Jen Jones works with Indigenous and non-Indigenous governments and organizations. Her work and research focus on the Indigenous/settler relations, Indigenous well-being, the use of health-related data and its governance, as well as mining governance in the circumpolar Arctic. Jen holds a Master’s in Public Health (University of Alaska Anchorage, 2013) and completed her PhD (University of Guelph) in 2020. For her PhD research with Little Salmon Carmacks First Nation, Jen was awarded a SSHRC Doctoral Fellowship and was a 2015 Pierre Elliott Trudeau Scholar.
My research and professional work is motivated by the place I call home. Living in Northern Canada continues to inspire my research, passions, and interests. Below is the introduction I wrote for my PhD.
Uruguayan politician Jose Mujica, leader of a country that faced systemic and institutionalized disparities, once said, “if you want to change things, you can’t keep doing the same thing” (Nolen, 2014). These words have had a significant impact on me. Inspired to participate in bringing about change and to think about how to go about doing things differently, I left my home at the age of 45. I temporarily shut down my business and moved from my community in Yukon to complete a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) at the University of Guelph in Ontario, some 5,000 kilometres away. I wanted to explore the underlying assumptions that informed the policies and the direction of policy that guide funding for the programs I had implemented at a previous place of employment.
I have lived and worked in Yukon for more than 26 years. I travelled North after completing an undergraduate degree at Queen’s University. I moved North in search of a place to call home. I did not grow up in a single town or city; my family and I had moved from the East Coast of Canada to the Northwest Territories and to the west coast before my family of origin settled in Alberta. When I arrived in Yukon, I felt a sense of home; the people and place seemed familiar. For the first many years, I lived off-grid, ran a dog team, and worked as a survey technician in a mining camp. As my life trajectory changed with age, I moved closer to Whitehorse and became more involved in working with communities and the people who lived in them.
Since 2000, my work provided me with the privilege to travel around Yukon. Much of this travel resulted from my work in the performing arts, First Nation economic development, and First Nation health and well-being. Through this work, I engaged with many levels of government (i.e., federal, territorial, and First Nations); private businesses; community groups; and non-governmental organizations. But it was my work with the Council of Yukon First Nations (CYFN) Health and Social Department that seeded my interest in the research presented in this dissertation. Working for CYFN and reporting to 14 Yukon First Nations Health and Social Directors, I witnessed both the importance and precarity of building relationships between Indigenous and settler society. This precarity was based in setter assumptions of Indigenous Peoples that were ahistorical and without consideration that colonialism is ongoing. In other words, funding agencies appeared to hold assumptions regarding the root of the health disparities between Yukon First Nations Peoples and settler Canadians and the reasons for these disparities in Yukon.
While working for CYFN, I came to a place where I no longer thought it useful to write grant applications to funding agencies describing why money alone would not advance the health and well-being of the peoples I served. Instead, I wanted the funding agencies, the public, and other governments to understand why existing indicators of accomplishments, gaps, and a well and healthy community did not reflect what the peoples for whom I worked communicated to me. With the knowledge that my desire to use funding applications to communicate my dissent would not serve me well, I left my position. I first completed a Master of Public Health and then began a PhD program in order to investigate how settler Canadians can do things differently so that the relationships between settler society and Indigenous Peoples in the context of mining governance in Canada could change.