Date Approved


Graduate Degree Type


Degree Name

Social Innovation (M.A.)

Degree Program

School of Community Leadership & Development

First Advisor

Dr. Krista Benson

Academic Year



About a decade ago, I was told by a family member that our ancestor, who we all believed to have been a French-Canadian fur trader, was of the Wolastoqiyik / Maliseet Indigenous People. This was shocking considering my white upper middle class, Dutch/Irish, conservative background. Through my time at Grand Valley State University (GVSU), I was able to meet Lin Bardwell, Native American Student Initiative Coordinator and Assistant Director of Multicultural Affairs. Through her, I have been given the opportunity to be mentored in the ways of the Anishinaabeg People of West Michigan. My experiences have stirred an even deeper desire to see more equitable systems in place for my kin and other marginalized groups. That is why this reflexive case study will ask the following question: How have colonial research methodologies on North American Indigenous Peoples and Indigenous Knowledge Systems impacted the interrelationships between Indigenous culture, community, business, and philanthropy? My project is Participatory Action Research (PAR)-informed, utilizing a Strengths Enhancing Evaluation Research (SEER) approach through the process of story-gathering, while also examining anthropological resources through a Decolonizing / postcolonial methodology within a reflexive case study. Lastly, I will integrate the Seven Grandfather Teachings of the Anishinaabeg people into the framework of my project. “The Seven Grandfather Teachings are the principles of character that each Anishinaabe should live by. Love, Respect, Bravery, Truth, Honesty, Humility & Wisdom” (American Indian Health Service of Chicago, 2021). Embracing the SEER approach within a Reflexive Case Study will allow me to continually assess and adjust my own personal biases, while also learning and growing from the wisdom of Indigenous Culture and Knowledge Systems, including the Seven Grandfather teachings.


I am grateful for the Dorothy A. Johnson Center for Philanthropy awarding me the Orosz Fellowship in Philanthropy, which has made this project possible. Their address is as follows: 201 Front Ave SW, Grand Rapids, MI 49504.

I acknowledge that my studies at Grand Valley State University have taken place on the unceded territory of the Anishinaabeg--Three Fires Confederacy: the Ojibwe, Odawa, and Potawatomi (inspired by Dr. Dawn Rutecki’s acknowledgement). I acknowledge that without the Anishinaabeg, Grandfather’s Grandfather would have had no place to find solace, and without that solace, I would not be able to study and be welcomed back into this community today. I see you, Anishinaabeg, past, present, and future. Chi Miigwech for seeing my ancestors, our children, and me.