Department of Geography and Planning

Department of Geography and Planning
Department of Geography and Planning
Portrait of Sarah Nelson

Sarah Nelson

Postdoctoral Fellow
Mackintosh-Corry Hall, Room E320

I was born and grew up in Eastern Ontario on the territory of the Omàmìwinninì (Algonquin). I received an Honours Bachelor of Science from the University of Toronto in 2006, a Master of Arts from the University of Northern British Columbia in 2012, and a PhD from the University of Toronto in 2019. My research foci are twofold: exploring experiences within health services for Indigenous people and older people, with a focus on those who experience systemic exclusion and discrimination within health care services; and investigating links between self-governance and health on a community level.


  • BSc. in Human Biology (University of Toronto)

  • MA in First Nations Studies (University of Northern British Columbia)

  • PhD in Human Geography (University of Toronto)

Research interests:

My research addresses the intersections between place, justice, and health, in particular relating to urban Indigenous peoples and people living off-reserve, based on ten years’ experience using critical methodologies including community-engaged research methods and decolonizing research, as well as empirical methods of qualitative research. It draws on urban, Indigenous, and health geographies, which emphasize relationships among political actors that include the land, the built environment, and the natural environment. A primary research focus of mine is how interactions with various aspects of the colonial state over time have impacted Indigenous peoples’ relationships with one another and with the land, and how people find ways of healing as communities that are novel and creative and deeply rooted in Indigenous knowledges, laws, practices, and places. This is based on the theoretical concept of Indigenous community resurgence, which asserts Indigenous people and communities as agents of change, memory, and governance – even while communities experience tension and conflict within settler colonial situations.

My current research project, entitled “Responsibility, Resilience, and Memory: Perspectives on Oral Histories and Aging From Older Indigenous Knowledge Keepers in the Ottawa Valley,” builds on my community work and activism in and around the community of Perth, Ontario, Canada, in the valley of the Kiji Sibi, also known as the Ottawa River. The research brings together multiple generations of Algonquin and other Indigenous community members in a series of events, with the goals of exploring the role of memory with respect to healthy aging and community sustainability in the context of local oral histories; supporting and celebrating older Indigenous people’s contributions to the strength of communities, and allowing participants the opportunity to share teachings, community knowledge, histories, and language related to land.