The Research Office at Mount Saint Vincent University is committed to supporting and promoting research by and with Indigenous peoples. MSVU has a strong commitment to supporting Indigenous students and researchers and collaborating with Indigenous communities – a commitment that is embodied in a diversity of initiatives across University people, programs, infrastructure and policies.

Dr. Adrian M. Downey, Assistant Professor, Faculty of Education

Dr. Downey’s recent work:

Conversations with Each Other: Love Songs to the Earth

Place-Based Readings Toward Disrupting Colonized Literacies: A Métissage

Adrian Downey

Episode 14: Adrian Downey

Dr. Martha Walls

Dr. Mary-Jane Harkins, Professor, Faculty of Education

Research Areas: University, school and community collaborations; globalization; indigenous knowledge and education; literacy assessment and instruction; learners with exceptionalities and inclusive education; teacher education; and international humanitarian issues.

Dr. Shane Theunissen, Assistant Professor, Department of Child and Youth Study

In June, 2017 I was fortunate to receive a travel grant from Mount Saint Vincent University to travel to Cape Town, South Africa to present at the Pathways to Resilience conference.  I presented on the subject of my recently defended dissertation on Education, Empowerment and Marginalized Communities.  The social, economic and political facets of this subject were distilled from much of my life experience which ranged from my primary and secondary schooling in apartheid era South Africa to being a teacher myself in the primary and secondary schools of a fly in Cree community in Northern Ontario.   It was in these contexts that I learned of the subjugating and assimilating power of colonizing education structures and processes.  It was also in these contexts that I came to an awareness that alternative narratives existed, but, were all too often silenced.  I came to understand that education could be emancipatory.  My work, and my life, has subsequently been directed to this end.

So, in June 2017, when I found myself walking around in the exercise yard outside the cell that once imprisoned Nelson Mandela on Robben Island, I felt the weight of his words “to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others” (Mandela, 2017 p. vii).  These words deeply affirmed my philosophies of life and teaching and have formed the guiding principle for my community outreach and scholarly activity.  It is with a sincere appreciation that I acknowledge how fortunate I am to have my personal principles and intellectual pursuits align with Mount Saint Vincent University’s purpose, vision, mission, while almost preemptively intersecting with the recently released Mount Saint Vincent University strategic themes[1].

[1] The advancement of women and girls, and social responsibility are at the heart of Mount Saint Vincent University’s Strategic Plan and are supported by the seven, interwoven, themes that emerged during the consultation process.

Our Strategic Themes:

Community engagement
Equity, diversity, inclusion and accessibility
Truth and reconciliation
A healthy university campus for all
Transformative teaching and learning
Research and scholarly work
Operational excellence and sustainability (MSVU Draft Strategic Plan, 2020 p 7).

Dr. Theunissen’s research: 

Mount Saint Vincent University and Pictou Landing grade 5 and 6 students in collaboration with the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic:

Amplification of Youth Voice:

Dr. Shannan Grant

Dr. Shannan Grant is a settler from Unama’ki, living in K’jipuktuk with her family, who are from a Cree First Nation in Northern Ontario called Moose Cree First Nation. She has 20 years of experience working with, for and in Indigenous communities on community-led projects. She is a Registered Dietitian interested in what she calls “wellness diversity” and is guided by the principal of two-eyed seeing. Known among her students for her natural science-informed analogies, Shannan has completed two undergraduate degrees in Nova Scotia, one in Biology and one in Human Nutrition. It was during her Biology degree that she was first introduced to Etuaptmumk (Two-eyed Seeing).

Etuaptmumk is a guiding principle for co-learning, founded by local Mi’kmaq Elders and Academics (Elders Albert and Murdena Marshall and Dr. Cheryl Bartlett, Shannan’s former Professor) from Unama’ki (Cape Breton, Nova Scotia). Shannan attributes her ability to develop and sustain strong work relationships to seeing with both eyes, with an open mind and heart. With guidance from Elders, Knowledge Keepers, community partners, and other Western scientists, Shannan’s work (2009-present day) aims to encourage inquiry, knowledge gardening, relationship building, and respect for various ways of knowing.

Shannan and GrantLab (a group of staff, trainees, and colleagues) are deeply invested and involved in efforts to address the Truth and Reconciliation (TRC) Calls to Action and calls that predate and postdate these calls. Highlights of Shannan’s relevant work include:

·      Sandy Lake Health and Diabetes Project (2007 to 2015)

This longstanding partnership between Sandy Lake First Nation and the University of Toronto, is internationally known for its participatory approaches, effective programs, and sustainability. Shannan worked with this community (in community) as a Registered Dietitian, Research Coordinator, Camp Co-Coordinator, and continues to be a guest on the Sandy Lake Health and Diabetes Program Call-in Radio Show (she often invites her students and colleagues to join her). 100s of dissemination activities have grown from this work. For an example of one, click here.

·      The Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) PromoScience Two-Eyed Seeing Camp Project

For more on this project and our partnerships, click here. This project has recently expanded to include comprehensive community-led evaluation, wellness with both eyes, and a Science Literacy Week BioBlitz (sponsored by Canadian Roots Exchange, NSERC, and Canadian Wildlife Federation).

·      The Canadian Foundation of Dietetic Practice have funded “Towards decolonizing Canadian dietetic practice,” research that will investigate how dietetics can integrate the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada Calls to Action into our standards of practice, educational competencies, and guidelines for service provision to Indigenous peoples. Outcomes will support care delivery in ways that are culturally safe and that respect traditional Indigenous knowledge and healing practices. Those involved in this work are scattered across Turtle Island and have been working locally to support Indigenizing and Decolonizing the Academy. For more, click here.

·      Mijipjewey na Pisun (Food is Medicine Workshop) was co-developed, co-implemented and co-evaluated by Shannan’s Trainees, partner communities, Albert Marshall and other Knowledge Keepers, like Tuma Young, Lnu Scholar, Cape Breton University. Most recently, this workshop has been filmed in partnership with the Breakfast and Beyond Program, funded by Medavie.

·      Program Development Research examining the role Indigenous Communities play in development, implementation and evaluation in Canadian Science Outreach Programs targeting Indigenous Youth.

·      Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) funded Atlantic Indigenous Mentorship Network
For more information on this project, click here.

·      With Two Eyes and One Heart Open: Using Person-focused Science Education to Inspire Creativity, Co-learning, and Reconciliation
This workshop and dissemination activity was co-developed by Shannan, with Chelsey Purdy (MSc Student GrantLab), Ann Sylliboy, Post-Secondary Consultant, Mi’kmaw Kina’matnewey, with the input of Patrick Small Legs-Nagge (Special Advisor to the President on Aboriginal Affairs, MSVU) and Elder Albert Marshall. Based on education and research the developers have done with their partners and the teachings they have and continue to receive from Knowledge Keepers and Elders, this workshop has been presented to various audiences, including as an invited talk at the 2019 Atlantic Universities’ Teaching Showcase – “Critical Hope and Other Academic Virtues.”

·      Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women (MMIW) Focus Group
One of many members of The Mount community, working to respond to (some of) the 231 recommendations outlined in the MMIW Report.

·      As member of the editorial board of the Canadian Journal of Diabetes and a long time member of Diabetes Canada, Shannan is working with Indigenous and Settler colleagues to co-create a CJD Special Edition that is guided by two-eyed seeing and addresses a number of calls to action and integrates a diversity of Indigenous perspectives.

Dr. Shannan Grant on teaching and learning:
A friend (an elder, a teacher) of mine once told me, “teaching and learning are interwoven like a basket. A knowledge keeper holds knowledge (like a basket holds other things) best when both teaching and learning are present and thoughtfully and carefully woven.”

Shannan’s trainees on teaching and learning:

Florence Blackett, mature Mi’kmaw Applied Human Nutrition and Anthropology Undergraduate Student, Mount Saint Vincent University
“The Two-Eyed Seeing project has provided an opportunity for me to gain summer employment in a relevant field that was not restricted by age. It has enabled me to apply my life and academic skills through the development and facilitation of activities which teach traditional knowledge to youth. This year, I demonstrated how to fillet a fish for the filming of one of our activities called Mijipjewey na Pisun (Food is Medicine). This has allowed me the opportunity to not only obtain much needed work experience, but also learn a new framework to present indigenous knowledge. This project has provided me with a unique way to engage with my community and an opportunity to expand my own understanding of the science practiced by my ancestors.”

Kate Braddon, Level 1 Internship Education Program Dietetic Intern, Mount Saint Vincent University
“I completed a dietetic internship placement with the NSERC Promo-Science Two-Eyed Seeing Camp. This experience gave me the opportunity to learn about Mi’kmaw culture from various community members, Elders and youth. Working with the camp gave me insights into the similarities and differences among Indigenous and western world views, which I will take with me throughout the rest of my education and career. Having the opportunity to immerse myself in the Mi’kmaw culture and learn hands-on when visiting communities is an experience that my up-bringing in Ontario and my previous education had not provided me with. I am extremely grateful to have been given the opportunity to learn about Mi’kmaw traditions and culture from the communities and I know that this experience will contribute to how I practice as a dietitian in the future, with one eye seeing through the strengths of Indigenous knowledge and the other eye through the strengths of western science.”

One of Shannan’s Colleagues and Mentors on teaching and learning:

Patrick Small-Legs Nagge, Special Advisor to the President on Aboriginal Affairs, President’s Office, Director of Aboriginal Student Centre
“The above article mentions teaching and learning. In natural law the two most important things are: To teach & to protect – Dr. Grant and those involved in her work do these! I was invited to attend Kate Braddon’s final dietetic internship project presentation recently. Her presentation was excellent! Her work acknowledged and embodied many of the sacred teachings: Humility through learning, Respect through learning another worldview, having the courage to do so, she spoke honesty, and she loved the topic. Her experience obviously increased her wisdom to truly see another worldview; not to judge it but to accept & understand.”

For more on the team:
On Two-Eyed Seeing: An Interview with Chelsey Purdy

Dr. Cheryl Bartlett (left) and Elder Dr. Albert Marshall (right)

Dr. Shannan Grant

Dr. Susan Brigham

The role of Mi’kmaq art and lifelong learning in Mi’kmaq culture by Holly Meuse, Master of Arts in Education (Supervised by Dr. Susan Brigham)

Holly Meuse’s thesis and accompanying video is available online in the Mount e-Commons:


TCPS 2 (2018) – Chapter 9: Research Involving the First Nations, Inuit and Métis Peoples of Canada

This chapter on research involving Indigenous peoples in Canada, including Indian, Inuit and Métis peoples, marks a step toward establishing an ethical space for dialogue on common interests and points of difference between researchers and Indigenous communities engaged in research.

Aboriginal Student Centre

Located at 46 Melody Drive (lower level), the Aboriginal Student Centre (ASC), supports students in an educational and culturally engaging space on the Mount campus. As part of a larger strategy dedicated to creating a welcoming environment for Indigenous students attending the Mount, the ASC is a space where students can meet and chat and also have access to a resident counsellor who can help them navigate any questions or concerns pertaining to their student life.

Aboriginal Student Guide

Our Aboriginal Student Guide is filled with helpful information and resources for Indigenous current and prospective students.

Indigenous Resources - MSVU Library and Archives

A guide to the resources and services of the Curriculum Resource Centre (CRC) in the Faculty of Education. Come visit us in Seton Academic Centre 408.

The First Nations Principles of OCAP®

The First Nations principles of ownership, control, access, and possession – more commonly known as OCAP® – assert that First Nations have control over data collection processes, and that they own and control how this information can be used.