Our Team
Vanessa Watts-Powless
Senior Associate (Education and Strategic Research)

Vanessa Watts-Powless Vanessa Watts is a member of the Bear Clan from Mohawk and Anishnaabe Nations. A faculty member at McMaster University in the Indigenous Studies Program, Vanessa teaches in areas of Contemporary Indigenous Issues, Residential Schools, Indigenous Sovereignty, Indigenous Knowledge and Methodologies, and Government and Politics. She also teaches for Ryerson University and the First Nations Technical Institute in their Public Policy program in the areas of sustainable development for First Nations, dispute resolution and public/private partnerships.

She is currently a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Sociology at Queen’s University. Her research centres on how Indigenous peoples and their lands are influenced by colonialism and efforts to revitalize traditional governance systems amidst this. Her work has an emphasis on Indigenous women specifically including how they are affected by colonialism. Vanessa has received recognition for her doctoral work by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC), a highly competitive national funding agency.

Vanessa actively participates in presenting her work at lecture series and conferences across Canada and the United States. She also consults for Aboriginal-focused initiatives and organizations on areas such as the development of governance framework for First Nations, Aboriginal peoples and the justice system, Aboriginal peoples and post-secondary education, Aboriginal Awareness training and cultural competency training.

Vanessa has worked for both in non-profit Aboriginal organizations, Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada, and at post-secondary institutions. Her experience brings together a knowledge in public policy and how it is implemented and affects Aboriginal communities, impacts of colonialism and legislation at the community and individual level, and more broadly, philosophical and theoretical paradigms that underscore these impacts. Vanessa brings with her a unique understanding of the multiple levels of this interplay.

At the community level Vanessa is involved in working on issues such as Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women. She also works with traditional medicinal plants, hand drums and ceremony. Vanessa lives with her husband and two beautiful children in Six Nations, Ontario.