Indigenous Scholar-in-Community Fellowship

2023-25 Indigenous Scholar-in-Community Fellowship


Photo of Dr. Bonnie Freeman


Dr. Bonnie Freeman is McMaster’s 2023-25 Indigenous Scholar-in-Community.

Bonnie Freeman is Algonquin/Mohawk from the Six Nations of the Grand River Territory. Her work and research is rooted in connections with Six Nations, the Hamilton Aboriginal Community and other Indigenous communities throughout Canada and the United States. Her research interests are extensive. Her PhD dissertation research examined the journey of Six Nations Haudenosaunee youth, as they traveled on foot through their ancestral lands promoting the message of peace and unity and understanding the transformation of identity and well-being from the connection to land and culture, and self-determination.

Her research is rooted with Indigenous communities that focus on cultural interventions in social work practice, community healing approaches, anti-oppressive practices and decolonization, and indigenous-non-indigenous relations and alliances.

Bonnie is an Associate Professor in the School of Social Work at McMaster.


Six Nations of the Grand River Child and Family Services

Project title:

Exploring the Haudenosaunee Perspective of Youth’s Well-being and Identity through the Connection with Water, Land, and the Great Law of Peace


The project would expand our understanding of how the epistemology of land and water through the Haudenosaunee Great Law of Peace not only improves the well-being, sense of belonging, and identity that alleviates the distress that many youths carry due to their experience in child welfare.

The objective of this project is as follows:

  1. Building upon a previous scoping literature review of global Indigenous epistemology in how Indigenous child welfare services incorporate self-determining and self-governing knowledge and approaches within their practices.
  2. This project will gather and synthesize Haudenosaunee literature and community knowledge to develop culturally appropriate best practices that incorporate the tenets of the Great Law of Peace to support the well-being and welfare of Haudenosaunee children and families of Six Nations of the Grand River.
  3. Collaborate with SNCFS to create an evaluation framework that supports existing, new and enhanced programs and can be measured in culturally appropriate ways.


This project expands our previous research from a global level to a community level by understanding water, land, and cultural knowledge to improve health and well-being. The Grand River provides the identity, sovereignty, and responsibility to Six Nations Haudenosaunee to preserve the natural environment for future generations. This project is also important because, in 2020 the Federal government enacted Bill-C92 which recognizes the jurisdiction of child and family services and the inherent right of First Nations self-government in establishing their own national standards and law in child and family services as it pertains to the ‘best interest of the child’. Six Nations Child and Family Services has been working to create and develop a Haudenosaunee evaluation framework that supports culturally appropriate outcome measures which is significant for our work with Six Nations children and families.


About the Indigenous Scholar-in-Community Fellowship:

The history of research in and with Indigenous communities is historically fraught with issues of ethics, ownership, and dissemination. Researchers who incorporate community-engaged research (CER) practices into their scholarship are increasing aware and accountable to these histories. Indigenous researchers engaging CER practices have a unique relationship with these issues and Indigenous communities and are often more deeply impacted as a result. Thus, the Indigenous researchers at McMaster who employ CER practices in the areas of Indigenous Studies do so alongside long-established traditions, theories, cosmologies, and practices that require careful and thoughtful relationship-building and consideration when framed within research.

The Indigenous Scholar-in-Community Fellowship provides the opportunity for research collaborations with Indigenous communities, partners, and organizations to generate and mobilize knowledge in mutually beneficial ways.

The programs funds:
  • Two (3 credit) course releases are included for the duration of the fellowship (one per year) for the selected faculty member to work with an existing Indigenous community, partner, or organization on a mutually defined research project, to be co-designed and co-governed over the course of the project (timing of course release to be negotiated by the researcher with Chair/Director).
  • Salary replacement ($7500 per year) for a staff member from host organization to work with the faculty researcher OR $7500 per year towards a graduate student research assistant.
  • $2500 seed money provided to the researcher to undertake the work.


The goal of the Indigenous Scholar-in-Community Fellowship is intended to support developing and experienced community- engaged Indigenous researchers working with Indigenous communities, partners, or community-based organizations to enhance their CER programs and engage in capacity and community development activities that would not otherwise be possible.

The program’s objectives are to:
  • strengthen existing (or initiated) collaborations between Indigenous researchers within the appropriate and community partners
  • provide support to community-engaged Indigenous researchers working in community settings to develop and enhance their CER programs
  • provide stable and enhanced capacity for CER to Indigenous communities and Indigenous community-based organizations
  • produce a measurable impact within the Indigenous organization or Indigenous community, which may include:
      • Enhancement of existing or development of new programs
      • Development of a community-engaged research culture
      • Integration of Indigenous Knowledge and research results into policy and practice
      • Demonstration of the uptake of knowledge by other sectors, communities, organizations, and provinces


The Office of the Provost will fund one collaborative community-engaged project, to a total value of $35,000, jointly supporting a community researcher and a researcher from the appropriate Faculty. An additional $2,000 will be awarded if a grant application is submitted (Tri-Council or external funding) within one year of completing the Indigenous Scholar-in-Community project.

Eligibility Criteria

To be eligible for the Indigenous Scholar-in-Community Fellowship, an applicant must be a member of one of McMaster University’s Faculties with a teaching, tenured or tenure-stream appointment working with a researcher or staff member from a community or community organization. Ideally partner organizations will be geographically close enough that face to face interaction is possible. Where communities or host organizations are located outside the region, applicants should explain how they plan to build relationships at a distance. Preference will be given to researchers early in their career. The candidate must be Indigenous (non-Indigenous persons will not be taken into consideration, even if they have close links with Indigenous communities and/or organizations).

Application Timeline

  • Notice of Intent: Friday July 7, 2023
  • Full Nomination: Friday August 4, 2023
  • Results announced: Friday August 18, 2023

How to Apply

Notice of Intent

To apply please send a notice of intent by email to by 4:00 p.m. Friday, July 7, 2023, that includes:

  1. The name of your community partner and organization
  2. Project title
  3. Project summary of no more than four sentences.
Full Proposal

Those selected to proceed to full proposal will be asked to provide:

  1. CV in any format
  2. Project description of up to 3-pages
  3. Brief statement of support from the collaborating organization (email accepted).

Send the three documents in a single email to by 9:00 am Friday, August 4, 2023.

The project description will include:

a. Objectives

b. Context

c. Relevant experience of applicant and community organization lead and description of existing partnership

d. Methods

e. Activities and timeline (including responsibilities)

f. Knowledge mobilization plan

g. Expected outcomes and benefits to community or partner organization

h. Plan to seek external funding

The Statement of Support will include:

a. Name and contact details of the interested partner

b. An acknowledgement that the organization is willing to release staff for the research related activities stated in the application.

Funded projects will be expected to apply for an external research grant within 12 months of completion.

Evaluation Criteria

• Clarity, focus and feasibility of the research objectives, research plan, and knowledge mobilization plan.

• Significance of research project to the community or partner organization.

• Contribution to building and sustaining a longer-term research relationship.

• Overall contribution of the research to the candidate’s long-range research plan.

• Feasibility of plan to secure external funding.

• Applicant’s scholarly and community-engaged contributions with emphasis on the latter (e.g., community-oriented or co-created reports, conferences, roundtables, presentations, workshops and so forth).

• Contribution to university service (e.g., sitting on decision-making committees, editorial boards, granting councils, and other learned associations).


This fellowship will be adjudicated by a Scholar-in-Community selection committee constituted by the McMaster Indigenous Research Institute (MIRI). If you have any questions, please contact:

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