northern British Columbia in 2001, and her EdD in Educational Studies: Leadership and Policy from UBC, in 2011. She has worked within the child protection field in varying capacities since 1984, and spent seven years as the CEO of Surrounded By Cedar Child and Family Services, working with urban Aboriginal youth to restore and enhance strength and resiliency within the Coast Salish Territory.

Johnson currently holds $3 million in research grants as a primary and a co-primary investigator on projects that aim to develop capacity in urban Aboriginal communities with a focus on culture and language revitalization, child welfare, and justice issues. Broadly, her research interests are in the area of international Indigenous research methodologies, restorative child welfare practices and transformational healing through Indigenous cultural practices.

“I want to be a part of research that is meaningful to Indigenous peoples, is respectful and relevant of our ways of knowing, being and doing. It must be inclusive and responsible, and be an extension of the practice that I’ve had in the province for 25 years.”

As a visitor to the Secwepemc territory, Johnson seeks support for her research.

“I will visit the Nations, meet with leadership and grassroots people and learn about research that is important to them. A key part of the process is to ask people to guide our research in a good way.”

“The creation of this role makes a critical academic statement to Indigenous peoples,” she said. “It’s a privilege and a responsibility to carry it forward in a helpful way.”