Dr. Jessica Kolopenuk
Dr. Jessica KolopenukAssistant Professor at the Faculty of Native Studies, University of Alberta

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About Jessica Kolopenuk

Dr. Jessica Kolopenuk (Cree, Peguis First Nation) is an Assistant Professor in the Faculty of Native Studies at the University of Alberta; and an Assistant Coach for the varsity women’s hockey team. She completed her Ph.D. in the Department of Political Science at the University of Victoria. Jessica is a co-founder and co-lead of the Indigenous Science, Technology, and Society Research and Training Program (Indigenous STS) at the UofA, which supports capacities of Indigenous peoples to govern science and technology projects affecting them. Kolopenuk is also the co-founder and co-lead of the Summer internship for INdigenous peoples in Genomics Canada (SING Canada) and, more recently, has become an instructor for Science Outside the Lab BC (SOtLBC). With Indigenous self-determination held at the core of her work, Dr. Kolopenuk’s research and policy advising address what technoscientific knowledge means for Indigenous peoples and, also, what Indigenous knowledge can mean for science and technology fields.

Her doctoral research, Power and Echoes: Colonial Relations of Re/iteration and their Genomic Indigeneities plunges into 21st century technoscientific contexts where advances in biotechnology are drawing academic, industry, and policy attention toward bio-based resources, technologies, and economies and driving new directions in the training of a biotechnologically skilled workforce. For Indigenous peoples, biotechnological innovations are permeating society with promises of improved human health and environmental sustainability, just as the fields of science, politics, law, and economy are still defined by colonial power imbalances. Specifically, Kolopenuk’s research engages 1) forensic science policy where DNA profiling is increasingly used to identify missing and murdered Indigenous women, girls, and Two-Spirit persons (MMIWG2S) (on this front, her policy idea, An Indigenous Approach to Canada’s National Missing Persons Program won the Canadian Science Policy Centre’s award of Excellence, 2018); 2) biomedical research where the search for innate racial causes of disease has been replaced by the analysis of genetic immunological susceptibilities; 3) paleogenomics where the scientific appetite for discovering and mapping Native American genomes still sees Indigenous bodies as experimental material in life as well as in death; and 4) bioethics, which operates as the primary field that research institutions use to regulate the wide-ranging power dynamics involved with doing genomic research with Indigenous peoples. Together, these scientific fields support her long-term research and program-building goals in the subfield of Indigenous Studies: Indigenous Science, Technology, and Society (I-STS). This is an emergent area of study that examines how Indigenous peoples’ engagement with science and technology fields, when done in and on their own terms, can support their communities and territories. Informed by Kolopenuk’s research, I-STS at the UofA is engaged in building the capacities of scientific fields so that they are capable of producing and backing highly interdisciplinary, relational, and Indigenous research and training approaches.

Select Publications

Kolopenuk, J. 2020. “Provoking Bad Biocitizenship.” The Hastings Center Report, Special report For “All of Us”? On the Weight of Genomic Knowledge.

Kolopenuk, J. 2020. “Miskâsowin: Indigenous Science, Technology, and Society.” Genealogy, 4(1).

Kolopenuk, J. 2018. ““Pop-Up” Metis and the Rise of Canada’s Post-Indigenous Formation.” American Anthropologist, 120(2).

Current Projects:

“Toward a Renewed Approach to Bioethics in Genetic Anthropology: Principles, Policies, and Protocols” (PI). Funded by The National Geographic Society Early Career Grant.

“The Ethics of Studying Indigenous North American Ancient DNA: Moving from Theories to Practices” (Co-PI with Drs. Chip Colwell; Laura Wyrich, Deborah Bolnick, Jessi Bardill, Ripan Malhi, and George Nicholas). Funded by the National Science Foundation.

“Bodies of Power, Nations of Strength: Elite Athlete Development in Three First Nations Hockey Programs” (Co-PI with Dr. Jordan Koch). Funded by SSHRC/Tri-Council New Frontiers in Research Fund.

“The Summer internship for INdigenous peoples in Genomics Canada” (Co-PI with Dr. Kim TallBear, UofA). Funded by Genome Canada.

“Community-driven Helicobacter pylori genomics investigation of the disproportionate H. pylori-associated disease burden among northern Indigenous Canadians” (Co-investigator with Dr. Karen Goodman as PI). Funded by the CIHR.