INDIGENOUS APPROACHES TO DATA AND EVALUATION
Indigenous communities and governments have steadily asserted their ability to access data about their citizens, to manage the data, and to shape the methods used to research and gather this data. The terms “research,” “evaluation,” and “data” have had painful connotations for many Indigenous people in Canada. There are numerous examples throughout history of unethical, exploitative, and otherwise harmful research studies performed by academics and governments on Indigenous people, communities, and lands. Even when not intentionally malicious or harmful, such research was often culturally or contextually irrelevant or inappropriate, and based on models where the government and academic institutions exerted control and influence over Indigenous peoples.
Western scientific approaches to research have often restricted a deeper understanding of Indigenous peoples and their perspectives. For example, in some studies the interpretation of resulting statistics focuses on a damage-centered approach, which emphasizes Indigenous peoples’ poor health and social well-being. This Toolkit invites users of this information to consider an alternative way to think about research practices, data generation, and Indigenous socioeconomic well-being.
Real Case Study
The Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe recognized that Federal census data did not give them the data they needed about their community; so, in 2012, they decided to carry out their own survey. The idea to run their own survey emerged from the idea that “we can’t change what we don’t know.”
Did You Know?
- The FNIGC’s A First Nation Data Strategy “…envisions a First Nations‑led, national network of regional information governance centres across the country equipped with the knowledge, skills, and infrastructure needed to serve the information needs of First Nations people and communities.”
- The ITK’s National Inuit Strategy on Research “…identifies practical steps to advance Inuit self-determination in research as the means for fostering respectful and beneficial research that serves the needs and priorities of Inuit.”
- The International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs (IWGIA) launched the Global Indigenous Data Alliance in 2019.
- The Māori Data Sovereignty Network advances Māori aspirations for collective and individual well-being.
- The Sustainable Heritage Network (SHN) offers workshops, tutorials, and resources to assist communities and institutions that are involved in digital stewardship.
- The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Data Archive (ATSIDA) connects Indigenous communities with their research data.
Decolonizing Research and Indigenizing Data
When an Indigenous government takes control of the data collected about their people, they gain the power to determine the stories that data tells. These governments can then use that data to support their efforts toward self-determination and sovereignty. The Toolkit aims to empower SGIGs to set their own goals around socioeconomic well-being, and to access and create useful data to support decision making and work with other governments in a variety of processes and negotiations. Consequently, this Toolkit contributes to data sovereignty and decolonizing and Indigenizing data, research, and evaluation.
The theories and practices of Indigenous approaches to data and evaluation are topics that have been explored in academic research and public discourse. This Toolkit is shaped by these resources. For resources that SGIGs may wish to use in applying Indigenous approaches to data and evaluation, see the downloadable document “Indigenous Approaches to Data & Evaluation Reading List”.
Tuck, E. (2009). Suspending damage: A letter to communities. Harvard Educational Review, 79(3), 409-417.
Data Sovereignty and OCAP®
Indigenous governments have the authority to be stewards of data about their citizens. This includes the authority to collect, access, and utilize this data, as well as responsibilities to protect privacy.
The First Nations Information Governance Centre (FNIGC) has developed a set of principles related to these authorities, known as OCAP® (Ownership, Control, Access, and Possession). These principles were developed as a response to persistent problems with the way research on First Nations has been conducted.
The OCAP® principles are an expression of data sovereignty, and many First Nations and related organizations have endorsed these standards. While the OCAP® tool has been developed by a First Nations organization, the underlying principles and the concept of data sovereignty may apply for all Indigenous governments and communities.
The following resources discuss OCAP® in more detail:
- First Nations Information Governance Centre. (2014). Ownership Control, Access and Possession (OCAP™): The Path to First Nations Information Governance.
- First Nations Information Governance Centre. (2014). Understanding the First Nations Principles of OCAP®.
- The Alberta First Nations Information Governance Centre. Ownership, Control, Access and Possession.