"Denise makes an indelible impression with her rare combination of intellect, curiosity, passion and courage. During a period of profound personal grief she inspired all of us - students and professors alike - with her compassion, tenacity, good humour and spirit. Denise is an indigenous leader for our times: committed, thoughtful, caring and inclusive."

Dr. Laurie Anderson
 

"Challenging times require inspired leadership, someone who models the attributes so desperately needed today and tomorrow: compassion, wisdom, courage, care, and resilience. Denise embodies these qualities, forged through personal loss, renewal, and a steadfast commitment to honouring the wisdom traditions of her ancestors. Denise's proposed doctoral research will explore how the integration of Indigenous healing practices and Western health knowledge can enhance the wellbeing of all communities. I am honoured to walk alongside Denise on this journey."

Dr. Heesoon Bai

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Student Profile: Denise Findlay

Philosophy of Educational Practice and Theory PhD in the Faculty of Education

November 30, 2020
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Denise Findlay (dfindlay.ca) is a bi-cultural person of Indigenous Coast Salish and settler ancestry, proudly belonging to the Skwxwú7mesh Úxwumixw (Squamish Nation) and Tsimshian Nation, who has dedicated the last 20 years to travelling throughout British Columbia and across Canada working exclusively in Indigenous communities facilitating processes focussed on collective healing. Denise’s work is strongly focussed on de-centring experts where child and youth mental health his concerned while re-centring the role the natural kinship circle plays in providing care to Indigenous children and youth. Denise is responsible for leading the development and implementation of an innovative Provincial program called Gathering Our Medicine (gatheringourmedicine.ca), in collaboration with community-based Advisory and Working Groups. Gathering Our Medicine provides an innovative, cross-cultural framework that supports communities to see themselves and their placed based ways of knowing and being as the best medicine for children and youth. The program respectfully and wisely de-centres mental health experts, re-orienting them as facilitators who walk alongside families and communities restoring dignity and confidence to the role of raising and caring for children.  

WHY DID YOU CHOOSE TO COME TO SFU?

SFU stood out as the best possible choice for my academic journey as an Indigenous scholar.  I knew that I need to situate myself in an academic setting that would support my research passions fully. After completing my Masters in Contemplative Inquiry and Approaches in Education at SFU my practice was completely transformed. This has created a powerful ripple effect in all aspects of my life.

TELL US ABOUT YOUR RESEARCH AND/OR PROGRAM.

My research passions have to do with exploring the complex systems of holistic healing and transformation that have ensured our survival as Indigenous peoples through millennia. Specifically cultural rituals and rites of passage. Within the Coast Salish territory in British Columbia, there exists a diversity of ancient place-based rituals that have the potential to provide both an empowering cultural context and conditions essential for individual and collective learning, healing, and transformation. While this cultural knowledge has endured, its practice and value has been impacted by colonial laws that criminalized them. The legacy of colonization includes residential school trauma, mental health and addiction issues, family breakdowns, reduced life expectancy, chronic diseases, suicide, and deeply embedded inter-generational trauma in Indigenous communities (Canada, 2015; Canada F. N., 2019). The persistence of these various expressions of trauma over generations attests to the inadequacy of orthodox western approaches to healing and transformation for Indigenous peoples. I intend to undertake research that demonstrates how we can best and most sensitively integrate knowledges from both traditional and western forms of healing that can be undertaken within the context of community and family drawing on the placed based wisdom of the people and ultimately restoring care into the hands of the natural kinship village to which our children and youth belong.

WHAT ARE YOU PARTICULARLY ENJOYING ABOUT YOUR STUDIES/RESEARCH AT SFU?

It brings great fulfillment to me academically, personally, and professionally to be immersed in understanding my area of research thoroughly and to be supported to engage in a mixed methods approach to my research.  I can bring my passion together with a real need that exists in the field.

HAVE YOU BEEN THE RECIPIENT OF ANY MAJOR OR DONOR FUNDED AWARDS?

The BC Graduate Scholarship was such a blessing as it has taken off some of the financial pressure of being in doctoral studies full time. As an Indigenous scholar it also provided support and encouragement for me to enter my studies confidently.

DESCRIBE YOUR PROGRAM FOR THOSE SEARCHING.

The Philosophy of Educational Theory and Practice, PhD.  provides the opportunity to synthesize my life’s work and bring it to full expression in a meaningful way in order to make a difference in the world through creating a narrative that counters the dominant, prevailing approach to mental health which is a construct of the colonial system.

Contact Denise: denise_findlay@sfu.ca