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About Us

Our research cluster seeks to catalyze a conversation about science, with specific application to understanding Indigenous history and the environment via both empirical evidence and critical social theory.

Our focus includes the Indigenous past, its material and historical manifestations, the environmental context within which it occurred, and the study of this past. Our work is interdisciplinary and ovelaps with Indigenous studies, geochemistry, philosophy, archaeology, history, legal studies, anthropology, and museology.

Indigenous/Science?

We signal the complexity and overlap of our goals and interests in our cluster title by calling this ‘Indigenous/Science,’ allowing multiple interpretations of its meaning, including the science of Indigenous traditions, science by Indigenous scholars, the Indigenous study of science and scientists, the application of science to Indigenous contexts, and the exploration of the cultural conceptions of Indigeneity and science. 

Who We Are

Our cluster integrates four research communities:

  1. archaeologists and physical scientists focusing on molecular and chemical analysis of material things;
  2. First Nations communities interested in forming research partnerships with research institutions in the exploration of Indigenous history;
  3. scholars who explore Indigenous cultural traditions; and 
  4. scholars who explore the philosophy and culture of scholarship and knowledge production.

What We Do

We are driven by three principal ideas.

  • First, we believe that science – which can be variously defined but includes both expectations of empirical commonality and the operation of recurring causal forces – is a valuable practice in any cultural context. We propose that empirical evidence, when sought widely, forms a landscape of data through which different explanations and understanding can weave.
  • Second, we argue that Indigenous traditional knowledge is robust scholarship comparable to other frameworks of science, though often couched in ways that non-Indigenous scholars may not perceive or comprehend. 
  • Third, we argue that the identification of evidence is not always obvious and is never divorced from the cultural context of the scholar. While we seek equitable partnerships between non-Indigenous scholars and Indigenous scholars and communities, we acknowledge that this can be difficult.

Our research cluster includes Indigenous communities and scholars to assess the efficacy of our efforts. For the latter, the creation of the research cluster and its negotiations and developments will be the subject of study, a reflexive stance that creates an additional layer of interdisciplinarity.

Our History

Our cluster began as a Peter Wall Institute for Advanced Studies Wall Centre Workshop in the fall of 2017 that drew geochemists, Indigenous scholars, archaeologists, and social scientists together to discuss opportunities for interdisciplinary partnerships. From this, a core group emerged that applied for a UBC VPRI Research Excellence Cluster, which was awarded in 2018. We spent a year in consultation with scholars at UBC and with seven Indigenous communities gauging interest in seeking opportunities for research partnerships. Three specific partnerships emerged from this work:

Musqueam: geochemists from UBC are working with Musqueam archaeologists to conduct sourcing studies on lithic materials and belongings from Musqueam heritage sites that are held in repositories to map resource procurement patterns in history.

Metlakatla: archaeologists from UBC are working with Metlakatla archaeologists to conduct light isotopic, proteomic, and ancient DNA analyses of fish remains from heritage sites to better understand resource management practices in history.

IRS: archaeologists from UBC are working with an Indigenous community to apply remote sensing technology in the effort to locate graves associated with an Indian Residential School.