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Illustrations by Ocean Kiana

Dr. Melanie Goodchild is an Anishinaabe (Ojibway) systems thinking & complexity scholar, a self-declared geek.  Dr. Goodchild, Anishinaabekwe (Ojibway woman) is moose clan from Biigtigong Nishnaabeg First Nation in Robinson-Superior Treaty territory, Ketegaunseebee (Garden River First Nation) in Robinson-Huron Treaty territory, Couchiching First Nation in Treaty 3 and Aroland First Nation in Treaty 9.  She holds a Ph.D. in Social & Ecological Sustainability from the University of Waterloo and she and her dissertation have been nominated for the prestigious Alumni Gold Medal award for 2023.  Her doctoral dissertation is titled, "Niigani Miinigowiziiwin (we give these gifts to the future)."

Dr. Goodchild is the first Academic Director of Makwa Waakaa'igan at Algoma University in Baawaating (place of the rapids) in Sault Ste. Marie, ON located within the Three Fires Confederacy territory (Anishinaabe, Odawa & Potawatomi peoples) on sacred lands set aside for education as envisioned by Chief Shingwauk for our children and for those as yet unborn. Located in Robinson-Huron Treaty territory, the land where Algoma University sits is the traditional territory of the Anishinaabek, specifically the Garden River and Batchewana First Nations.  Mukwa Waakaa'igan is a new national cultural centre of excellence; it is envisioned as a place for truth telling, healing, teaching and learning, cultural preservation and transformation.  Melanie is also currently a Systems Changer in Residence with the Canadian Association of Science Centres (CASC) and a contributing faculty member with the Wolf Willow Institute for Systems Learning, the Presencing Institute's u-school for Transformation, and the Academy for Systems Change.  Her doctoral work focused on decolonizing systems thinking and complexity science. Her first paper "Relational Systems Thinking" (Goodchild, 2021) was published in the inaugural issue of the Journal of Awareness-Based Systems Change from the Presencing Institute at MIT and it has had over 34,000 downloads to date.


About Me

Presenting niigani miinigowiziiwin

This beautiful gaa-gii-kwe-win (teaching) is the story of my walk in the woods with complexity.  Stories are mashkiki (medicine) and this spirit being has been brought to life through a collaboration with Greater Good Studio, Anishinaabe artist Ocean Kiana, and by yarning with my relatives Eleanor Skead and Bert Landon.  Miigwech (thank you) for being here, to share in the telling of this story.  You can view the digital flibook or click on the side arrows below to advance through the storybook.  You can also play the audio of me reading the story.

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Niigani Miinigowiziiwin StoryMelanie Goodchild
00:00 / 08:18

story info sheet

You can download a PDF handout about the Niigani Miinigowiziiwin story here.  Please feel free to share it with your communities of practice.  It features a QR code for easy access to this page.  We can walk together in the woods of complexity.


Illustrator Ocean Kiana's iPad recording, progress on the composition for Niigani Miinigowiziiwin (we give these gifts to the future)

Greater Good Studio

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Leaf Pattern Design

Turtle Island institute

With gratitude to the Waterloo Institute for social Innovation & Resilience (WISIr)

During my doctoral studies at the University of Waterloo I was offered protective space to establish a new entity, a think & do tank, called Turtle Island Institute (TII).  From 2016-2019 WISIR at UW incubated the initiative led by me and supported by Dr. Dan McCarthy, Dr. Frances Westley and my colleague Erin Alexiuk (PhD candidate at UW).  I would like to acknowledge the Elder's Circle who gifted us with so much wisdom and also the generosity of funders like the McConnell Foundation, the Mastercard Foundation, the Ontario Trillium Foundation, and the Suncor Energy Foundation for supporting me and my work with this non-profit start-up.  The initiative now resides on the MakeWay shared platform and I left in 2021 to pursue other pathways to sharing knowledge.  While some online resources may mention the institute and me as the founder, I am no longer affiliated with TII. 

Systems & complexity consulting

A systems approach

I am a doctoral candidate in Social & Ecological Sustainability at the University of Waterloo, School of Environment, Resources & Sustainability in the Faculty of Environment, studying systems thinking, social innovation and complexity science, and I am a Research Fellow with the Waterloo Institute for Social Innovation & Resilience.  To make real and lasting change we need to recognize that we are part of the systems we seek to change.  I facilitate collective wisdom journeys to uncover pathways to heal self, and heal systems.


My consulting company is Gaa-gitigewaad and it is located in Ketegaunseebee First Nation.  I help communities & teams engaged in systems transformation work get a solid grounding in systems principles and practices from a uniquely Anishinaabeg perspective. 

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