Research Profile: Christina Coolidge

September 15, 2015

Master’s student Christina Coolidge, of the Tsleil-Waututh First Nation, is using her two-year, $30,000 Graduate Aboriginal Entrance Scholarship to tell her grandmother’s story.

Coolidge graduated with an SFU BA in communication last summer and immediately entered the master’s program in communication to investigate ways to address Indigenous storytelling and knowledge in a scholarly context. Coolidge’s grandmother, Marjorie Mackie, worked for many years at the Round Lake Treatment Centre, an Aboriginal drug and alcohol recovery centre near Vernon, B.C. where culture plays an important role in treatment. Mackie developed a very successful workshop there based around an Aboriginal medicine wheel. It represents a widely held belief among many First Nations that all things are connected and must live in balance in order to nurture the spirit and contribute to health and wellness.

Coolidge feels strongly that her grandmother’s cultural teachings can serve as an example of the importance of gaining elders’ Indigenous knowledge for use in academia, and that it should be documented and passed on. “She’s the only person who knows how to teach the medicine wheel in this way,” says Coolidge. “If we don’t get it from her, then it’s gone. She’s 76 years old.”

Coolidge, 35, grew up in Armstrong, B.C. After graduating from high school in 1997 she worked for a time, then attended Okanagan College. She dropped out, however, due to her own struggles with alcohol and drug addiction. Then, she says, “In 2009, the light went on and everything changed—everything fell together. I moved here and got into SFU, and I’ve been in recovery now for the past five years.

Since I’ve been sober, school has been my life.” Coolidge has immersed herself in the SFU community, working as an Indigenous program researcher with Career Services, serving as an Indigenous ambassador, joining the First Nations Student Association, and using services at the Indigenous Student Centre. “I’ve had an amazing experience at SFU,” she says. She attributes her passion for communications and writing, however, to Okanagan College professor Colin Snowsell. “He was an amazing prof. He opened the world to me. Now, I want to do for others what he did for me. I want to be a professor.” 

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