Making research relevant: NNI staff at the NCAI Tribal Leader/Scholar Forum

07/18/16 07:59:am

“Sovereignty as tribal nations was given to us by the Creator. It is sacred. Data to exercise our sovereignty is also sacred.”
-- Tribal leader at NCAI Tribal Leader/Scholar Forum 2015, quoted in NNI research materials

From June 27-30, 2016, NNI staff participated in the 11th annual National Congress of American Indians Tribal Leader-Scholar Forum. Held this year in Spokane, WA, the forum’s theme was “Changing Climates, Inspiring Hope: Using Research to Transform Systems.” The forum provides an opportunity for researchers to engage with tribal leaders and policymakers on key issues facing tribal nations, thus bridging current research with tribal policy in a national venue.

NNI senior researcher Rachel Starks and Tohono O’odham Community College instructor Adrian Quijada presented at the NCAI Policy Research Center Partner’s Roundtable on June 27. Their presentation, “Indigenous peoples at the US-Mexico Borderland: Challenges for Ecological Restoration, Governance, and Environmental Justice,” underscored the roundtable’s overall theme, “Data Matters.” Approximately 50 tribal leaders, researchers, and policy experts attended the session.

“For the first time, examples of tribal data sovereignty will be highlighted during the NCAI General Assembly before nearly a thousand tribal leaders and citizens. This is huge!”
-- Desi Rodriguez-Lonebear

NNI graduate research associate Desi Rodriguez-Lonebear was selected to respond to the Tribal Leader/Scholar Forum General Assembly session “The Power of Data to Change Climates” on June 29. Her remarks, which both summarized panelists’ presentations and called listeners to action, made these points: 1) a data sovereignty revolution, by tribes and for tribes, has emerged across Indian Country; 2) data sovereignty efforts are most effective when they are strategic—for example, tribes can leverage partnerships, resources, and expertise to steer an appropriate data course; 3) it is time to invest in training data warriors in Indian Country. This panel marks the first time that tribal data sovereignty was featured in an NCAI General Assembly session.

Research analyst Mary Beth Jäger and research specialist Andrew Martinez both participated in the poster session, “Innovative Climates for Tribal Research” on June 29. Mary Beth presented the poster “How are Tribes Enacting their Sovereignty to Protect Children? Lessons from Tribal Child Welfare Codes,” and Andrew presented “Tribal Codes of Ethics: Broad Applications of Compliance and Conduct Across Indian Country.” A steady stream of people stopped to talk with Mary Beth and Andrew to learn more about NNI’s research. Of these, a number also expressed an interest in engaging with the research.

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