Jessica Dunkin, PhD

Education: PhD


Research Statement

Jess was granted a PhD in History from Carleton University in 2012. During graduate school, she conducted research on outdoor recreation in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries; her Master’s considered girls’ summer camps in the 1920s and 1930s, while her doctoral dissertation examined settler canoe culture at the end of the long nineteenth century. As a SSHRC Postdoctoral Fellow in the School of Kinesiology and Health Studies at Queen’s University, Jess studied physical activity programming for working-class women in the decades around the turn of the twentieth century. Her first book, a monograph about the social and spatial politics of canoeing in late-nineteenth-century North America, was published by the University of Toronto Press (UTP) in 2019.

Since 2015, Jess has worked at the NWT Recreation and Parks Association, a non-profit organization that envisions a territory where everyone has access to recreation programs and spaces that foster healthy families, strong cultures, and vibrant communities. After four-and-a-half years as the Director of On the Land Programs, Jess was appointed to a newly created position of Director of Research and Innovation in August 2019.

Through her work with the NWTRPA and as an independent scholar, Jess maintains an active research agenda, primarily in the areas of land-based programming, the history of recreation, physical activity and aging, and gender studies.

Research Program in the NWT

Jess is currently involved in collaborative research projects related to canoeing, land-based programming, aging, and recreation at residential schools.

Along with collaborator Dr. John B. Zoe, Jess has an essay on the Tłı̨chǫ Wha Dǫ Ehtǫ K’è (Trails of Our Ancestors) in a forthcoming collection on the politics of canoeing. She is also at work on a journal article on anti-colonial approaches to risk management for land-based programming with Walter Bezha and other members of Ɂehdzo Got’ı̨nę Gots’ę́ Nákedı (Sahtú Renewable Resources Board).

Jess is part of a collective of researchers and practitioners developing culturally appropriate evaluation methodologies and tools for Indigenous-led land-based programming in the North. She is the principal investigator on a research project exploring the relationship between recreation and aging well in the NWT. She is the project manager of a team researching and developing a travelling exhibit on recreation at northern residential schools, hostels, and day schools.

Jess also writes about recreation, the environment, and culture for publications like Up Here Magazine and Barista Magazine, and websites like The Otter, Active History, and Spacing.

Significant Contributions

Canoe and Canvas: Life at the Encampments of the American Canoe Association, 1880-1910. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2019.

“Hot Stuff” and “A Dene Perspective on Climate Change.” Edge YK (May/June 2019): 18-21.

“The Canoe.” In Symbols of Canada. Edited by Michael Dawson, Catherine Gidney, and Donald Wright. Toronto: Between the Lines Press, 2018.

Co-presented with Walter Bezha. “Dechı̨ta Nezǫ Gots’udı́ (Living on the Land in a Good Way): Decolonization, Indigenous Knowledges, and Risk Management Planning.” Workshop delivered at Wilderness Risk Management Conference, Portland, OR. 5 October 2018.

“Rhizomes: An Interview with Jess Dunkin.” Blog post for 20 June 2018.

 “The Best Spring Skiing in the World.” Up Here Magazine. March 2018.