Kelsey Dokis-Jansen

k dokis-jansen photo

Update (2015)

Kelsey completed her Master of Science in Risk and Community Resilience in 2015. Her thesis document titled
“These Trees Have Stories to Tell”: Linking Denésƍliné Knowledge and Dendroecology in the Monitoring of Barren-ground Caribou Movements in the Northwest Territories, Canada is available online at

Thesis Abstract:

Grounded in an Indigenous methodological framework and using dendroecology as a scientific assessment tool in combination with oral history analysis, this thesis assesses changes to caribou movement patterns in the traditional territory of Lutsel K’e Dene First Nation (LKDFN), Northwest Territories, Canada. This approach was used to explore ways in which scientific methods can be used within an Indigenous research framework. This approach shows that Indigenous ways of knowing can set the basis for identifying the important research questions and methods, and that appropriate and complimentary scientific methods can be used to build upon that framework. I draw from methods of natural and social science disciplines including Participatory Action Research (PAR), ethnography, community-based research, participant observation, and dendroecology (tree-ring analysis). I worked with elders and harvesters to document oral histories about caribou movement patterns and augmented their observations and stories with information from dendroecological assessment techniques. This thesis provides a framework for those seeking to conduct ecological research by drawing linkages between Indigenous knowledge systems and scientific methods. I use the specific example of broadening our understanding of caribou movements by combing oral history narratives and dendroecology, however, the lessons learned could be applied across a wide range of disciplines. This research project is not only about asking questions related to the impacts of resource development to the community of Lutsel K’e and the caribou on which they depend, it also demonstrates that Indigenous communities can embrace and implement scientific methodologies while remaining grounded in our own Indigenous knowledge systems and practices.

Kelsey Dokis-Jansen, is Anishnaabe from the Dokis First Nation in north-central Ontario. Born and raised in Alberta, Kelsey spent most of her youth in Hinton, AB enjoying the beauty of the Rocky Mountains, camping, fishing, playing hockey and snowboarding, among other trouble that teenagers in small towns get up to. Summers were spent at Dokis with family, soaking in the renewing energy of the French River, catching frogs, fishing and roasting marshmallows. These two formative places grounded Kelsey with a deep connection to the land and as she got older she started becoming more and more curious about how we as humans are impacting the land and resources on which we depend for our survival and well-being.

Kelsey initially pursued a Diploma of Environmental Technology from the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology (SAIT) learning about principles of environmental chemistry, as well as sampling and analysis techniques. As a summer student, she worked as an Environmental Technician for a small, First Nations environmental and cultural consulting company, Snow and Associates Inc. and worked with the Stoney Nakoda First Nation. This was her first experience working with elders and hunters, helping to communicate the potential impacts of new resource developments and documenting important traditional knowledge and community concerns. Kelsey saw the need for a deeper understanding of not only the science, but the regulatory framework, treaty history and environmental laws if she was going to be truly helpful in this field of work that was calling out to her.

Going on to pursue her Bachelors of Science in Environmental and Conservation Science at the University of Alberta, Kelsey has made life long connections with peers and professors who are at the top of their fields in resource management in Alberta. This experience gave her a great foundation in the social, economic and environmental facets of resource development and she sought to delve into the linking of indigenous knowledge systems to this foundation through a Masters of Science.  Meeting Dr. Brenda Parlee and working with her over the last three years has opened Kelsey’s mind to the limitless potential of our indigenous communities and the invaluable contribution indigenous knowledge and indigenous ways of being and doing have to offer as we as a society face some of the most complex environmental and resource management challenges ever seen on this planet.

Kelsey is in her third year of a Masters of Science in Risk and Community Resilience at the University of Alberta. She plans to defend her thesis in December 2014 and will be working full-time in the Faculty of Native Studies at the University of Alberta as an Environmental Research Coordinator with Dr. Parlee’s Social Responses to Ecological Change Research Lab. Beyond that Kelsey plans to focus on indigenous youth engagement and leadership work with a focus on connection to the land, indigenous governance and self-determination.

“These trees have stories to tell” – Linking indigenous knowledge and science in the monitoring of barren-ground caribou movements in the Northwest Territories, Canada. (Still in progress)

ReSDA Research
Kelsey is looking at traditional knowledge and the impacts of diamond mining on caribou and communities in the western Arctic.  Her work is being supervised by ReSDA theme leader, Brenda Parlee.  Click here for more information.

Contact information:
Kelsey Dokis-Jansen
Msc Candidate
University of Alberta