Alex Smith, research associate, is from Nisichawayasihk Cree Nation in Treaty 5, near Thompson, Manitoba. A mother of two young boys who now calls Saskatoon home, she studied at USask to earn a BA in Anthropology and Indigenous Studies and is enrolled in an MA in Medical Anthropology. She brings several years of experience volunteering within the inner city, youth and vulnerable populations. Alex is grounded in the seven grandfather teachings she was raised with, including respect, wisdom, honesty, truth, bravery, love and humility, and will bring these teachings to her job. When she is not studying or working, Alex loves to be creative. She paints, beads and writes. She also loves spending time bonding and learning with her children, their dog, Sage, and their cat, Marley.
Anne Mease, project coordinator, leads the Miyo-pimâtisiwin project. She joined Pewaseskwan in September 2021. Anne is a member of the Crow clan from the Selkirk First Nation in Yukon territory. She worked as a nurse for about 20 years, and then went back to university at the University of Saskatchewan (USask), earning a BA in Native Studies and Anthropology/Archaeology and an MA in Native Studies, with a focus on land claims, self-government and traditional knowledge. Her work over the years has seen her involved in research projects with Canadian Parks and Wilderness, Arctic Institute of Community-Based Research and USask, among other community organizations.
Arianna Berthold, research assistant for the Hope Through Strength project, is a fourth-generation settler of German, Austrian and Latvian descent, whose ancestors farmed in Treaty 4 and Treaty 6 lands. She graduated from USask in 2020 with a Bachelor of Commerce and a BA in Psychology, and has worked in the non-profit sector, including in a position overseeing and monitoring federally funded housing projects in the city. She has a passion for research and a strong interest in promoting Indigenous self-determination and learning more about Indigenous ways of knowing, being and doing.
Ashley Secundiak, research associate, is a member of Pewaseskwan at the USask in Saskatoon. She joined the team in July 2020 as a clerical assistant, but her talent for research was quickly apparent and she has since switched roles, working with CheckUp!, Sask Stories, the World Indigenous Peoples’ Conference on Viral Hepatitis, Kennedy’s Disease and IPERC. Ashley has a strong interest in patient-focused research and obtained her Bachelor of Science in Physiology and Pharmacology from USask. She is from Treaty 4 territory but now call Saskatoon and Treaty 6 territory home.
Bonny Braden, research associate, joined the Pewaseskwan team in April 2021. Bonny was born on Treaty 6 territory and is currently living in Saskatoon, which comes after years of moving across the land and mainly living in the bush of central Alberta and British Columbia. She has a settler background with Irish and English roots as well as roots unknown. Her educational background includes two years of political science at the University of Calgary, equine science at Olds College and journalism at the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology. Bonny also taught at the University of Regina’s School of Journalism as a sessional instructor. She is currently working on certification to write Gladue reports at Vancouver Community College.
Brennan (Bren) Thompson, executive director and certified project management professional, was born and raised on a wild boar farm near Maryfield, a village in southeast Saskatchewan, on Treaty 2 territory. Bren worked with the Sunrise Health Region in Yorkton as a member of the human resources team, beginning in 2009 on a temporary contract and then securing a permanent position, as well as a management position at a mechanical company in 2017. Bren moved to Saskatoon in May 2019 to join Pewaseskwan.
Candice Norris, community research associate, has been with Pewaseskwan’s Vancouver team for several years and has worked as a peer researcher on a number of projects involving women in the Downtown Eastside. She is of mixed Cree and Dene descent, with ties to what are now known as Alberta and the Northwest Territories. She loves ceremony and brings her voice and drum to many meetings and events. Candice is a proud mother of three children and grandmother.
Debbie Thomas, research associate, has been with Pewaseskwan on a casual basis since September 2021. She is a member of Pelican Lake First Nation, in Treaty 6 territory. She has extensive volunteer experience bringing awareness to issues such as mental health and addictions at the community and grassroots levels. She has volunteered for missing and murdered Indigenous women and men campaigns and is the public relations coordinator for KAMADA (Kokums and Moshums Against Drugs and Alcohol), a non-profit founded by Elders. Debbie worked with Aboriginal Law Group in Saskatoon for 18 years as an executive legal assistant. She has a BA in Native Studies from USask, a certificate in Indigenous Peoples’ Resource Management, and a certificate in Lands Management. Debbie enjoys spending time with her grandchildren, attending traditional ceremony and going out for long walks in the woods.
Harmony Johnson-Harder, Indigenous cultural facilitator, is from Treaty 6 in what is now known as northern Saskatchewan. She is Cree, Métis and Swedish; her father’s side of the family is from Montreal Lake Cree Nation. Harmony has an Indiginized Expressive Arts Therapy Facilitation Certificate from the WHEAT Institute and is a certified Victim Offender Mediator and Trainer. She is currently working on a degree in Studio Arts. She has a diverse career background, including working with prenatal family and at-risk youth at risk, and managing justice, recreation and culture programs in northern Saskatchewan. Outside of work, Harmony’s family takes up most of her time, but she also loves to paint, drink coffee, go to concerts, binge watch bad TV and camp.
Holly McKenzie, postdoctoral fellow, works with Pewaseskwan on the Hope Through Strength project at Sanctum 1.5. She has a PhD in Interdisciplinary Studies from UBC and was previously a Banting Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of Sociology at USask in the One Health and Wellness Office. During that time, she explored how therapy dog-handler teams with St. John’s Ambulance can further support people dealing with concerns related to substance use and/or mental health. She has experience engaging qualitative, quantitative and Indigenous methodologies in partnership with Indigenous communities dating back to 2007. She will work with the Hope Through Strength team to adapt and apply a Social Return on Investment framework for Sanctum 1.5’s context through Indigenous and etuaptmumk (Two-eyed Seeing) approaches. She grew up on a farm near a hamlet in the rural municipality of Lomond in Treaty 4 territory and the Homeland of the Métis, but now lives in Saskatoon. To learn more about Holly’s previous research visit her website.
Jarrett Crowe, clerical assistant – technical support, is from the Piapot First Nation. He joined the team as a part of the communications team and to support the Achimok project in January 2022. Jarrett provides the team with experienced technical support, collection and management of data and the gathering and editing of audio and video, and graphic design, among other things. He grew up in Fort Qu’Appelle but has lived and worked in both Treaty 4 and Treaty 6 territories in and around Regina and Saskatoon. Jarrett convocated from the University of Regina/First Nations University of Canada with a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism in 2013. He has worked with USask in I.T. Support Services, File Hills Qu’Appelle Tribal Council Health Services, at All Nations’ Healing Hospital, primarily in an I.T. capacity but also producing videos and supporting the organization’s social media and the hospital’s website, the Saskatchewan Indian Institute of Technologies as a marketing coordinator and as a communications assistant for the Saskatchewan Transportation Company.
Jordan Baran, clerical assistant, was born on Treaty 6 territory in Prince Albert and moved to Martensville in high school. She has a Medical Administration and Clinical Procedures diploma from Saskatoon Business College, and 10 years’ experience in administration. She has firm beliefs in cultural medicine and healing, which she would like to learn more about. Jordan’s long-term plans include getting a Bachelor of Commerce and a master’s degree by the time she is 45.
Kacheena Naytowhow, Indigenous platform coordinator for the Waniska Centre, is a member of Cowessess First Nation in Treaty 4. She also has strong ties to Sturgeon Lake First Nation in Treaty 6, which is her father’s reserve. She has an MBA in Indigenous Leadership and Business (Simon Fraser University) and she has a BBA (Okanagan College) and a Diploma in Management (Saskatchewan Indian Institute of Technologies). She has worked extensively in Indigenous organizations and is passionate about working in community. She is a speaker with The Rise Journey, a New York-based organization that focuses on anti-racism and EDI work, where she gives talks about Indigenous issues in Canada, such as the MMIWG. Kacheena also serves as vice-chair of the Board of Governors for Chief Redbear Children’s Lodge at Cowessess First Nation, something that is dear to her heart since it helps keep children in community instead of being placed in care off reserve.
Kehinde Ametepee, MBBS, MPH, project officer, is a Ghanaian physician who was born and raised in Nigeria. He holds a Master of Public Health from Simon Fraser University. His training, combined with five years of clinical experience before moving to Canada, makes him well grounded in the biomedical, clinical, socio-political, and economic aspects of health. Kehinde’s areas of research interests broadly include community based-participatory research Two-eyed Seeing methodologies, and health inequities involving key populations such as Indigenous communities, African, Caribbean and Black populations, and new Canadians. He is particularly interested in exploring innovative approaches to improving testing, diagnosis, and linkage-to-care regarding HIV, Hepatitis C and other sexually transmissible and blood-borne infections in these populations. His current work with Pewaseskwan involves providing support to teams of community researchers in all phases of research projects from agenda development through project implementation.
Kimberly Statham, clerical and communications assistant, joined Pewaseskwan at the end of February 2020. She works with the team in Saskatoon and has lived in Saskatchewan for over 20 years. Kimberly grew up in British Columbia, splitting childhood between Maple Ridge, Vernon and a Farm in Salmon Arm. Her work with the team sees her work with Dr. Alexandra King’s clinic and patients. In other duties, she provides technological support to the team. She has years of experience in retail management of multiple companies in the city over that span of time, acquiring and developing skills and knowledge involved with marketing, logistics, training and whatever was needed. She is married and has a son.
Luke Heidebrecht, project lead, joined Pewaseskwan in the spring of 2020, just prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. His role includes coordinating the Achimok and Peers 4 Wellness projects, facilitating the Sowing Seeds Together research methods workshop, as well as being involved in research activities such as data gathering, analysis, and knowledge translation through writing and editing. In 2022 Luke received his PhD in Curriculum Studies from USask. For this project he travelled to Guatemala and worked with Mayan communities to examine the impact of experiential education programs on hosting communities. Luke has been involved in various other research projects as an assistant, presenting and publishing, and making connections with the educational research community at the USask.
Lynette Epp, research coordinator, joined Pewaseskwan in September 2020 and works with the Sanctum 1.5 project. She oversees all the research activities for the CIHR Sanctum 1.5: Hope through Strength project grant. Lynette has completed a Master of Science in Community and Population Health Sciences in the College of Medicine at USask. Her thesis focused on truth and reconciliation in Indigenous health research, which gave her a different lens to understand the historical context of health research particularly. She brings over 15 years of experience in health research as a research assistant and research coordinator. She worked with Indigenous communities closely while working for the Canadian Centre for Health and Safety in Agriculture, where she was closely involved in the First Nations Lung Health Project. Lynette grew up in Prince Albert, in Treaty 6 territory and the Homeland of the Métis, and has lived in Saskatoon since she was in high school. She is a fourth-generation settler of Swedish and Ukrainian ancestry.
Marissa Alarcon, MA, B.Sc., is the research program manager for the team. Born and raise in Manila, Philippines, she has called Treaty 6 home since 2011 when she moved to Saskatoon with her husband and two children. She has diverse and relevant education and experience, most recently as the qualitative research consultant and coordinator for the Clinical Research Support Unit in the College of Medicine. Marissa has a BSc in Physics for Teachers (Philippine Normal University) and MAs in Education (Ateneo De Naga University) and Religion and Culture (USask). She has worked as the director of the Catholic Health Association of Saskatchewan, in education and real estate, and she is a sessional lecturer in the Department of Religion and Culture at USask’s St. Thomas More College, teaching Western religion, which includes the three Abrahamic religions, Indigenous traditions, new religious movements and how religion, culture and society are related to each other. She loves biking and spending time at her family’s cabin at Dixon Lake.
Matreaca Munro is a community research associate on the Bringing Our Fires Together project. She is a member of Sapotaweyak Cree Nation in Treaty 4 (central Manitoba) who was born and raised in Treaty 6 territory in Saskatoon. She identifies as a Nehiyaw, Anishinaabe and Métis woman, with roots connected to Scotland, Ireland, France and Hungary. She has a BA in Indigenous Studies and History from USask, which included a term in Melbourne, AUS, where she was able to learn first-hand from the Wurundjeri people of the Kulin Nation. She has worked as an RA in Indigenous Studies, including on a project on the Cree Conference of 1975. Matreaca is on her own journey in healing intergenerational trauma through ceremony and culture, something she considers important to the work that pewaseskwan does. She is interested in working on projects that create opportunities for people in underserved communities to better meet their needs in ways that align with their values. In her free time, Matreaca is an avid tarot reader, both leisurely and professionally, and she enjoys spending time with family and friends, and travelling.
Melissa Morris, Waniska Centre community coordinator (Manitoba), joined the team in August 2021 through our partner organization Ka Ni Kanichihk in Winnipeg. Melissa is of Métis and Jewish descent. She was born in Winnipeg and lived on the west coast for many years, including residing in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside for 12 years. Melissa is a graduate of the Red River College’s Child and Youth Care Program, where she focused on Indigenous youth. Melissa spent five years working with Indigenous youth in Winnipeg’s inner city. She practices her youth care with a trauma informed strength-based approach and prides herself on building relationships. In addition to her work, she is also a Peer Research Associate at the University of Manitoba where she is working on the Northern HIV Journey Mapping Project. Melissa also sits on the Board of Directors for the Nine Circles Community Health Centre, which specializes in HIV prevention and care.
Michelle Novick, clerical assistant, joined Pewaseskwan team in Saskatoon in January 2022. Michelle grew up on a farm near Asquith, located west of Saskatoon on Treaty 6 territory, but has called Saskatoon home “pretty much forever.” She has split her time between the countryside and the city over the years. Michelle has a passion for animals, having previously worked in the veterinarian industry in a management role. She has also worked as an office manager for a web design company, one of many management positions throughout her career. Administrative duties have been her main professional focus for the last 15 or so years. Michelle has several pets: a cat and a dog in the city and another dog back on the farm. She enjoys the outdoors, going for walks and hikes on the trails along the Saskatchewan River, and practically lives outside during the summer months.
Nicole Smith is a project lead based out of Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, BC. She is Nlaka’pamux from Lytton First Nation, located in BC’s southern interior. She works on projects in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside (DTES) conducting interviews and other aspects of research. Nicole has worked in various capacities in the DTES for about nine years. For the last three years she worked there as an Aboriginal infant development regional consultant. She also time spent working on a research study for the British Columbia Centre on Substance Use, was involved in the Vancouver Injection Drug Users Study (VIDUS) and the AIDS Care Cohort to Evaluate Exposure to Survival Services (ACCESS) study, and worked with the WISH Drop-In Centre Society for five years as a program assistant. Nicole likes to hike when she’s not working. She’s also into print making, reading books and playing the occasional game of Mario Kart.
Sadeem Fayed, MPH, B.Sc., project lead, is a graduate student at Simon Fraser University, where she is currently pursuing a PhD in Public Health. Sadeem holds a Bachelor of Science in Microbiology and Immunology from the University of British Columbia and an MPH from Simon Fraser University. She also has a background in biomedical research, dentistry and international trade and investment. Her work involves applying reconciliatory research methodologies to address colonial health inequities within Indigenous contexts in Canada. As a member of the team, Sadeem is co-leading the Peers4Wellness study in Vancouver, an Indigenous, community-led study which will introduce Indigenous peer-based models of Hepatitis C Virus and HIV support for Indigenous women in select regions in British Columbia and Saskatchewan. Sadeem is proud of her Lebanese heritage and commitment to reconciliatory citizenship at home in Canada. Sadeem lives with her husband and son in Vancouver, British Columbia, on the unceded Indigenous lands of the Coast Salish peoples.
Sarah MacDonald, BA, MJ, communications officer, is a journalist and writer who was born and raised on Treaty 6 territory and the traditional homeland of the Métis, just outside of Prince Albert. Her ancestry is Scottish, Irish, Lebanese and French. She has a BA (High Honours) in International Cooperation and Conflict Studies, with a minor in Spanish, from USask and a Master of Journalism from Carleton University. She has lived and worked in South Korea, Oman and Palestine. She is passionate about social justice, reconciliation, politics and international affairs, travelling, languages, and arts and culture of all types. She serves on the board of directors of the Broadway Theatre in Saskatoon and volunteers with the Saskatchewan Jazz Festival and Winterruption Festival. She enjoys communication in its all forms, from writing and editing to photography and graphic design and media and branding strategy. She has been with Pewaseskwan since September 2019.
Saydi Harlton, research coordinator, joined Pewaseskwan in March 2022. She works on projects with the Waniska Centre. She obtained her Masters in Community Health and Epidemiology, with a focus on Indigenous wellness, at the University of Saskatchewan in March 2020, and worked with the City of Saskatoon for six years as a supervisor in the city’s leisure centres. She was born in Treaty 4 in Moose Jaw but was raised in Treaty 6 in Saskatoon, where she lives now, with her cat Birds, who is six years old. She enjoys puzzles, cycling, and making homemade beer.
Sharon Jinkerson-Brass, Elder and research associate, is a member of Key First Nation in Saskatchewan but is based in Vancouver. Sharon was part of the Sixties Scoop, in which she was removed from her family. She reunited with her family in the 1980s. Sharon is Saulteaux and received her cultural teachings from her beloved Kokum (grandmother) Rebecca, who was a midwife and traditional healer. Sharon’s cultural heritage has inspired her way of living and being, which in turn has informed her community work. As an Elder and Knowledge Holder for Pewaseskwan, Sharon has worked on multiple health related, community-based research projects. She also leads our spiritual growth with monthly Grandmother Gatherings, in which traditional teachings about the moon are shared and the team members have an opportunity to share, learn and bond. As a multi-media artist, she has contributed to several published papers and made two videos related to Indigenous health research.
Taiwo Ametepee, research associate, joined Pewaseskwan in the spring of 2020. Taiwo is involved in the development and evaluation of Waniska’s programs, as well as the grant writing and application process. He is currently a year into a Master of Public Health degree at USask. He also has an educational background in medicine and surgery, which includes a degree obtained in 2010 at the University of Ilorin while in Nigeria. Taiwo’s work has also seen him work as a team lead with an organization collaborating with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees to develop health programs for and enroll Cameroonian refugees in southeastern Nigeria in the country’s national health insurance scheme, prior his move to Canada. Taiwo is a Nigerian-born Ghanaian and is interested in learning more about Indigenous cultures and practices in Canada and the way colonization has affected the Indigenous population over the centuries.
Victor Foshion, community research associate, joined Pewaseskwan in July 2020. Victor is the team lead for the Butterfly Project based in Vancouver but works from Saskatoon. He has worked with the research group’s fifth cohort of participants, delving into how the lives of the participants have changed since their participation in previous research projects. Butterfly Project, uses expressive art and ceremony, led by Elder Sharon. Victor has worked with non-profits in Michigan and has also volunteered with OUTSaskatoon. He attended the University of Michigan taking arts and that is where he met his husband. Victor, a queer man from the Chicago, Ill., area, lives in Saskatoon with his husband, Josh, and their dog, Bollard.