Applying Learning Knowledge: This scenario (and the other scenarios in the guide) provide a hypothetical research project using fictional communities, institutions, grant initiatives and programs.

With the content of the guide in mind, some of these projects missed the mark in establishing a reciprocal partnership. Please review each scenario and reflect on how these projects can be more centered on community reciprocity through input, consent and participation.

Scenario 2: Lake Trout Health Program

Hudson Lake is a significant harvesting site for the River Pine community. The lake is located on the River Pine reservation, and near an off-reservation paper mill. The lake trout is a food staple for the community and significant cultural practices are tied to the health of the lake.

Over the last 15 years, the community has noticed environmental changes in the lake—resulting in River Pine Council investing in several environmental initiatives and data collection efforts. River Pine is excited to expand lake health efforts through a research partnership with a university.

Fish illustration artwork by Dr. Elizabeth LaPensée.
Artwork by Dr. Elizabeth LaPensée.

Faculty from Golden Meadow University (GMU) and West Tidal University (WTU) reach out to River Pine about a grant opportunity around water health. After several months of planning with River Pine, GMU and WTU faculty develop the Lake Trout Health Program (LTHP) proposal. The five-year collaborative proposal relies on River Pine Tribe to gather trout, soil and water samples from Hudson Lake. The LTHP proposal plans for GMU and WTU to regularly collect soil and water samples from the lake. The research will also monitor trout populations through a catch-and-release GPS tagging effort and tissue samples. This data about the environment will be coupled with elder expertise about changing harvesting practices and sites over time.

Approximately eight elders will be asked to hike with GMU and WTU faculty to harvesting sites on the lake and will be interviewed about those sites. The tour and interview will take about five hours. The budget will provide meals during the tour and interviews.

The funding agency limits the number of Principal Investigators (PI) and Co-Principal Investigators (Co-PI), resulting in only GMU and WTU faculty being formally represented on the proposal. However, the PI has dedicated funds for a part-time coordinator position for River Pine outreach. Given the tribe’s long standing work on Hudson Lake health, the Council is concerned a part time position is not enough to cover the work described in the proposal.

To help address these concerns, the PI reaches out to a newly hired Assistant Professor in Native American Studies to consult on the project. Unfortunately the cost of course buy-outs and travel for the PI and Co-PI constricts the budget to the point the project does not have funds to pay the Assistant Professor. The PI feels, even without pay, it is a great experience for the junior faculty to be named in such a significant proposal.

The qualitative and quantitative data will be overlaid with GPS mapping to create a visual narrative of the changes of Hudson Lake over time. The data will be turned into a number of academic articles and presentations for academic conferences. Representatives of River Pine Council are concerned about harvesting sites being published in academic articles. The PI assures representatives there will not be an issue moving forward with the GPS mapping plan as is. The proposal is submitted with a letter of support from the River Pine Council.

Reflection Questions

Please review and reflect on the following questions according to the information presented in Scenario 2.

  • What are the community concerns raised, and how did the PI address these concerns? What else could the PI have done to better address each concern?
  • How is the River Pine community represented in the leadership of the proposal?
  • How will the community benefit from the proposed research? Does the proposed research align with the initiatives and values of the community?
  • How are the people involved equitably compensated for their time, expertise and labor? What additional steps can be taken to ensure equitable compensation?