Celebrating Indigenous Health Researchers: Taylor Morriseau
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To acknowledge National Day for Truth and Reconciliation and Orange Shirt Day, this piece recognizes the harm the residential school system did to children’s sense of self-esteem and wellbeing and affirms our commitment to ensuring that everyone around us matters. We strive to bring forth the voices that were taken, and to establish platforms for the Indigenous community within the health sciences ecosystem to be heard, seen and understood.
BSc. (Double Hons) Co-op, Microbiology and Genetics (2017)
PhD Candidate (CIHR Vanier Scholar) (2017 – 2022)
Children’s Hospital Research Institute of Manitoba
Department of Pharmacology and Therapeutics, University of Manitoba
Taylor Morriseau is presently a PhD Candidate in the Department of Pharmacology and Therapeutics at the University of Manitoba. She is also a member of the Diabetes Research Envisioned and Accomplished in Manitoba (DREAM) Theme within the Children’s Hospital Research Institute of Manitoba. As a recipient of a CIHR Vanier Scholarship and a PIKE-Net Graduate Fellowship, her doctoral research examines gene-environment interactions underlying type 2 diabetes among First Nations youth. Her research integrates basic science and pre-clinical models with Indigenous knowledge on traditional foods in pursuit of culturally-safe therapeutic strategies.
Taylor is proud to represent her own community, Peguis First Nation, in her commitment to broader scientific and societal challenges encompassing Indigenous health, genomics, and science policy. She is an alumna of Equal Voice’s Daughters of the Vote, Indigenize the Senate, and the Summer Internship for Indigenous Peoples in Genomics (SING). She sits on the inaugural Chief Science Advisor’s Youth Council and the Health Information Research Governance Committee (HIRGC) while serving on the boards for CIHR’s Institute of Human Development, Child and Youth Health (IHDCYH), Research Canada, and the Native BioData Consortium (NBDC). This reflects her commitment to building a more equitable scientific landscape that reflects the diversity and unique needs of the next generation.
In 2019, she named as one of Canada’s Most Powerful Women: Top 100 by the Women’s Executive Network (WXN). Her research and mentorship efforts have also been recognized by numerous distinctions, including a CBC Manitoba Future 40 Award, a Manitoba 150 Women Trailblazer Award, and a University of Manitoba Distinguished Alumni Award. She continues to utilize this platform to advocate for Indigenous health equity at the local, national, and international levels.
Experience / Vision as an Indigenous Scholar
“As a Cree researcher, I study sókáwáspinéwin – meaning sókáw (sugar) and áspinéwin (sickness; derived from itáspinéwin). Literally, sókáwáspinéwin translates to the sugar sickness, or more commonly known as type 2 diabetes. Although sugar is inexplicably linked to sókáwáspinéwin, so too are the impacts of colonization, systemic racism, appropriation of land, and disconnect from traditional ways of living. This is explicitly stated in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada’s Call to Action #18: “…to acknowledge that the current state of Aboriginal health in Canada is a direct result of previous Canadian government policies, including residential schools…”. To counteract this dispossession, I envision a future of Indigenous-led and anti-oppressive research that is centred on a return to the land. In this future, First Nations, Métis, and Inuit peoples have an equal right to the highest attainable standards of health.
To achieve this in the context of the present-day health research ecosystem, a tangible step forward is to respect Indigenous peoples’ right to self-determination. In research, this is inseparable from the concept of data sovereignty. The field of Indigenous data sovereignty centres on the rights of Indigenous people relating to the collection, ownership, stewardship, and application of data about Indigenous peoples, worldviews, and lands. As an ecosystem, it is necessary to work outside traditional academic or industry boundaries and bring together diverse knowledge systems in a way that fosters transformative solutions. Most importantly, to ensure that Indigenous peoples’ have control over and benefit from information generated from their communities. Today is a great day to enroll in the First Nations Principles of OCAP® course offered by the First Nations Information Governance Centre.”