Research Projects

Raising Nisga’a Language, Cultural Sovereignty, and Land-Based Education With Traditional Carving Knowledge

This project is the first known study to focus on the philosophy and pedagogical practices of the Nisga’a carving tradition as a form of knowledge production and transmission through repatriation and carving of new pst’aan (totem pole) in the Nisga’a language. This will include improving access to traditional land-based knowledge in the Nisga’a language through the development of innovative use of virtual reality (VR) technology.

We are grateful for our:

  • Collaborations with Sim’oogit (Chief) Duuḵ (William Moore) from Wilps (House) of Duuḵ in the Gitwiln̓aak’il̓ clan of the Laxgibuu tribe
  • Collaborations with Sim’oogit (Chief) Niis Joohl (Earl Stevens) from the Wilps (House ) of Niis Joohl in the Raven tribe in the Village of Lax’galts’ap
  • Partnership with the Lax̱galts’ap Village Government
  • Protocol guidance from Nisga’a Lisims Government Ayuuk Department
  • Collaborations with Wal’aks (Keane Tait) Nisga’a language teacher from the Wilps (House) of Axdii Wil Luu-Gooda of the Git-Wilt’uuts’kwhl Aks Clan of the Raven/Frog tribe among the Nisga’a People
  • Support from the Social Sciences Humanities Research Council of Canada: New Frontiers in Research Grant

A component of this project will enhance access to traditional land-based knowledge in the Nisga’a language through the development of innovative use of virtual reality (VR) technology in collaboration with Nisga’a Matriarch, Chiefs and Knowledge holders to detail publicly permissible stories of Nisga’a place names. In doing so, it will expand intergenerational knowledge and awareness of traditional uses of the red cedar tree, place names, and seasonal cycles that are depicted in Nisga’a poles through using the Nisga’a language among Nisga’a children, Elders, families, and educators. The VR films created from the project will also support ecotourism opportunities and teacher recruitment for the Nisga’a Nation. VR filming will begin in summer of 2021. However, we are in need of a classroom set of VR masks, in order to pilot the films with our Nisga’a communities in the Nass Valley and our Urban Locals in Vancouver, Terrace & Prince Rupert. For more information on partnership opportunities to support the technology needs for this portion of the project, please contact me at

In the summer of 2021, a new house pole (pts’aan) will be carved by emerging Nisga’a female and male carvers in the Lax̱g̱alts’ap Village Government carving shed, which will serve as a “Nisga’a classroom” for carvers to teach Nisga’a youth, educators, and community members about carving tools, techniques, and adaawak (stories) that are embedded in the pole through the Nisga’a language.

In 1929, the Niis Joohl memorial pole was stolen from Nisga’a Nation’s ancient village of Ank’idaa by Marius Barbeau and sold to the Royal Scottish Museum in Edinburgh, where it remains today. This research project will provide an opportunity for a delegation from the House of Niis Joohl to travel to Scotland to repatriate our pole in the summer of 2022.

Critical Understandings of Land & Water: Unsettling Place at SFU

I recently produced a film series titled, “Critical Understandings of Land & Water: Unsettling Place at SFU”, which aims to examine the praxis of land-based education. The film series is guided by Q’um Q’um Xiiem, Dr. Jo-ann Archibald’s Indigenous Storywork methodology (2008) to bring forward an important collection of stories on Land based education in collaboration with respected Coast Salish Knowledge Holders and Simon Fraser University faculty:

  • Margaret and Michelle George of the Səl̓ílwətaɬ Nation
  • Latash, Maurice Nahanee of the Skwxwú7mesh Nation
  • Kwes’Kwestin, Jim Kew of the xʷməθkwəy̓əm Nation
  • Cyril and Ed Pierre of the q̓íc̓əy̓ Nation
  • Sqwayeten, Cheryl Gabriel q̓ʷa:n̓ƛ̓ən̓ Nation
  • Xwopokton, Chief Harley Chappell of the Səmyámə Nation
  • Naxaxalhts’i, Sonny McHalsie, Stó:lō Nation
  • Shoysqwelwhet, Dr. Gwendolyn Point of the Stó:lō Nation
  • Dr. Cher Hill, Faculty of Education
  • Dr. Adel Iskander, School of Communication
  • Dr. Sheri Fabian, Criminology
  • Dr. Mark Winston, Senior Fellow of the Morris J. Wosk Centre for Dialogue

The film series will form the basis of a research informed massive open-online course (MOOC) on Land based education in British Columbia that is currently in development with support from the Association of B.C. Deans of Education and the British Columbia Ministry of Education. I raise my hands high in appreciation to the generous teachings shared by the respected Coast Salish Knowledge holders, leaders, and faculty in the series and Simon Fraser University’s Indigenous Education Reconciliation Council, Equity Studies in Education Program, and Centre for Educational Excellence.

To learn more about how to access the series and participate in the development of the MOOC, please see the Films section on this website.

Exemplary Indigenous Doctoral Supervision & Mentorship in British Columbian Universities

The inspiration for this project began five years ago when I was a new faculty member at Simon Fraser University. I was interested in learning more about supervisory practices for Indigenous doctoral students given the exemplary supervisory and committee mentorship guidance that I received from co-supervisors Q’um Q’um Xiiem, Dr. Jo-ann Archibald, Dr. Hartej Gill & Dr. Andre Mazawi for my doctoral journey. Working with Q’um Q’um Xiiem, Dr. Jo-ann Archibald’s Indigenous storywork methodology, this research project collaborated with 26 faculty, Indigenous doctoral students and recent Indigenous doctoral alumni at British Columbian universities in order to understand successful and challenging mentorship and supervisory practices.

In the upcoming months, I will begin working on the second component of this project which will support the development of several key knowledge mobilization materials that can assist students, supervisors, and university administrators to create reciprocal research relationships to support the wholistic success of Indigenous doctoral students in B.C. universities. This project will also provide strategic recommendations to our University Offices of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies to enhance the experiences, recruitment, and retention of Indigenous graduate students and meaningful inclusion of Indigenous methodologies in supervisory research practices. Support has been provided by a Social Sciences & Humanities Research Council Grant Internal Grant.

Sidaxgat’iniḿhl Gagoodiḿ (“our ability to strengthen ourselves, our hearts through the wisdom of our language and our own way of life”)

This research project is related to my on-going work in Nisga’a language revitalization, educational governance, and policy. The Nisga’a language is the language of my ancestors and like most Indigenous languages in the world, it is considered critically endangered with approximately 5% Nisga’a people who are fluent speakers. Significant efforts to revitalize the Nisga’a language have been underway way for over forty years by our Elders (Nisga’a Lisms Government, 2018) who continue to speak our language at community events and feasts, and by community leaders who have worked tirelessly to not only document and archive the language but also develop teaching resources, curriculum, and a Nisga’a bi-lingual and bicultural education program for the Nisga’a school district (Barman, 1999; Morven, 1996; Nisga’a School District, 2018; Nisga’a Tribal Council, 1995a, 1995b, 1995c; Williams, 2006). However, there remains a great need to compile and analyze all this information so that the history of the Nisga’a language and revitalization efforts are recorded for future generations of Nisga’a citizens, educators, and researchers.

This project is the first educational study to be conducted on Nisga’a language revitalization and will have significant cultural outcomes by providing research to support the Nisga’a Lisims government with strategic planning for Nisga’a language-related initiatives, language-based policies, and community language revitalization needs. Support has been provided from the Social Sciences & Humanities Research Council of Canada Insight Development Grant.