Congratulations to Jessica Kolopenuk, winner of the Governor General's Gold Medal!

Dr. Jessica Kolopenuk (Cree, Peguis First Nation) is an Assistant Professor in the Faculty of Native Studies at the University of Alberta. She completed her Ph.D. in the Department of Political Science at the University of Victoria. Jessica is a co-founder and co-lead of the Indigenous Science, Technology, and Society Research and Training Program (Indigenous STS) at the UofA, which supports capacities of Indigenous peoples to govern science and technology projects affecting them. Kolopenuk is also the co-founder and co-lead of the Summer internship for INdigenous peoples in Genomics Canada (SING Canada) and, more recently, has become an instructor for Science Outside the Lab BC (SOtLBC). With Indigenous self-determination held at the core of her work, Dr. Kolopenuk’s research and policy advising address what technoscientific knowledge means for Indigenous peoples and, also, what Indigenous knowledge can mean for science and technology fields.

Her doctoral research, Power and Echoes: Colonial Relations of Re/iteration and their Genomic Indigeneities plunges into 21st century technoscientific contexts where advances in biotechnology are drawing academic, industry, and policy attention toward bio-based resources, technologies, and economies and driving new directions in the training of a biotechnologically skilled workforce. For Indigenous peoples, biotechnological innovations are permeating society with promises of improved human health and environmental sustainability, just as the fields of science, politics, law, and economy continue to be defined by colonial power imbalances. Specifically, Kolopenuk’s research engages 1) forensic science policy where DNA profiling is increasingly used to identify missing and murdered Indigenous women, girls, and Two-Spirit persons (MMIWG2S) (on this front, her policy idea, An Indigenous Approach to Canada’s National Missing Persons Program won the Canadian Science Policy Centre’s award of Excellence, 2018); 2) biomedical research where the search for innate racial causes of disease has been replaced by the analysis of genetic immunological susceptibilities; 3) paleogenomics where the scientific appetite for discovering and mapping Native American genomes still sees Indigenous bodies as experimental material in life as well as in death; and 4) bioethics, which operates as the primary field that research institutions use to regulate the wide-ranging power dynamics involved with doing genomic research with Indigenous peoples. Together, these scientific fields support her long-term research and program-building goals in the subfield of Indigenous Studies: Indigenous Science, Technology, and Society (I-STS). This is an emergent area of study that examines how Indigenous peoples’ engagement with science and technology fields, when done in and on their own terms, can support their communities and territories. Informed by Kolopenuk’s research, I-STS at the UofA is engaged in building the capacities of scientific fields so that they are capable of producing and backing highly interdisciplinary, relational, and Indigenous research and training approaches. 

Select Publications:

Kolopenuk, J. 2020. “Provoking Bad Biocitizenship.” The Hastings Center Report, Special report For “All of Us”? On the Weight of Genomic Knowledge.

Kolopenuk, J. 2020. “Miskâsowin: Indigenous Science, Technology, and Society.” Genealogy,    4(1).