Picture of  Cassandra J. Opikokew Wajuntah (on leave)

Cassandra J. Opikokew Wajuntah (on leave) INCA, BAJ, MPA Director, IPHRC

Cassandra is from Canoe Lake Cree First Nation and was raised in Meadow Lake in Northern Saskatchewan. She graduated at the top of her class in 2009 from the University of Regina with a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism (BAJ) and a Certificate in Indigenous Communication Arts (INCA). In 2012, she finished her Master's of Public Administration (MPA) where she focused on Indigenous post-secondary education funding. As a PhD candidate in public policy, she was the recipient of a CIHR Doctoral Research Award ($108,000) for her dissertation entitled The Indian Solution to the Policy Problem: Developing an Indigenous Policymaking Model to Address First Nations Health Disparities. She is currently working with Indigenous health organizations in Saskatchewan and Hawai’i to examine how self-determined Indigenous health policymaking models are more effective at improving the health of Indigenous people than Western colonial models. She was most recently a Visiting Scholar at the U of Hawai’i's John A. Burns School of Medicine in the Department of Native Hawaiian Health while she worked with her community partners throughout the Hawaiian Islands.

Cassandra served in various roles at the Indigenous Peoples’ Health Research Centre (IPHRC) from 2010-16 under the late Dr. Jo-Ann Episkenew, whom she credits as a pivotal mentor, friend and influence in her work. During her time at IPHRC, Cassandra assisted Dr. Episkenew with the creation of the Indigenous Research and Engagement Platform (IREP) for the Saskatchewan Centre of Patient-Oriented Research (SCPOR) and the transition of IPHRC to the Johnson-Shoyama Graduate School of Public Policy. She currently resides in Fort Qu'Appelle, SK with her husband Justin, a member of Standing Buffalo Dakota First Nation, their six dogs and their four wild toddlers.