One of our aims as a cluster is to make explicit the principles that inform our work. In consultation with our Indigenous community parterns, we’ve drafted an initial statement of the goals and values of this work. This is intended as a living document that we expect to revisit and revise as the cluster evolves and applies the principles of UBC's Indigenous Strategic Plan and Indigenous Research Support Initiative. Our effort is to work toward the larger ambition of transforming our institutions' relationships to Indigneous people.
The overarching motivation for this research cluster is to move beyond the acknowledgment of historical and ongoing injustice in the treatment of Indigenous peoples in Canada. We aim to work as a collective to cultivate equitable, respectful and transparent working partnerships between Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities; we see this as one way to advance the goals of overcoming persistent structural inequities and realizing actionable justice.
Our more specific goal is to develop a framework for partnerships between university researchers and Indigenous communities through which the capacities and resources of the Indigenous/Science research cluster can be offered in support of Indigenous-led initiatives, primarily ones that address community-defined questions about Indigenous histories and landscape use.
Commitments of practice
Relationships first: our ambition is to forge long-term, working relationships with Indigenous communities in the context of which joint initiatives can be developed that address community interests and needs.
Community-led initiatives: we are committed to working on questions that Indigenous communities identify as relevant and important to them. Any project we take up will be developed in partnership, rather than set by legislated mandate or pre-determined research goals. We will pro-actively recruit the expertise and seek out the funding necessary to follow through on these initiatives, but we work at the invitation of our Indigenous partners.
Team work and expertise: we understand that our research capacities – chiefly archaeological methods and the analysis of belongings – are just one relevant resource. We are attentive to the limits of our expertise; we recognize that the knowledge and expertise of Indigenous partners is crucial to any work we do.
Transparency and accountability: we will collaboratively develop research protocols for each project that are appropriate to the cultural context and interests of the Indigenous partners with whom we work. These will set out guidelines for practice, for handling sensitive information (confidentiality and data security), and for communication about the initiatives we take up. They will also include provisions for on-going consultation designed to ensure that these guidelines are appropriate and that we are meeting them in practice.
Building reciprocal research capacity: our aim is to build a network of UBC-based faculty and facilities that will put us in a position to work effectively in partnership with Indigenous communities and knowledge-holders to address questions of concern to them. We understand this to be a reciprocal process; as university-based academics we have as much to learn from traditional Indigenous scholars as our Indigenous partners have to learn from us.
Building training capacity: we hope to provide training that will serve several different communities. For Indigenous communities and their representatives we can provide training in laboratory and field research techniques and equipment. For students, including Indigenous students, we can offer experience working on collaborative research initiatives that will provide them with practical skills and enhance their ability to build respectful and equitable relationships between Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities in all aspects of their lives. For non-Indigenous scholars these initiatives offer an opportunity to cultivate an understanding and appreciation of Indigenous knowledge and scholarship.
Documentation and reflection: our success in realizing these goals depends on understanding the asymmetries of power and resources that structure the contexts in which we work and the partnerships we hope to establish. To cultivate the kind of cultural competence and intellectual humility necessary to ensure that we learn continuously from practice, we are committed to a process of documenting these partnerships as they take shape and critically reflecting on what they teach us about appropriate practice, pitfalls to be avoided, and conditions for success, as assessed by Indigenous partners as well as researchers.