$1.5 million donation funds new UVic research chair in Indigenous mental health

Campus News

Chair named after late master artist Chief Mungo Martin

Chief David Mungo Knox (great-grandson of the late Chief Mungo Martin) standing in a forest near his home in the village of Fort Rupert -Tsaxis, Kwagu’ł (Kwakiutl). Knox holds a carving by his late great grandfather Mungo Martin. Photo by Kwakiutl photographer Kimberley Kufaas, great great grand-daughter of Chief Mungo Martin.

In December, the University of Victoria (UVic) announced that they are creating a new research chair in the Department of Psychology: The Chief Mungo Martin Chair in Indigenous Mental Health. Named after the late master Kwakwaka’wakw artist and carver, the new chair position will bring Indigenous knowledge to mental health research at UVic. The position was established by a $1.5 million donation from UVic political science alumnus Bruce McKean. 

Chief Mungo Martin was a carver, painter, singer, and teacher who, through these talents, helped west coast First Nation communities learn and reclaim traditional artforms and carving. His great-grandson, Chief David Mungo Knox, spoke to UVic about the use of his great-grandfather’s name.

“We are grateful for the donation that established the research chair in Mungo Martin’s name. And to use his name in what is an important and needed area of research all over Canada,” said Knox.

UVic’s Dean of Social Sciences, Lois Harder, said in an interview with the Martlet that she was excited to hear the news that a donor wanted to make such a significant impact in this area of research. 

“It’s really important to have more Indigenous scholars all together on campus, but I think this specialization…really matters a lot because I think it’s an area that’s quite understudied,” she said. 

“It’s a place where we can really make a big impact in terms of our knowledge and our contribution to the community and our ways of thinking about what mental health looks like from an Indigenous perspective.” 

McKean, whose donation is funding the position, said that he suggested using the renowned artist’s name to both further the public recognition of Chief Mungo Martin and also because he has special memories of the artist from times in his youth when he and his mother visited Thunderbird Park. 

“I can still recall the scent of cedar shavings from my childhood. I would stand and stare, watching Mungo Martin work on his carvings,” said McKean in a news release. 

UVic is currently interviewing for an Indigenous scholar and clinical psychologist to hire into the new position, which will initially have a five year term. Harder says that they hope to have a successful candidate to announce in March and that the candidate will begin working in July of this year. 

Although the specific direction of the new chair’s research and learning will depend on the person hired into the role, some of the qualifications UVic is looking for is experience or an interest in respectfully involving Indigenous communities and partners in the mental wellness research process and teaching with Indigenous knowledge or with community-based research.

“I think that kind of contribution [from] Indigenous knowledge holders to how we understand the world, to disrupting colonial ways of thinking about mental health, is very critical,” said Harder. 

“So it’s contributing to the general pool of knowledge, and also making the world better I think for all of us.”