Thompson Rivers University

TRU researcher renewed as Canada Research Chair

June 2, 2022

Dr. Mukwa Musayett (Shelly Johnson) has been renewed as a Canada Research Chair in Indigenizing Higher Education at TRU

The renewal of a Tier 2 Canada Research Chair (CRC) at TRU further strengthens and acknowledges the university’s growing research capacity. Created in 2000, the prestigious CRC program promotes research and development excellence in Canadian post-secondary institutions.

Dr. Mukwa Musayett’s (Shelly Johnson) Chair in Indigenizing Higher Education, in the Faculty of Education and Social Work, centres on how university-based research and teaching can better serve Indigenous advancement. Her research serves to ensure universities are responsive to Indigenous peoples, thus increasing their success in higher education, which creates a ripple effect that improves the success of all. Mukwa Musayett’s research aligns with the Calls to Action on Education by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada and the Calls to Justice by the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls. It generates critical applications for other higher education institutions in Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the United States.

“The work Dr. Mukwa Musayett leads at TRU is truly ground-breaking, and I am extremely grateful the federal government has recognized the value she brings to this field of research through the renewal of her role as a Canada Research Chair,” says President Brett Fairbairn. “Indigenizing higher education is a vital component of Truth and Reconciliation. Universities, including TRU, must strive to make meaningful progress in this area. This recognition for Dr. Mukwa Musayett will guide Canadian higher education and all of society to a better future.”

In December 2016, TRU announced Mukwa Musayett – whose Saulteaux name, given to her in ceremony by the late Saulteaux Elder Bill Whitehorse, means ‘I’m walking with bears’ – from Saskatchewan’s Keeseekoose First Nation, as the country’s first Canada Research Chair in Indigenizing Higher Education. Since then, she’s been laying the groundwork for change.

“The last five years have really been spent understanding what’s actually happening versus what should be happening in post-secondary institutions in terms of Indigenous research, teaching and service,” says Mukwa Musayett. “I’ve learned that post-secondary faculty and students have different understandings about Indigenization, decolonization, reconciliation/reconciliAction, oral traditions and story work. It means different things to different people, and there is varying commitment to all of these on a continuum.”

Amongst her many projects – including a 30-year retrospective study of the first cohort members of the Bachelor of Indian Social Work degree to graduate through a collaboration between the Nicola Valley Institute of Technology and the First Nations University of Canada, a master’s student national podcast to Indigenize learning, the impact of education on nursing graduates, food and water sovereignty in times of climate change and the impact of the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls Inquiry recommendations on students across post-secondary institutions — Mukwa Musayett is also looking at the role of collective bargaining in terms of indigenization for post-secondary institutions.

“We’re moving forward with administrations and collective agreements to make space for Indigenous research, Indigenous teaching, Indigenous writing and Indigenous oral traditions and story work — it’s an intertwined evolving process,” says Mukwa Musayett. “I think when we’re going to create new knowledge, a place to begin is where there is no research. All unions have a role in supporting and encouraging indigenization, and because I’m in the TRU Faculty Association and connected to others there, that’s a place to begin.”

“Dr. Mukwa Musayett has made important contributions to indigenization of higher education at TRU, and we congratulate her on her renewal as Canada Research Chair,” says Vice-President Research (Interim) Will Garrett-Petts. “Her valuable research over the next five years will allow us as a university to enhance educational opportunities for Indigenous students, reaffirm our commitment to Indigenous peoples and communities and renew our commitment to ensuring Indigenous student success.”

Mukwa Musayett joins fellow CRCs at TRU: Dr. Courtney Mason, CRC in Rural Livelihoods and Sustainable Communities; Dr. Jill Harvey, CRC in Fire Ecology; Dr. Heather Price, CRC in Culture and Communities: Children and the Law; and Dr. Yana Nec, CRC in Applied Mathematics and Optimization.

Together, TRU’s CRCs represent a $3 million investment from the CRC Program, along with an additional $322,000 infrastructure investment from the Canada Foundation for Innovation.

The CRC Program invests approximately $311 million per year to attract and retain some of the world’s most accomplished and promising minds.

Read: Government of Canada announces 119 new and renewed Canada Research Chairs


“The Faculty of Education and Social Work celebrates the news of Dr. Mukwa Musayett’s re-appointment as Canada Research Chair in Indigenizing Higher Education. Her work includes the development and delivery of a course in the Master of Education program titled ‘Privileging Indigenous Oral Traditions and Storywork in International Indigenous Research.’ Through such course design, Dr. Mukwa Musayett helps TRU to guide research and teaching in a way that is inclusive, respectful and honouring of Indigenous ways of knowing, being and doing.”— Yasmin Dean, Dean, Faculty of Education and Social Work

“Dr. Mukwa Musayett, Saulteaux, is an innovative, dynamic and transformative Indigenous researcher in community wellness, sharing Indigenous knowledge, Indigenous child welfare and revitalization of traditional Indigenous practices.” — Paul Michel, Special Advisor to the President on Indigenous Matters

“Dr. Mukwa Musayett has been a leader in the establishment of the Thompson Rivers University Faculty Association (TRUFA) Decolonization, Reconciliation and Indigenization Standing Committee (DRISC). Her leadership as chair of DRISC has been instrumental in the work to indigenize TRUFA, including adding a statement on the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) to the TRUFA constitution. Dr. Mukwa Musayett has led TRUFA in the development of an Indigenous advisor to the TRUFA president, the first such position in the country. I am thankful for her leadership and mentorship.” — Tara Lyster, TRU Faculty Association (TRUFA) President

Quick facts

  • There are currently 1,985 Canada Research Chair holders working at 78 post-secondary institutions across the country in a wide range of fields. More than 250 of these chairs are in British Columbia.
  • The Research Support Fund supports a portion of the costs associated with managing research at Canadian institutions such as administrative support, training costs for workplace health and safety, maintenance costs for libraries and laboratories, and administrative costs.
  • The Canada Foundation for Innovation gives researchers the tools they need to innovate by investing in state-of-the-art facilities and equipment in Canada’s universities, colleges, research hospitals and not-for-profit research institutions.
  • Universities Canada’s 97-member institutions have adopted Indigenous education as a priority. In the spirit of advancing opportunities for Indigenous students, the leaders of Canada’s universities committed to principles, developed in close consultation with Indigenous communities that acknowledge the unique needs of Indigenous communities across Canada and their goals of autonomy and self-determination.

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