People

IRSI takes guidance from an Indigenous Advisory Committee comprised of members from Indigenous communities as well as faculty, staff and students from both UBC campuses. The committee's purpose is to provide culturally-relevant advice, leadership and support to inform IRSI's strategic direction and members are chosen to bring to the table expertise in a variety of relevant disciplines. 

IRSI's day-to-day operations are led by Associate Director Lerato Chondoma and carried out by a diverse and dedicated team of individuals.

Lerato Chondoma, Associate Director (on leave)

lerato.chondoma@ubc.ca

Lerato Chondoma hails from the Batuang Clan of ba ha Moletsane from Lesotho in Southern Africa. Lerato is a visitor in Musqueam Territory and has lived here for the last 10 years.

Lerato is the Associate Director for the Indigenous Research Support Initiative and plays a strategic role in providing support to Indigenous communities, researchers and other partners working on Indigenous research collaborations. She has several years’ experience in community-based research, community development and relationship management. She has worked across a wide range of specializations including law, business and economic development, natural resources, community wellbeing, and government relations.

Prior to moving to Vancouver, Lerato practiced as a candidate attorney and legal consultant in South Africa, specializing in Labour Law and Employment Equity. Lerato has a B. Com and an LL.B from Rhodes University in Grahamstown, South Africa and an MBA from the Beedie School of Business at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, Canada. She is interested in mechanisms and models of community-based research that support the global reclamation of Indigenous self-rule and increased self-determination.

Marliese Dawson, Research Program Manager

marliese.dawson@ubc.ca

Marliese was born and raised on the unceded traditional territories of Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh nations. Marliese comes to IRSI having spent the past twenty years working in research management in the Faculty of Medicine at UBC, having direct experience in research grant application, facilitation and administration on over 70+ projects.

Indigenous engagement has been a theme that has been woven throughout her career. As an undergraduate, she completed a one-year clinical practicum in cross-cultural psychiatry, where she was part of the Aboriginal Healthcare Committee. She designed and implemented a database that was used by the Vancouver-Richmond Health Board to facilitate the assessment of cultural competency in Aboriginal healthcare. More recently, she collaborated with Indigenous stakeholders at UNBC to adapt breast cancer prevention education slides for local Indigenous groups in a culturally appropriate and respectful manner. She has completed the PHSA San’yas Indigenous Cultural Safety Training Program.

Marliese is known for being highly effective at building and maintaining key relationships/partnerships with community members, faculty, diverse department/agency representatives, government officials, health authorities, granting agencies, NGOs and associated stakeholders. She is very much looking forward to developing collaborative partnerships at IRSI.

Julie Gordon, Communications Strategist

julie.gordon@ubc.ca 

Originally from Ontario, Julie Gordon has made the Pacific Northwest region her home since 1993 and currently resides as a guest in the traditional and ancestral territory of the Musqueam people. A storyteller and communications specialist with almost three decades of professional experience, Julie’s work focuses on projects that align with her personal values of social, environmental and cultural sustainability.

Since 2004, she has worked extensively with Indigenous people and organizations and she enjoys contributing to enhanced understanding between diverse audiences. Julie joined the IRSI team in October 2018 to provide strategic communications support to its mandate of facilitating respectful and equal Indigenous research collaborations.  Julie holds Bachelors of Arts degrees in English and Environmental Studies from Guelph University and recently completed The Writers’ Studio and Graduate Studio programs in Creative Nonfiction at Simon Fraser University.

Emily LeBaron, Manager, Administration & Special Initiatives

emily.lebaron@ubc.ca 

Emily LeBaron was raised on the unceded traditional territories of Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh nations. Emily joined IRSI in early 2019, bringing with her years of experience in UBC's Vice-President Research & Innovation Office, where she supported strategic initiatives such as the Grants for Catalyzing Research Clusters program. Most recently, she has returned to UBC after working as a Policy Advisor for research at Simon Fraser University. Her background also includes a Master of Arts in Geography (SFU 2015), where she studied community-led initiatives working to combat stigmatization and criminalization in a police-occupied favela in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Amber Shilling, Senior Manager (Operations)

amber.shilling@ubc.ca

Amber Shilling earned her Ph.D. in Educational Studies from UBC in 2020. She is Anishinaabe from Mnjikaning First Nation and is a member of the Crane Clan. Her research stems from her personal experience trying to learn Anishinaabemowin while thousands of miles away from the majority of other Anishinaabemowin speakers. In her research, she explores how urban Indigenous youth utilize technology as a means to connect to identity, culture, and language. As a two-time UBC alumna, Dr. Shilling is thrilled to be joining the IRSI team to further support Indigenous research within UBC.

 

Adina Williams, Community Liaison

adina.williams@ubc.ca

Adina Williams is from the Squamish Nation, and she also descends from the ‘Namgis (Kwakwaka’wakw) peoples from Alert Bay, B.C. She grew up in Xwemelch’stn (Capilano Reserve) in what is now more commonly known as West Vancouver.

Adina completed her Bachelor of Arts degree at UBC in First Nations and Indigenous Studies and Anthropology. As an undergraduate student, Adina worked in a number of research roles, including those at the First Nations House of Learning, Indigenous Initiatives at the Centre for Teaching, Learning and Technology (CTLT), and the Indigenous Health Research and Education Garden at the UBC Farm. She was also the student representative on the Indigenous Advisory Committee to IRSI.

Adina joined the IRSI team in September 2019, and she looks forward to engaging with people and communities both on and off campus in her new role as Community Liaison.

Community Members

Caleb Behn, Natural Resources

Eh-Cho Dene and Dunne-Za

Caleb Behn is Eh-Cho Dene and Dunne Za/Cree from the Treaty 8 Territory of northeastern British Columbia. Behn was born into in a very political family, with several close relatives including his mother serving as Chiefs. He grew up in northern British Columbia, a land increasingly changed as the oil and gas industry grows.

He is a graduate of the University of Victoria Law Program and was called to the BC Bar in 2014.  Caleb’s work has focused on the intersection of water, energy and indigenous law.  A former ‘lands manager’ for the West Moberly First Nations and Saulteau First Nations and a Senior Researcher at the Centre for International Governance Innovation Caleb was also a founding member of the Decolonizing Water Research Collective and the subject of the documentary film ‘Fractured Land’.  Caleb now resides in Ottawa and is the Special Advisor on Water to the Housing, Infrastructure and Emergency Services Sector of the Assembly of First Nations. In his spare time he works with the Berkman Klein Centre for Internet and Society at Harvard University on linking indigenous communities and legal systems globally.

Leslie Bonshor, Health

Tzeachten First Nation, Stolo

Leslie Bonshor is a member of Tzeachten First Nation. As the Aboriginal Health Executive Advisor at Vancouver Coastal Health, she provides strategic direction and guidance to the CEO and Senior Executive Team at Vancouver Coastal Health on challenges, priorities, and issues related to improving the health of the Indigenous population. Previously, she was Aboriginal Health Director at Fraser Health for eight years. In this role, she provided leadership within Fraser Health by planning, supporting and guiding the implementation of initiatives designed to improve the health of Indigenous people.

Prior to working in health care, Leslie provided business support and consulting services to First Nations communities and organizations in the Fraser Valley, including project management, communications strategies, and policy development. Leslie has extensive expertise in Indigenous health strategic leadership, policy, primary health care and community-based health delivery.

Chief Michelle Edwards, Business & Economic Development

Sekw’el’was Cayoose Creek Indian Band

Chief Michelle Edwards is the elected Chief of Cayoose Creek Indian Band (Sekw'el'was) and has been elected to the Business/Economic Development community seat. Previous to her two terms as Chief, Michelle served as Councillor for two years, and brings to the IAC extensive experience balancing community wellness and traditional values, with increasing modernization of infrastructure and economy. Chief Edwards also brings a wealth of experience in climate leadership, natural resources management, and founding and developing an award-winning environmental business. 

Robbie Knott, Community Planning

Red River Métis

Robbie Knott is a cis-male Red River Métis and recent graduate of the UBC’s Masters of Community and Regional Planning Program with a specialization in Indigenous Community Planning. The centerpiece of the practicum-based degree involves co-developing and implementing a phase of the Comprehensive Community Planning process, which Robbie successfully completed in 2019 in partnership with Sq’éwlets First Nation. Currently, Robbie works as a Junior Researcher at the Firelight Group, and for the First Nations Health Authority as a contract facilitator and writer. Robbie believes in an ethos of emotionally engaged planning and brings advanced and informed communication skills, decolonizing research and engagement methodologies, along with diverse experience in community planning, advocacy, and mentorship (at the Urban Native Youth Association, the Xʷc̓ic̓əsəm Indigenous Health Research & Education Garden at the UBC Farm, Ki-Low-Na Friendship Society, Parks Canada, and more).

Fran Hunt-Jinnouchi, Housing & Infrastructure

Kwakiutl and Quatsino

Fran has more than 20 years of experience in senior management and direct engagement working with Indigenous peoples. Her areas of expertise include Indigenous adult and post-secondary education and training. Fran is currently the Executive Director of the Aboriginal Coalition to end Homelessness and was the inaugural Director of the Office of Indigenous Affairs at the University of Victoria. Fran is also an entrepreneur and owns a consulting business, Hunt-Jinnouchi Enterprises. She has a Bachelor of Social Work, a Master of Adult Education and has completed the course work for a Doctorate in Philosophy in Educational Psychology and Leadership. Fran is passionate about social justice and has dedicated her life's work to Indigenous community capacity development.

Leona Sparrow, Musqueam First Nation

Musqueam

Leona Sparrow is the director of Treaty, Lands and Resources for the Musqueam Indian Band, on whose traditional territories UBC’s Vancouver campus is located. Leona has held leadership roles within the band for many years and is an active participant in First Nations affairs in Canada.

Leona is also active in several roles at UBC. In addition to her place on the IRSI Advisory Council, Ms. Sparrow acts as designated liaison between the Musqueam and UBC, has served on the President’s Advisory Committee on Aboriginal Affairs for the past several years. From 1993 to 2003, Leona was an appointed member of UBC Senate. She has also served on advisory boards for the Peter A. Allard School of Law and the Museum of Anthropology (MOA). In all instances, her guidance has facilitated a new and far more effective approach to working with First Nation communities, based on respect and productive collaboration.

Leona holds Bachelor of Arts, Master of Arts and Doctor of Laws degrees from UBC.

Edna Terbasket, Language, Education & Culture

Ki-Low-Na Friendship Society

Edna Terbasket is the Executive Director at the Ki-Low-Na Friendship Society and a member of the UBC Okanagan Aboriginal Advisory Council, which helps create and strengthen Aboriginal programming and resources at the university.

In 2012, Edna was awarded the Association of BC Deans of Education (ABCDE) Education Advocate of the Year Award. Edna was honoured for her years of advocacy in support of an excellent education system as a primary resource for the development of children and communities, her commitment to lifelong learning and her dedication to promoting the free and open exchange of ideas, analyses and views of educational issues. She is a strong advocate for making bridges between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal education communities to enhance awareness and understanding on how to support Aboriginal student success.

UBC Members

Helen Brown, Health

Associate Professor, School of Nursing, UBC

Dr. Helen Brown is a professor in the School of Nursing at UBC. Her research program brings a critical perspective to rural Indigenous health and employs community-based participatory approaches for academic-community partnership with BC First Nations to advance health equity within local contexts. Using participatory and decolonizing methodologies and ethnographic methods to best answer community-defined research questions, her current projects include a focus on women's community safety and social inclusion, youth mental health, restorative justice, Indigenous cultural continuity, social determinants of health, the ongoing community effects of colonialism, regalia making and language revitalization as community health promotion, and incarcerated Indigenous men's mental health and rehabilitation.

Laurel Evans, Research Ethics

Director, Research Ethics

As Director, Research Ethics at the University of BC’s Office of Research Ethics, Laurel Evans is responsible for developing, implementing and monitoring the Program for Human Research Participant Protections at the University. The position is responsible for ensuring that ethics processes and polices at the University meet local, provincial, national and international requirements.

Laurel holds a Bachelor of Laws degree (LL.B.) from Western University.

Sheryl Lightfoot, Governance

Anishnaabe, Senior Advisor to the President on Indigenous Affairs

Sheryl Lightfoot (PhD Minnesota) is Canada Research Chair of Global Indigenous Rights and Politics, and Associate Professor in both First Nations and Indigenous Studies and Political Science at the University of British Columbia. In 2018, she was appointed to the role of Senior Advisor to the President on Indigenous Affairs, a position within the First Nations House of Learning.

Sheryl’s research interests include global Indigenous peoples’ rights and politics, Indigenous diplomacy, social movements, and critical international relations. She publishes articles in both Indigenous studies and international relations venues. Her book, “Indigenous Global Politics” was published in 2016, and is an extension of her PhD dissertation which won the 2010 Best Dissertation Award in Race and Ethnic Politics from the American Political Science Association. She is Anishinaabe from the Lake Superior Band of Ojibwe.

For additional information please view Sheryl’s profile with the First Nations and Indigenous Studies here.

Avery Newman-Simmons, Graduate Student

Anishnaabe

Avery Newman-Simmons is a current Master of Science candidate in Medical Genetics at UBC, passionate about enhancing ethical research, building capacity in community, and ensuring reciprocity in research with Indigenous communities. Avery is Anishnaabe, and his family is from the Antoine First Nation (Algonquin Territory). Avery brings a wealth of experience working in Indigenous genomics, contributing to closing the genomic information gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous populations. He also brings to the IAC years of experience in student-led organizing, advising, and advocacy. 

CORRINA SPARROW, Graduate Student

Musqueam, Pentlatch, Dutch

Corrina Sparrow is a current PhD candidate with the Institute of Gender, Race, Sexuality & Social Justice at UBC, whose research investigates contemporary Coast Salish Two Spirit identities, resiliency, and the use of traditional nation-specific, land-based values and knowledge in strengthening Two Spirit/Indigenous queer health and wellness. Corrina's ancestors come from xʷməθkʷəy̓əm Nation, the Qualicum Nation of the Pentlatch People, and the Netherlands. A recent MA graduate (University of Victoria 2018), Corrina also brings to the IAC extensive community-based experience -- from their current role as Social Development manager at Musqueam, to many years of strong advocacy and helping work in Indigenous child and family safety, cultural programming, community development, and social planning.

UBCO Team

Sandra Fox, Indigenous Community Liaison

Sandra.fox@ubc.ca

Sandra Fox is the Indigenous Community Liaison coordinator for UBCO. Working out of the office of the VP Research & Innovation, Sandra assumed her role in June 2019 and will be supporting Indigenous research collaborations with the Okanagan campus. She is a member of the Musqueam Indian Band but has lived in Sylix Okanagan territory for most of her life and has worked in and with Aboriginal communities in the BC interior for the last ten years, most recently as an Aboriginal Student Advisor at UBCO. Concurrent with her role, Sandra is completing a master’s degree in Indigenous Studies.