Research Fellows

Yellowhead Research Fellows are researchers and practitioners doing community-based, critical Indigenous policy work. 

Fellows work with Yellowhead to support First Nation assertions of self-determination, engaging in public education, research and analysis on Indigenous policy.

For media requests, please email info@yellowheadinstitute.org.

John Cutfeet, Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug (KI) First Nation

Communication & Negotiation Support for the Health Transformation Initiative, Nishnawbe Aski Nation.

AREAS OF RESEARCH/ACTIVISM: Lands, Resources, Energy, Criminalization, Far North Act

John Cutfeet was band councillor for Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug (KI) First Nation, Ontario, with responsibility for lands and environment, from 1999 to 2007. John has long worked on issues related to mining, development and peace, and coordinating watershed work in Indigenous communities. John lives in KI and continues to engage in the traditional pursuits of living off the land.

Headshot by Alan Lissner

Ellen Gabriel
Kanien’kehá:ka (Mohawk) from Kanehsatà:ke

Cultural Consultant, Human Rights and Environmental Advocate for Indigenous peoples

AREAS OF RESEARCH/ACTIVISM: Human Rights, Environment, Gender Equity, Language and Culture Revitalization

Ellen began her public activism during the 1990 Siege of Kanehsatà:ke (1990 “Oka” Crisis) as the spokesperson for her community.  Since 1990, Ellen has worked consistently and diligently as a human rights and environmental advocate for rights of Indigenous peoples. In addition to being President of the Quebec Native Women’s Association from 2004 – 2010, she has also presented nationally and internationally and participated in the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues. She has won multiple awards including the Indigenous Women’s Initiative “Jigonsaseh Women of Peace Award” for her advocacy work. 

Christina Gray
Ts’msyen member of Lax Kw’alaams, Dene and Métis from Lutsel K’e

LLM Candidate at the University of Victoria Faculty of Law, Law Society of Ontario, Secretary of the Indigenous Bar Association Board of Directors

AREAS OF RESEARCH/ACTIVISM: Human Rights, Aboriginal Law, Indigenous Law, Constitutional Law, International Law

Christina has a background in human rights and public law, and also has worked as an international Indigenous legal expert in Ontario. She is currently pursuing her graduate degree at the University of Victoria Faculty of Law, for which she received the Law Society of British Columbia’s Indigenous Scholarship. Christina’s LLM research focuses on Indigenous constitutionalism and the overlapping and distinct legal characteristics of Indigenous legal orders within the context of human rights. She is also involved with the Indigenous Law Research Unit and the Sustainable Water Governance and Indigenous Law SSHRC project.

Sákéj Henderson
Bear Clan of the Chickasaw Nation and Cheyenne Tribe

Lawyer; Research Fellow, Native Law Centre of Canada; Member of the Sectoral Commission on Culture, Communication and Information of the Canadian Commission for UNESCO and Experts Advisory Group on International Cultural Diversity

AREAS OF RESEARCH/ACTIVISM: Aboriginal Law, Constitutional Law, International Human Rights Law, Treaty Rights, Indigenous Jurisprudence, Cultural Revitalization

Sákéj is a noted international human rights lawyer and an authority of protecting Indigneous heritage, knowledge, and culture. He was one of the drafters and expert advisors of the principles and guidelines for the protection of Indigenous Heritage in the UN Human Rights fora. He is working on two books: Indigenous Jurisprudence and Aboriginal Rights and Treaty Rights in the Constitution of Canada. His research probes legal decisions, legislation, policy, program, and other administrative decision making. As a lawyer and research director he has worked with Aboriginal national and provincial organizations on constitutional issues and litigation, and policy development.

Shalene Jobin
Cree and Métis, Red Pheasant Cree First Nation (Treaty Six)

Associate Professor in the Faculty of Native Studies; Director of the Indigenous Governance and Partnership program, University of Alberta

AREAS OF RESEARCH/ACTIVISM: First Nation Governance, Land Based Education, Plains Treaty History

Shalene is the co-creator and founding Academic Director of the Indigenous Partnership Development Program, a partnership between Executive Education and the Faculty of Native Studies, University of Alberta. She is working on a book manuscript titled Nehiyawak Narratives: Upholding Indigenous Economic Relationships. Shalene is involved in numerous community centred research projects, including the Wahkohtowin Project, a land-based research and pedagogical initiative grounding university learning with Cree Elders and knowledge keepers on the land.

Tanya Kappo
Sturgeon Lake Cree Nation

Activist and Lawyer

AREAS OF RESEARCH/ACTIVISM: Indigenous Political Institutions, Prairie Indigenous Politics, Indigenous Political Traditions, and Indigenous Women

Tanya’s efforts are focused on working towards creating space for an authentic existence of Indigenous people. As a lawyer, she represented survivors of Residential Schools and she recently worked with the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls. She speaks often on Indigenous issues and is a member of the National Collective for Walking with our Sisters. 

Headshot by Amos Scott

Dëneze Nakehk’o
Dene, Liidlii Kue First Nation

Founding Member, Dene Nahjo

AREAS OF RESEARCH/ACTIVISM: Dene Ways of Knowing, Journalism, Broadcasting, Communication, Public Speaking, Northern Political Reality, Basketball, Radio, Television

Dëneze is a strong advocate for Indigenous knowledge systems, particularly Dene ways of knowing. As one of the founding members of Dene Nahjo, he works at encouraging and supporting connections/re-connections to land, language and culture. He is a public speaker that recognizes and actively confronts the impacts of colonization through Dene methods of decolonization. He has over a decades worth of experience in northern media and communications.

Sherry Pictou
Mi’kmaw from L’sitkuk (Bear River First Nation)

Assistant Professor, Women’s Studies, Mount Saint Vincent University

AREAS OF RESEARCH/ACTIVISM: Indigenous Women, Indigenous Knowledge Systems, Indigenous Food Sovereignty, Indigenous Struggles for Social Justice

Dr. Pictou has served the broader Mi’kmaw community in several capacities including being elected Chief for her community and as a former co-chair of the World Forum of Fisher People.

Brock Pitawanakwat
Anishinaabe, Whitefish River First Nation

Assistant Professor and Department Chair, Indigenous Studies, University of Sudbury

AREAS OF RESEARCH/ACTIVISM:Indigenous languages, Indigenous governance, Indigenous social movements, Indigenous health

Brock’s current research interests intersect with language revitalization and Indigenous concepts of health and wellness. In 2013 he completed a three-year interchange as a Senior Researcher with the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada. He has also held faculty positions at the University of Winnipeg (Manitoba) and First Nations University of Canada (Saskatchewan). In 2009, Brock completed his PhD at the University of Victoria with a dissertation on Anishinaabe language revitalization.

Raven Sinclair
Nehiyaw (Cree) from George Gordon First Nation, Treaty 4 Territory

Professor, Faculty of Social Work, University of Regina 

AREAS OF RESEARCH/ACTIVISM: Indigenous Child Welfare; Cultural Identity; Intergenerational Trauma; Indigenous Healing; Sixties Scoop; Lateral Violence

 Raven’s academic background is psychology and social work; she holds a PhD from the University of Calgary. She is a survivor of the Sixties Scoop and has been researching the issue of the Indigenous Child Removal System in Canada since 1998. As the result of her work on the topic, including a 5-year SSHRC grant, she is a federal court appointed advisor to the Sixties Scoop Healing Foundation arising out of the Brown v Canada (2017) national class action victory and settlement. She has also been involved in the development of Indigenous research ethics in Canada. She is also passionately interested in intergenerational trauma and recovery and is developing lateral violence and racism interventions. Raven is a member of the CIHR College of Reviewers, the Waakebiness Institute of Indigenous Health Research advisory committee, and recent past Chair of the University of Regina Research Ethics Board. Raven is a renovation junkie, a chess addict, and proud mother of a wild and wicked 13 year old daughter who is the light of her life.

Headshot by Ali Eisner

Courtney Skye
Six Nations of the Grand River Territory

Policy Analyst & Senior Program Analyst at the Ontario Association of Children’s Aid Societies

AREAS OF RESEARCH/ACTIVISM: Gender-Based Analysis, Ending Violence, Social Policy for Youth, Child Welfare

Courtney has led policy development for the public sector at local, provincial, and national levels. This includes a framework for youth development, a strategy co-developed with Indigenous partners to transform the governance, design, and delivery of child and family services, and a strategy to end violence against Indigenous women. Courtney strives to end all forms of colonial violence experienced by Indigenous peoples.

Tim Thompson
Mohawk Nation, Bear Clan Family, Wahta Mohawk Territory

Policy Analyst

AREAS OF RESEARCH/ACTIVISM: Education, Language Revitalization

Karihwakeron is a strong proponent of Indigenous language revitalization, and is a proud graduate of the Onkwawén:na Kentióhkwa Kanienkéha/Mohawk language immersion program. Karihwakeron has held many roles, including: Policy Director of the Ontario Federation of Indian Friendship Centres, Education Director and Director of Languages for the Assembly of First Nations, President and CAO of First Nations Technical Institute. Karihwakeron was named as one of twelve defenders of human rights in the “Speak Truth to Power” initiative.

Vanessa Watts
Six Nations of the Grand River

Assistant Professor, Indigenous Studies and Sociology, McMaster University

AREAS OF RESEARCH/ACTIVISM: Indigenous onto-epistemologies, Indigenous feminisms, Indigenous social lives, Indigenous governance systems, Non-human/other-than-human relationships, Settler colonialism

Vanessa’s research centres on how Indigenous peoples and their lands are influenced by colonialism and efforts to revitalize traditional governance systems amidst this. Her work has an emphasis on how Indigenous women are affected by colonialism. She presents her work nationally and internationally, and consults for Indigenous-focused initiatives on issues such as governance, education, cultural competency and justice. Her experience in non-proft, government and post-secondary settings giver her a unique understanding of the impacts of colonialism and legislation on Indigenous communities.

Matthew Wildcat
Nehiyaw, Ermineskin Cree Nation

Instructor, University of Alberta

AREAS OF RESEARCH/ACTIVISM: First Nation Governments, First Nation Service Delivery, Indigenous Political Institutions, Prairie Indigenous Politics, Indigenous Political Traditions.

Alongside his teaching position, Matthew Wildcat is currently completing his PhD in Political Science at the University of British Columbia. His primary research interest is on the history of Indigenous political orders on the prairies and contemporary Indigenous institutions.

Tara Williamson
Opaskwayak Cree Nation, Gaabishkigamaag (Swan Lake, MB)

Independent Researcher & Consultant

AREAS OF RESEARCH/ACTIVISM: Governance, Law & Policy, Gender, Arts & Culture

Tara holds degrees in social work, law, and Indigenous governance. In the last 7 years, she has been a professor and Instructor at Fleming College, Trent University, Ryerson University/First Nations Technical Institute, and the University of Winnipeg. As an independent researcher and consultant, she has worked with and for Indigenous communities and organizations at the local, regional, provincial and national level. Tara is also a professional writer and musician.

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