Meet Emma Noyes

Meet Emma Noyes

Until Feb. 1, 2023, we were Group Health Foundation. This post was written under our former identity. To learn more about our new name, read our announcement here.

Emma standing beside a lake and patch of flowers dressed in black pants, tan sweatshirt, denim vest, and woven hat carrying her son wrapped in a blanket.

Emma Noyes holding her son near Lake Roosevelt during the 2022 intertribal river canoe journey to Kettle Falls.

Emma Noyes is Group Health Foundation’s new research director and advances research efforts to support the long-term visions of grantee organizations working to build power in Washington state. She guides the foundation’s implementation of values-aligned research and ensures GHF can translate that information into action.

Emma brings expansive knowledge and expertise to the role, having previously worked at Indigenous and community-based research institutes at the University of Washington and the University of New Mexico. Most recently, she was a program officer with Empire Health Foundation in Spokane.

What initially drew Emma to GHF was the articulation of its values. “Specifically, being able to say that racial equity and collective liberation are going to be the center of our focus was very important to me and made me think, ‘Wow, I really want to learn more.’”

Having developed a strong interest in research ethics, Emma recognizes that for many communities, including her own, research has created harm, perpetuated stereotypes, and wholly undervalued or overlooked community knowledge and expertise. In her new role, she strives to maximize community benefit through the research division’s approach to community-driven research, communities’ ownership of and access to data, and the dissemination of information that inspires action.

Emma is an enrolled member of the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation and grew up in the Omak district of the reservation where she spent a lot of time getting to know the land. “I was fortunate to be from a family that spent a lot of time on the land and on the water.” Gathering traditional foods, whether for a community feast or to keep an elder’s cupboards full, is how Emma learned to be a good helper. She lives by the cultural guidance to “recognize your gifts, hone your gifts, and use them to help the people.” In her culture, gifts are not simply innate abilities or talents, they include emotions and the full range of capacities that individuals, communities, and the natural world share.

Emma comes from a family of creative people. Their influence on her work is clear in her holistic approach. “I was raised by a family of artists. My dad is a carver of stone, wood, bone, and horn, and my mom plays the upright bass.” Emma shares, “I’ve had the privilege of having a dual career embracing art and doing work as an illustrator and being able to bring art into the public health sphere.”

Emma has lived in Spokane for nearly a decade. While different from her upbringing in Okanogan County, living on the ancestral homelands of the Spokane people reminds her of her youth. She sees it as a wonderful place to be immersed in Indigenous cultural revitalization work, especially around language.

“My daughter goes to a full-day immersion school here in Spokane. We’re hoping our son will also get to go there when he’s older,” she says. “That’s what brings me to living in Spokane. I think it’s the only place where my daughter could really have that experience, and that’s part of what grounds us here.”

A person with their back facing the camera standing on a blue industrial lift painting animal illustrations on a white wall in black ink.

Emma painting a mural in Nelson, BC, a city on the traditional homelands of the Lakes band of the Colville Tribes.