Manoomin, the Ojibwe word for wild rice, grows in shallow lakes and streams and provides physical, spiritual, and cultural sustenance as a sacred food and relative for Indigenous peoples across the Great Lakes region of North America. Unfortunately, Manoomin has been declining due to multiple environmental stressors. In 2018, an interdisciplinary group from the University of Minnesota came together with natural resource managers from tribes and inter-tribal organizations to understand Manoomin within its socio-environmental context. This partnership grew despite a history fraught with settler colonial structures of knowledge production and commodification. Based on lessons learned from building this transformational partnership, this paper describes ten tenets for responsible research: 1) Honor Indigenous sovereignty and rights; 2) Address past and present harms; 3) Be on the path together with researchers and Indigenous partners; 4) Recognize, respect, and value Indigenous participation and intellectual labor; 5) Encourage the robust exchange of ideas; 6) Recognize that documents formalizing a relationship are not the whole relationship; 7) Make a plan for identifying and protecting sensitive Indigenous data; 8) Be prepared to navigate institutional obstacles; 9) Seek, support, and collaborate with diverse students; and 10) Actively listen and be open to different ways of engaging with the world. These lessons can serve as tools to form accountable partnerships that enable robust, nuanced, and effective environmental science, policy, and stewardship.
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Acknowledging past harms and walking the path together includes recognizing how Indigenous intellectual and physical labor, knowledge, and data have often been stolen or misused by researchers and other institutions over the years ( Smith, 2012 ; Todd, 2016 ). This recognition should include a commitment to approach Indigenous knowledge only under the direction of Indigenous partners, and to compensate contributors ( IPSG-AAG, 2010 ) (in our case: conference participants, youth drummers, prayer-givers, elders, tribal leaders, and key consultants) by following appropriate customs and with payments, travel reimbursements, gifts, and/or professional credit for their time and skills. When developing funding proposals together, include budget preferences and priorities of Indigenous partners to ensure shared benefits of the research grant. Invite co-authorship on presentations and publications that come out of the research collaboration so that partners receive the professional benefits and recognition that come with scholarly products. Failing to provide due credit and resources to Indigenous partners reinforces the exploitation and erasure of Indigenous peoples.
This work was funded by a grant from the University of Minnesota’s Grand Challenges Program and Institute on the Environment .
- American Indian
- community-engaged research
- environmental justice