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

Curate your digital footprint

Want to be featured on our website? Complete our online submission form.

Submit your profile →

Student Profile: Denise Findlay

November 30, 2020
Print

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

Denise is a bi-cultural person of Indigenous and settler ancestry, proudly belonging to the Squamish Nation, who has dedicated the last 20 years to travelling throughout BritishColumbia and across Canada supporting Indigenous peoples in-regards to social healing with a strong focus on parenting and caregiving. Being of Indigenous heritage and working at a grassroots level with peoples most impacted by inter-generational trauma, Denise has adapted her approach to honour and prioritize Indigenous ways of knowing and being that draw on the inherent, often unconscious, wisdom of Indigenous Peoples. This has led to the discovery and application of an intuitive voice and language of the heart in ritual and ceremony that have the power to communicate across typical barriers such as race, gender, sexuality, class, and religion. To be able to reach into the heart of matters that are humanly universal underscores all that she aims to do in every aspect of her work.

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 rendered them illegal. 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 am able to 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 into my studies confidently.

DESCRIBE YOUR PROGRAM FOR THOSE SEARCHING.

The Philosophy of Educational Practices and Theory provides the opportunity to bring one's life work to full expression in a meaningful way in the world which is exactly what I was hoping for. I can already see practical implications emerging in my practice.

Contact Denise: denise_findlay@sfu.ca