UVic Indigenous nurses on teaching Indigenist nursing

The University of Victoria’s School of Nursing has made a commitment towards inclusion of Indigenous peoples and reconciliation in step with the Calls to Action of Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) and the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

School staff and faculty, as well as university leadership, are committed to collaborating with Indigenous communities to learn about Indigenous knowledge and ways of being and to support the wellbeing of Indigenous, Métis and Inuit peoples. We continue to deliver on these understandings throughout the nursing curriculum.

Here, three nursing faculty members speak to their work in realizing this promise as they help prepare nursing students for their future careers.


“I have an interest in creating action to disrupt racism in our healthcare system through Indigenous ways of exploration, self discovery and my own personal resolve to move forward.”

Meet Leanne Kelly, a Metis/Cree nursing scholar from Qu’Appelle, Saskatchewan. She has lived on Vancouver Island’s Coast Salish territory for 26 years and completed her master’s degree with UVic’s School of Nursing.

Involved in nursing education since 2007, Kelly has always taught the Indigenous Health Nursing elective. The school created a new core course in 2017 which Kelly -- with her two colleagues profiled here -- now teach, built on the wisdom of Indigenous communities and the need to create visibility of Indigenous health issues across our entire healthcare system.

Now also working on her PhD -- supervised by Charlotte Loppie, professor with UVic’s School of Public Health and Social Policy and Associate Dean Research with the Faculty of Human and Social Development -- Kelly is focused on exploring Indigenous knowledge as a foundational teaching tool for nursing educators every where.

“Anything I know today has been gifted to me from many teachers. I have an obligation to steward this knowledge with sincere intent,” says Kelly. “I’ve been mentored by many other Indigenous nurse leaders, by colleagues and in my relationships with Indigenous peoples.”

Grateful for what she has been taught, Kelly aims to pass that knowledge on. Now the teacher, she stresses to current students how they need to learn local knowledge by listening and observing first, asking questions later.

Working in First Nation communities is unique, she explains. “Students learn how they are entering an Indigenous space and how their professional stance as a nurse must reflect that shift.” Acknowledgement of Indigenous space is an essential first step nursing students need to learn.

Kelly says the teaching team has a strong focus on addressing racism and how Indigenous people have been impacted. “We break down this learning, covering history on through to the kind of anti-racism work being done today.”



“Right now, I am working with my teaching colleagues on a workshop to support nursing students in clinical practice on how to recognize and respond to racism, be it specific to Indigenous people or to anyone. Imagine that!”

Meet Dr. Maureen Ryan, a tenured teaching professor with UVic’s School of Nursing. She describes herself as belonging to the land along the Miramichi River in New Brunswick with Irish settlers on her mother's side and Mi'kMaq on her father's side. 

Her career in nursing has surpassed her expectations, Ryan says, in that her own practice, teaching and research on care and advocating for people to meet their own heath and healing needs has flourished during her time at UVic.

“In just the past five years, I’ve seen a resurgence of efforts toward hiring Indigenous faculty, of instilling policy to decolonize and culturally revise our nursing curriculum.” Ryan says the sense of community she shares with her Indigenous nursing colleagues is energizing and moving them forward in this good work.

In fact, UVic’s School of Nursing has made the teaching of Indigenous nursing part of each student’s overarching professional responsibility and, in BC, this recognition of the TRC Calls to Action is a licensure competency requirement. Ryan is heartened to see nurse leadership organizations responding to calls to actions from Indigenous people to professionally act to interrupt Indigenous-specific racism and other harmful behaviours.

“Nurses are being held accountable and that is a good thing,” says Ryan. “Partnerships, relationships, nursing collectives and collaborative approaches are being led by Indigenous voices and that has made all the difference.”

She envisions a future where Indigenous nurses continue to hold each other up with love and respect while continuing to develop knowledge about nursing and community practices.  

“Indigenous nursing is not an add-on. It’s not a speciality. It’s what we bring through our lived experience as Indigenous women, through our nursing studies, through our relationships with one another and with our students and patients. Indigenous nursing is essential to the nursing profession.”

Imagine that! 


Meet Christina Chakanyuka, an assistant professor and PhD student with UVic’s School of Nursing. Métis with Scottish, British, Dene, and Cree-Métis ancestry, she has strong connections to culture, community and her homeland in Fort Smith, NT.

Christina’s PhD studies, teaching and research are grounded in anti-racism and relational ethics with a commitment to everyday actions that uphold Indigenous rights to self-determination. She believes that Indigenous nurses can lead the way in utilizing Indigenous knowledge to respond to the TRC’s Calls to Action in Canadian nursing schools.

Inspired by the work of Indigenous scholars such as Charlotte Loppie and Lisa Bourque Bearskin, both of whom are on her PhD committee along with UVic nursing professors Anne Bruce and Bernie Pauly, Chakanyuka aims to advance Indigenist nursing research.

Working closely with Bourque Bearskin, BC’s first Indigenous Health Research in Nursing Chair, she is experiencing first-hand how Indigenous mentorship promotes Indigenous health research and leadership. “The In-Plain Sight report provides evidence there is a lot of work to be done in this area,” says Chakanyuka.

That work, she adds, brings welcome change to nursing education.

“There is something so special about relationships where you are never asked to be a representative voice for all Indigenous peoples and never feel pressured to provide a defence for the legitimacy of Indigenous ways of knowing, doing, and being in nursing,” says Chakanyuka, reflecting on her experience working with her Indigenous nurse colleagues at UVic.

“It is such a unique opportunity to teach with a team of Indigenous nurses who challenge deficit-based narratives of Indigenous health issues. Instead, we demonstrate how strengths-focused and rights-based Indigenous health nursing can advance reconciliation with Indigenous communities in meaningful ways.”

Chakanyuka added that, given the active engagement of undergraduate nursing students in learning about our shared colonial history while committing to anti-racism in healthcare, “The future of nursing is bright!”


Indigenous Student Support Centre

 Navigating one’s way through the university experience can be overwhelming at times. The Indigenous Student Support Centre helps students succeed by providing a range of supports and connections to culture and community, serving as a home away from home.

 Tracy Underwood, Academic Coordinator, and Shauna Underwood, Indigenous Advisor, welcome and encourage all visitors to learn more about their work at the Indigenous Student Support Centre, housed within the Faculty of Human and Social Development.

 Learn more here