Image of Dr Marlyn Bennett

Dr. Marlyn Bennett

Pronouns: Ikwe (woman) / She / Her / Niin (me)


Associate Professor

Faculty of Social Work, Calgary Campus

Associate Professor

Werklund School of Education

Child Health & Wellness Researcher

Alberta Children's Hospital Research Institute

Contact information

Phone number

Office: 403.220.2212



Marlyn Bennett, PhD, has over two decades of expertise dedicated to serving Indigenous and non-Indigenous governments, organizations, and communities in senior research and academic capacities. With an educational background that encompasses a PhD in Interdisciplinary Studies focusing on Social Work, Community Health Sciences, and Native Studies from the University of Manitoba, Bennett has built a career centered on the lived experiences of Indigenous women and youth, especially within the child welfare system and sexually exploited youth. Her research is characterized by an interdisciplinary approach, employing qualitative methodologies with a strong emphasis on narrative inquiry, digital storytelling, and arts-based approaches.

Dr. Bennett has held prestigious positions, including the National Director of Research for the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society of Canada and Principal Editor-in-Chief of the First Peoples Child & Family Journal, demonstrating her leadership and commitment to Indigenous perspectives. Her research expertise is extensive, particularly in conducting longitudinal studies and developing innovative projects like photovoice with Indigenous women and digital storytelling with former youth in care. She has a proven track record in regulatory and management experience, having managed Indigenous child welfare boards and held significant regulatory responsibilities in Manitoba. Dr. Bennett's strategic development skills are evident in her success in designing, developing, and executing national research programs and strategies, reflecting a deep understanding of the complexities within Indigenous contexts.

Currently, Dr. Bennett serves as an Associate Professor and Canada Research Chair Tier II in Indigenous Children's Wellbeing at the University of Calgary, in both the Faculty of Social Work and the Werklund School of Education. Her academic contributions are notable, with over a decade of experience in higher education, teaching at both college and university levels, and expertise in instructional design, facilitation, curriculum development, and student assessment.

Dr. Bennett's work has earned her numerous awards, including the prestigious Canada Research Chair Tier II in Indigenous Children's Wellbeing. She has also received recognition from the Manitoba Research Alliance and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, among others. Her commitment to improving the wellbeing of Indigenous communities through education, research, and policy development is unwavering, making her a leading voice in the field of Indigenous studies and child welfare.


Participation in university strategic initiatives


Course number Course title Semester
EDUC 530 Indigenous Education Fall 2024
SOWK 615 Trauma Informed Practice with Indigenous Peoples & Communities Spring 2025


Bridging Cultures and Generations Through Digital Storytelling to Understand Indigenous Children’s Wellbeing

My project, supported by the Canada Research Chair, Tier 2, on Indigenous Children's Wellbeing and the One Child Every Child Branch Award, is dedicated to enhancing the well-being and cultural identity of Indigenous children and youth, including those who are neurodivergent, queer, trans, and two-spirited, through the innovative use of Digital Storytelling (DST). In this journey, I am deeply engaged in facilitating a series of five-day DST cultural gatherings that not only aim to deepen understanding and share stories of well-being but also celebrate the rich, diverse heritages of our participants. These gatherings are a fusion of DST with traditional Indigenous ceremonies, art, and land-based activities, addressing the critical gap in culturally relevant DST resources while aiming to nurture resilience, health, and success among Indigenous and neurodivergent youth.

A core element of my research focuses on how the integration of DST with Indigenous practices can significantly improve participants' well-being, cultural identity, and resilience. An essential aspect of this project is the intergenerational transmission of knowledge, where we aim to connect technology with the profound Indigenous relationship to the land and waters, facilitating a dialogue between generations that honours Indigenous ancestors while looking forward to the future. To support this vision, I plan to establish an Indigenous Advisory Council, conduct land-based cultural camps, and encourage intergenerational learning, with a strong emphasis on comprehensive community involvement. My dissemination strategy is designed to not only share the findings and successes broadly—enhancing public awareness and informing policy—but also to highlight the innovative connection between technology, traditional knowledge, and the natural world, ensuring that the project’s insights resonate across communities and generations.

Healing Journeys: Body Mapping with Indigenous Girls and Women

This research is supported through a grant in partnership with Dr. Letourneau's AVA network as part of the Indigenous Girls and Women's Health Hub, which embarks on an explorative and expressive journey into the lives of Indigenous girls and women who have experienced the child welfare system. Utilizing body mapping as a therapeutic and artistic tool, this initiative aims to document, understand, and visually represent the complex interplay of trauma, resilience, cultural identity, and resilience that these girls and women navigate.

The core objectives of this project are to document the personal and collective healing journeys of Indigenous girls and women, amplify their voices to share experiences and insights into the child welfare system's impacts, foster resilience by exploring the role of cultural identity and community connections, and generate insights to inform culturally sensitive child welfare practices and policies. Through a series of workshops facilitated by trauma-informed art facilitators and supported by Indigenous Elders, participants will engage in body mapping - creating life-sized representations of their experiences, emotions, and pathways to healing on canvas. This process not only fosters self-discovery and healing but also serves as a powerful platform for these girls and women to reclaim their narratives and affirm their identities without having to articulate in words their experience with violence through their bodies but rather through art. I envision the outcomes of this project to extend beyond academic insights. By providing a space for these girls and women to express themselves through body mapping art, which aims to contribute to their healing journey, offer valuable perspectives for improving care practices, and inspire policy reforms within the child welfare system. The stories of resilience that emerge will underscore the importance of incorporating Indigenous knowledge and practices in supporting the well-being of Indigenous girls and women and contributing to a deeper understanding and respect for their lived experiences and cultural heritage. 

More information about the project can be found at 

Digital storytelling with Indigenous families long after child welfare involvement:

This project, developed for my Start-Up Funds, is an innovative intergenerational digital storytelling workshop designed specifically for Indigenous families who have experienced the child welfare system but are no longer involved due to the children aging out of care. This initiative aims to explore the process of family repatriation and reconnection, learning how these families navigated the challenges of becoming a united family once again. The workshop, set to unfold over five days for each participating family, is grounded in the belief that digital storytelling can serve as a powerful modality for healing. By weaving together the narratives of Indigenous families with previous child welfare involvement, I seek to understand and document their journey toward reconciliation and healing within the family unit.

Key components of the workshop include:

  • Engaging participants in reflecting on their family's journey post-child welfare involvement, emphasizing the strengths and resilience that guided their reunification.
  • Utilizing digital storytelling as a means to share these profound experiences, thereby contributing to a broader understanding of family dynamics in the post-child welfare context.
  • Creating a supportive environment where families can explore their narratives under the guidance of an Elder and graduate students, who will play pivotal roles in facilitating the storytelling process and providing technical assistance.
  • The project stands as a testament to the power of storytelling in fostering healing, unity, and a deeper connection to one's roots and identity. Through the shared stories of triumphs and challenges, we aim to illuminate the path of reconnection for Indigenous families, offering insights that can inform future policies and support mechanisms.

This project not only aims to empower participating families but also to enrich the knowledge and understanding of social work students and professionals, providing them with a deeper appreciation of the complexities and nuances of family reunification in Indigenous communities.

Storytelling Through Rocks: A Journey Across Life's Stages and Identities

This project, "Storytelling Through Rocks: A Journey Across Life's Stages and Identities," in partnership with the Faculty of Social Work's Kiipitakyoyis - Grandmother's Lodge, invites participants to an immersive three-day initiative that merges Indigenous teachings with the essence of nature. This project encourages student participants to select rocks from Calgary's riverbanks, turning these ancient storytellers into canvases reflecting pivotal life stages, from infancy through elderhood through the Medicine Wheel.

Participants will paint these rocks to depict their unique stories, with the Medicine Wheel guiding their exploration of life, wisdom, and community. This project culminates in sharing circles, enriched by the insights of Elders, where participants will weave threads of connection to nature, each other, age-old teachings and the art of storytelling. This transformative process not only fosters personal exploration and cultural deepening but also promises unity and a legacy for future generations. "Storytelling Through Rocks" celebrates life's journey through art, reflection, storytelling, and the profound connection we share with the Earth. It offers a unique blend of personal exploration, cultural connection, identity reinforcement, and community building, ensuring a rich, introspective experience for all involved, particularly our social work students. Join us as we journey through life's stages, one rock and one story at a time.

More Information

Select Journal Publications:

Kenny, K., Wall-Wieler, E., Kayla, F., Burton, M., Dreaver, C., Champagne, M., Nickel, N., Brownell, M., Rocke, C., Bennett, M., Urquia, M.L., Anderson, M., (2024). Identifying Newborn Discharge to Child Protective Services: Comparing Discharge Codes from Birth Hospitalization Records and Child Protection Case Files. Annals of Epidemiology, 91, 44-50. 

Rieger, K. L., Horton, M.; Cook, L.; Copenace, S.; Bennett, M.; Phillips-Beck, W.; Buss, M.; Chudyk, A.; Hornan, B.; Horrill, T.; Linton, J.; McPherson, K.; Rattray, J.; Murray, K.; Sinclair, R.; Lounsbury, K.; Wilson, J.; Schultz, A. (2024). What we learned from the Nokomisag/Grandmothers: Adapting the 4 Rs for storytelling in Indigenous health research. Social Science & Medicine

Bennett, M. (2019). A Review of the Literature on the Benefits and Drawbacks of Participatory Action Research. First Peoples Child & Family Review, 14(1), 109–122.

Bennett, M. (2019). Digital storytelling with First Nations emerging adults in extensions of care and transitioning from care in Manitoba. Journal of Concurrent Disorders, 1(3), 58-77.

Cook, C., Diffey, L., MacKinnon, M., Bennett, M., et al. (2013). The development of an international network of Indigenous health. International Journal of Circumpolar Health, 72(Suppl. 1): 978-980.

Bennett, M., Spillett, L., & Dunn, C. (2012). Jumping through hoops: An overview of the experiences and perspective of Aboriginal mothers involved with child welfare in Manitoba. First Peoples Child & Family Review, 7(1), 76-83.

Bennett, M. & Shangreaux, C. (2005). Applying Maslow’s hierarchy theory to the research needs of FNCFS agencies participating in cycle II of the Canadian incident study of reported child abuse and neglect. First Peoples Child & Family Review, 2(1): 89-116. 

Trocmé, N., Blackstock, C. & Bennett M. (2004). Child maltreatment investigations among Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal families in Canada. In Violence Against Women: An International and Interdisciplinary Journal, Volume 10, Number 8, August 2004: 901-916. 

Edited Books

Albert, J., Badry, D., Fuchs, D., Choate, P., Bennett, M., & Montgomery, H.M. (2022). Walking Together: The Future of Indigenous Child Welfare. University of Regina Press.

Badry, D., Montgomery, H.M., Kikulwe, D., Bennett, M. & Fuchs, D.(Eds.) (2018). Imagining child welfare in the spirit of reconciliation: Voices from the prairies. University of Regina Press. 

Oakes, J., Riewe, R.R., Bennett, M. & Chisholm, B. (Eds.) (2001). Pushing the margins: Native and northern studies. Winnipeg, MB: Native Studies Press, University of Manitoba.

Book Chapters

Bennett, M. (August 2023). Chapter 24: Reconnecting with Spirit: Teachings from our Relatives and Earth. In M. Kress and K. Horn-Miller (Eds.), Land as Relation: Teaching and learning through place, people, and practices. Canadian Scholar’s Press. 

Bennett, M. & McKenzie, B. (2023). Policy Making and Indigenous Peoples in Canada. In B. McKenaie and B. Wharf (Eds.), Connecting policy to practice in the human services (pp. 243-271). Don Mills, ON: Oxford University Press. 

Bennett, M., & Krone, A. (2018). A Summary: On the edge of life between two worlds: Community narratives on the vulnerability of marginalized Indigenous girls. In D. Badry, H. M. Montgomery, D. Kikulwe, M. Bennett, & D. Fuchs (Eds.), Imagining child welfare in the spirit of reconciliation: Voices from the prairies. (Vol. 6, pp. 139-162). University of Regina Press.

Gosek, G. & Bennett, M. (2012). A day’s discourse among Indigenous scholars and practitioners about Indigenous child welfare work in Canada. In Fuchs, D., McKay, S., and Brown, I., Awakening the spirit: Voices from the prairies. Regina, SK: Canadian Plains Research Centre Press.

Bennett, M. (2009). Jumping through hoops: A Manitoba study examining experiences and reflections of Aboriginal mothers involved with child welfare in Manitoba. In Passion for Action in Child and Family Services: Voices from the Prairies, by S. McKay, D. Fuchs, and I. Brown. Regina, SK: Canadian Plains Research Centre.

Bennett, M.  (2007). Aboriginal children’s rights: Is Canada keeping its promise? The Rights of the Child in Canada: A Retrospective, by K. Covell and B. Howe (Eds.). Waterloo, ON: Wilfrid Laurier University Press.

Blackstock, C., Brown, I., & Bennett, M. (2007). Reconciliation: Rebuilding the Canadian child welfare system to better serve Aboriginal children and youth. In I. Brown, F. Chaze, D. Fuchs, J. Lafrance, S. McKay, & S. Thomas-Prokop (Eds.), Putting a human face on child welfare: Voices from the Prairies (pp. 59-87). Prairie Child Welfare Consortium.

Bennett, M., & Blackstock, C. (2006). First Nations child and family services and Indigenous knowledge as a framework for research, policy, and practice. In N. Freymond & G. Cameron (Eds.), Towards positive systems of child and family welfare. Toronto, ON: University of Toronto Press.

Bennett, M. (2001). Independent First Nations child welfare law in Manitoba. In J. Oakes, R.R. Riewe, M. Bennett, & B. Chisholm (Eds.), Pushing the margins: Native and northern studies. Winnipeg, MB: Native Studies Press, University of Manitoba.

Information, Factsheets, and Infographics

Bennett, M. (2022). The implementation of Jordan’s Principle in Manitoba - Infographic 1 based on The implementation of Jordan’s Principle in Manitoba: Final report by Sinha, V., Sangster, M., Gerlach, A.J., Bennett, M., Lavoie, J.G, Lach, L., Balfour, M., & Folster, S. (2022).

Bennett, M. (2023). The Manitoba Approach to Jordan’s Principle - - Infographic 2 based on The implementation of Jordan’s Principle in Manitoba: Final report by Sinha, V., Sangster, M., Gerlach, A.J., Bennett, M., Lavoie, J.G, Lach, L., Balfour, M., & Folster, S. (2022).

Bennett, M. (2023). Different pathways to Jordan’s Principle - - Infographic 3 based on The implementation of Jordan’s Principle in Manitoba: Final report by Sinha, V., Sangster, M., Gerlach, A.J., Bennett, M., Lavoie, J.G, Lach, L., Balfour, M., & Folster, S. (2022).

Bennett, M., & Auger, A. (2013). Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal children in child protection services. [Factsheet]. National Collaborating Centre for Aboriginal Health

Bennett, M. (2009, 2013). Understanding neglect in First Nations families. [Factsheet]. National Collaborating Centre for Aboriginal Health

Bennett, M., & Auger, A. (2013). The rights of First Nations children in Canada. [Factsheet]. National Collaborating Centre for Aboriginal Health.

Bennett, M. (2014). Improving First Nations children’s health with social justice education for all children. [Factsheet]. National Collaborating Centre for Aboriginal Health.

Bennett, M. (2013). The rights of Indigenous children in Canada. [Factsheet]. National Collaborating Centre for Aboriginal Health.

Bennett, M. (2004). A general profile on First Nations Child Welfare in Canada. [Information sheet]. First Nations Child and Family Caring Society of Canada.

Internal Government Reports

Sinha, V., Sangster, K., Gerlach, A.J., Bennett, M., Lavoie, J.G., Lach, L., Balfour, M., & Folster, S. (2021). The implementation of Jordan’s Principle in Manitoba: Final report. Winnipeg, MB: Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs.

Sinha, V., Sangster, M., Arbati, K., Gerlach, A.J., Bennett, M., Hart, J., Folster, S., Lavoie, J.G., & Lach, L. (2021). The implementation of Jordan’s Principle in Manitoba: Interim report. Winnipeg, MB: Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs.

Manitoba Advocate for Children and Youth & Bennett, M. (unreleased 2017). We each have a role: Making meaning and implementing change in an age of reconciliation. Winnipeg, MB: Manitoba Advocate for Children and Youth. 

Manitoba Advocate for Children and Youth & Bennett, M. (2016). Living on the edge of life between two worlds: Narratives on the vulnerability of marginalized Indigenous girls. Winnipeg, MB: Manitoba Advocate for Children and Youth.

Bennett, M. (2009). FASD literature review: A scan of the literature, FASD best practice models and service standards.Winnipeg, MB: Standing Committee on Child and Family Services.

Community Reports

Bennett, M., with Brown, M. & Nelson, T. (2023). Refreshing New Directions’ SEY Training and Curriculum Approaches: Insights and Recommendations from Interviews Conducted with Selected Stakeholders and Survivors of SEY in Manitoba (2021-2022). Winnipeg, MB: New Directions.

Bennett, M. (2023). Best practices for working with sexually exploited/trafficked youth in the Canadian context: A literature review. Winnipeg, MB: New Directions.

Bennett, M. (2021). Ka Ni Kanichihk’s Medicine Heart Lodge Program and Medicine Heart Lodge Project: Creating culturally safe services for Indigenous women experiencing sexual violence in response to the Supreme Court of Canada decision on R. v. Barton. Court of Queen’s Bench, Winnipeg, MB.