IKhana Fund Planning Team

Shawn Wilson, Ph.D. (Opaskwayak Cree) is from northern Manitoba, Canada and currently lives in Kelowna, British Columbia. He is Associate Professor of Indigenous Studies at the University of British Columbia. Previously he was on the faculty of Gnibi College of Indigenous Australian People, Southern Cross University. Through working with Indigenous people internationally, Shawn has applied Indigenist philosophy within the contexts of Indigenous education, health and counsellor education. His 2008 book, Research is Ceremony: Indigenous Research Methods is praised for bridging understanding between western academia and traditional Indigenous knowledges. He is co-editor of Research and Reconciliation: Unsettling ways of knowing through Indigenous relationships, which came out in 2019, and has authored numerous journal publications.

Fiona Cram, Ph.D. is a Māori (Indigenous) woman from Aotearoa New Zealand. Her tribal affiliations are to Ngāti Pahauwera on the east coast of Aotearoa. Fiona is the mother of one son. Fiona’s doctorate is in social and developmental psychology from the University of Otago. She has lectured in Social Psychology and has also been a Senior Research Fellow within IRI (the International Research Institute of Māori and Indigenous Education), at the University of Auckland. In the middle of 2003 Fiona established Katoa Ltd. Fiona’s research interests are wide-ranging including Māori health, justice, and education. The over-riding theme of Fiona’s work is Kaupapa Māori (by Māori, for Māori). Fiona is Editor-in-Chief of the Aotearoa New Zealand Evaluation Association (ANZEA) new evaluation journal, Evaluation Matters – He Take Tō Te Aromatawai, published by the NZCER. She is a Clinical Associate at University of Otago.

Alex Wilson, Ph.D. (Opaskwayak Cree Nation) is an Associate Professor and Academic Director of the Aboriginal Education Research Centre at the University of Saskatchewan. Her scholarship has greatly contributed to building and sharing knowledge about land-based education; two-spirit people; indigenous research methodologies; and anti-oppressive education. Her research and “coming in” theory has lead to classroom and community practices that honour the contributions and lives of two-spirit people. As an Idle No More organizer and as coordinator of an Indigenous land-based Master’s program, she focuses on the prevention of violence in the lives of Indigenous peoples and the protection of land and water. Dr. Wilson is a recipient of a 2016 Nellie Award for human rights leadership and the 2016 Peter Corren Award for outstanding achievement in LGBTQ education.

Julius Wassenas is an Indigenous Canadian from Opaskwayak Cree Nation. He is currently in an undergraduate program at the University of Alberta studying psychology as his major. He has spent a year substitute teaching on the Opaskwayak reserve. He will bring his teaching experience, cultural knowledge from living on reserve, and general technological literacy to this work. The rest of the team highly values his youth, and the rich perspective Julius brings to the project based on being able to see much farther down the road into future times than we older team members are able to see. It is particularly important that he is able to integrate the future-vision of a young person with the wisdom that emerges from his deep engagement with the Land and Indigenous Knowledge.

Jessica Venable, Ph.D. (Pamunkey and Mattaponi descent) is from Virginia and resides in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area. Jess has more than 20 years of experience in sponsored research and research development for education reform, especially in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) programs that serve high populations of underrepresented ethnic minorities. She is a Partner in the government affairs firm Thorn Run Partners and was previously Executive Director, Research Universities and Institutions Practice, McAllister & Quinn. Prior to that, she was Coordinator for Research Development Services at Virginia Commonwealth University, where she built their Office of Research Development.

Beverly Te Huia (Māori) is a midwife and researcher who is well connected into her hapū (subtribe) of Ngāti Mihiroa. She lives within the community and interacts regularly with the rangatahi (Maori young people) who are aspiring researchers in the Papa Kāinga project. She contributes her expertise to her grounding and upbringing in Te Ao Māori (the Maori world). Beverly’s contribution towards designing strategic pathways in primary and community care for Māori have been acknowledged by Iwi (tribal) leaders, district health boards and Ministry of Health. She continues to work both in Māori communities and Māori research, where she explores Māori concepts of wellbeing. She has contributed significantly to Kahungunu (tribal) Māori Health, where she sits as Iwi partner to the local district health board.

John T. Njovu belongs to the Tande-Nsenga ethnic group of Zambia. He is a renowned expert and Independent Consultant in many fields related to community development, particularly research and evaluation of community development initiatives. He’s a member of the Indigenous Evaluation (EvalIndigenous) Taskforce of the EvalIndigenous global networks, coordinates a project that identifies indigenous African evaluators, and is prominent in a number of professional evaluation associations. John advocates for recognition of indigenous methodologies in evaluations by the global evaluation community and commissioners. He is also a renowned advocate for fairer treatment of indigenous evaluators by international commissioners, having been exposed early to overwork and low emoluments as compared to his white partners when he worked for international accounting and consultancy firms as a young man. Though more firms are run by Zambians today than several decades ago, foreign consultants still continue jetting in for jobs funded by major foreign donors.

Joanne (Jo) L. Belasco, Esq., Co-President of Tapestry Institute, came into the organization as Vice President, Chief Financial Officer, and Sponsored Research Officer in 1998 and was made President in 2007. She received her J.D. from Suffolk University Law School in Boston in 1993 and holds a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology (1990) from Boston College. Tapestry’s newest focus area, Indigenizing Environmental Law, manifests Jo’s passion to infuse the field of environmental law with the power of Indigenous worldview. Her legal scholarship focuses on the relational and healing aspects of law, particularly as they concern animals, the Land, and people.

Jessica Sweidan is piloting the role of donor participants in IKhana Fund meetings as a whole, by participating in this planning team meeting and then reflecting on that process with us so the experiences of future donor participants can be meaningful and useful. She brings to this effort more than 20 years’ experience in the field of philanthropy, in which she co-founded the environmental nonprofit Synchronicity Earth. She also brings to our collaboration several months of effort she’s invested in basic instruction about, and incipient experience with, Indigenous Knowledge and worldview. As an IUCN Patron of Nature and an Honorary Conservation Fellow at the Zoological Society of London, Jessica occupies a potentially pivotal position in the mainstream environmental community that’s beginning to recognize the importance of Indigenous thought.

Dawn Hill Adams, Ph.D. (Choctaw Nation) is Tapestry’s Co-President, Founder, and Senior Scientist. She has been awarded five National Science Foundation grants, is a scientific illustrator and registered Choctaw artist, and a speaker and writer. Her advanced degrees are in evolutionary theory, paleobiology, and ecology, from the University of California Berkeley and the University of Kansas. She taught at Presbyterian College in Clinton, South Carolina from 1986 to 1989, and at Baylor University in Waco, Texas from 1989 to 1998, running a successful graduate program and serving on faculty senate at Baylor. She founded Tapestry Institute on March 4, 1998 to develop and carry out research and education programs that advance Indigenous Knowledge.