“The fire in my belly”

Katelyn Moon

Learn more about the Master of Arts in Leadership.


It wasn’t until she was well into adulthood that Katelyn Moon began learning about Canada’s colonial history.

“I walked through life until I was about 28 with the typical education somebody has growing up in Canada, with very western knowledge,” says Moon, who recently completed her Master of Arts in Leadership (Health Specialization) program.

It was an enlightening conversation with a friend that set her on a path of cultural humility, Moon says, which also became the topic of her recently completed thesis.

Her thesis, Acts of Resistance – Cultural Humility in Action: How First Nations Health Authority Employees Have Become Catalysts for Systems Change and Equity, draws on the experiences of eleven First Nations Health Authority employees to explore how their experiences with cultural humility could inform FNHA organizational learning and support programs.

“There’s been so much harm that’s been done,” says the Chilliwack resident, pointing toward the legacy of land theft, kidnappings and the traumatic history of residential schools that unfolded not far from where she now raises her own family.

She says that learning about that harm “lit the fire in [her] belly” to do her part to support Truth and Reconciliation efforts both in her work and education and also as a mother of two children, aged eight and 11.

Learning through action

Moon, a white settler of mixed European descent, is the cultural safety and humility senior advisor with the First Nations Health Authority. She works on promoting cultural safety and Indigenous-specific anti-racism including through action, policy and education. 

Cultural humility can be understood in various ways, including reflecting on your own background as well as those of others in order to build mutual understanding. Moreover, Moon’s research found that cultural humility is about action.

“Cultural humility is lived through action and learning from those actions through reflection as well as understanding our personal and systemic biases,” she says. “In a settler context, cultural humility requires one examine their relationship to power and privilege and align their actions in ways that address uneven distribution to power.”

There’s precious little research on the topic, says associate faculty member Michael Lickers, who supervised Moon’s thesis. 

“Katelyn was able to take examples of colonization, cultural humility and racism from other areas to shed light on the issues and the national challenges Indigenous peoples face dealing with the health care system, some very tragic,” he says.

Her work “illuminates the issue of cultural humility and resistance against colonialism and white supremacy within the health system,” says Lickers.

Moon found that respondents cultivated cultural humility over time through their relationships and experiences, with each facing unique challenges in resisting colonialism and white supremacy culture along the way.

Lickers says although Moon is not an Indigenous person herself, her research was able to respectfully weave Indigenous knowledge and western ways of knowing all while honouring and respecting Indigenous knowledge, protocols and cultural values.

“Katelyn's work will enhance any organization, government or institutions working towards reconciliation and developing Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion programs.”

Teaching the next generation

It was a topic that initially left her feeling conflicted, Moon says, and one she felt a sense of responsibility to carry out in a good way.

“I had to be accountable to both the expectations of academia, which is deeply embedded with colonialism, and also my own morality of continuously striving to decolonize my mind and actions,” she writes in her thesis.

The validation she received from her supervisor, partner organization and participants slowly extinguished any self-doubt.

“Mike continued to reflect back to me that I was on the right path and that this was important work for me to do,” including providing her with support as she leaned into decolonizing aspects of her thesis, she says.

Moon says one of the things she’s proudest of is how her children have been involved in her work and research – accompanying her to a FNHA traditional wellness retreat as well as to her thesis defence. Importantly, they weren’t just spectators, but invited to participate in both.

She says an important part of her cultural humility journey is to support theirs.

“When I think about what it means for my family to settle here, it’s hoping that the next generation —that my kids aren’t going to go through life with the same lack of knowledge of Canada's true history that I had.” 


Moon, who will cross the stage at Royal Roads University’s Spring 2024 Convocation ceremonies, received a $17,500 Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council Canada Graduate Scholarship for her research.