Reconciling Indigenous science with Western science is crucial now more than ever. For too long, Indigenous People, culture and knowledge has been disregarded. Indigenous Peoples have not had equitable educational, funding and leadership opportunities, nor adequate representation in academia, research, government and funding institutions. However, both Western and Indigenous approaches can greatly complement one another and contribute to modern science.
As part of Canada’s efforts to address reconciliation, the federal research granting agencies have released a new strategic plan, Setting new directions to support Indigenous research and research training in Canada 2019 – 2022. Developed jointly with Indigenous Peoples, the plan provides new models to support Indigenous research and training. Reconciliation requires political will, joint leadership, trust building, accountability, transparency, substantial investments and constructive action to address the ongoing legacies of colonialism.
Photo: Byron Harmon
This strategic plan identifies new ways of doing research by and with Indigenous communities, who have expressed a greater need to set their own research priorities and lead their own research. The phrase, “Nothing about us without us” was often repeated in engagement sessions during the development of the plan. Indigenous People expressed “an urgent need for long-term research relationships built on trust, respect and mutual interests.” These partnerships take time and must involve the entire community.
The strategic plan gathers First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples’ stories, perspectives, needs, concerns and aspirations for Indigenous research. Community-based research based on mutually supportive partnerships has the potential directly address the well-being of Indigenous communities, including sustainable socio-economic development.
However, many participants viewed current research and funding models as reinforcing power imbalances that negatively affect Indigenous spiritual, mental, physical and emotional well-being. Furthermore, stronger mechanisms are needed to ensure research is conducted in an ethical manner with Indigenous communities and on Indigenous land, and that researchers provide adequate information on their research and obtain consent from the community.
A top priority highlighted in the strategic plan is the use, storage and security of Indigenous data by external researchers. Indigenous Peoples have repeatedly requested greater ownership and control over Indigenous data. Mismanagement of data has harmed Indigenous communities and misinterpretation of data has contributed to the continued misunderstanding and marginalization of Indigenous Peoples, cultures and knowledge systems.
The strategic plan presents four strategic directions that reflect new models to support Indigenous research and training. These strategic directions, objectives and mechanisms also highlight key commitments by the federal research funding agencies to build new models for Indigenous research and research training. The strategic directions cover building meaningful and respectful relationships with First Nations, Métis and Inuit peoples, supporting their research priorities, creating greater funding accessibility, and championing Indigenous leadership, self-determination and capacity in research.
These four strategic directions will take time, sustained efforts and collaboration to implement over the coming years. Building respectful relationships with Indigenous Peoples and the research community through ongoing engagement will continue to guide future efforts.