Supporting Indigenous data stewards: Indigenous governance and ethics in scientific research

Our study includes a global analysis identifying core principles within Indigenous ethics guidelines, codes, and protocols which we are using to assess policy and practices for U.S. federally-funded science research involving Indigenous knowledge systems, lands, and Peoples. Our aim is to develop a national standard for ethics in Indigenous research and to support current and future generations of Indigenous data stewards.

Image title: Ifheektavaan “Truth Bearer” | Artwork credited to Lyn Risling (Karuk) and in acknowledgment of the California Indian Legal Services.

Our Research

Key Questions

First, what key values and principles reflect effective and ethically responsible Indigenous research practice?

Second, to what extent are they represented in codes of ethics and guidelines for federally-funded research impacting Indigenous lands and communities?

Third, what are the barriers and support mechanisms for applying Indigenous Peoples’ and communities’ ethical principles to science research and data practices?


  • Potential to guide new standard in ethically responsible research 
  • Data to guide development of training and resource material for researchers to support the next generation of Indigenous data stewards

Indigenous Ethics Guiding Documents

In the U.S. we lack a national standard of ethics when it comes to research with Indigenous knowledge systems, lands, and peoples.

We compiled a list of 32 Indigenous ethics documents developed by Indigenous Nations, communities, and working groups from around the world and are using these to guide analysis of federal research and tribal engagement standards.

Our focus is on potential applications for environmental science and public health research.

How to get involved

If you are working on federally-funded environmental or related public health research that engages Indigenous communities, knowledge systems, and/or territories and are interested in contributing to our study we would welcome the opportunity to invite you to do so through our upcoming practitioner survey.

Please provide your contact information with a note regarding your area of interest or support, or if you are interested in being added to a distribution list for when we share our findings.

Hahóm (with thanks) for your consideration and support with this study.

Our Team

From left to right

Dr. Dominique David-Chavez, Principal Investigator (@Indiginerd)

Colorado State University and Native Nations Institute

Dr. Stephanie Russo Carroll, Co-Principal Investigator (@scbegonias)

Native Nations Institute

Serena Natonabah, Graduate Research Collaborator

Colorado State University

Brianne Lauro, Undergraduate Research Collaborator

Colorado State University

Andrew Martinez, Collaborator & Graphic Designer

Native Nations Institute

Our Advisory Research Council

This work is guided by an international advisory research council to ensure quality, relevance, and rigor throughout our research process.

From left to right

Bill Thomas

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)

Dan Hikuroa

University of Auckland and UNESCO

Dan Wildcat

Haskell Indian Nations University

Ibrahim Garba

Native Nations Institute

Kyle Whyte

University of Michigan

Margaret Kovach

University of British Columbia

Maria Fernández-Giménez

Colorado State University

Indigenous Ethics Guiding Documents List

AAG Indigenous Peoples Specialty Group, 2010, Declaration of key questions about research ethics with Indigenous communities

Akwesasne Task Force on the Environment, 1996, Protocol for environmental & scientific research proposals

Alaska Native Knowledge Network (ANKN), 2000, Guidelines for respecting cultural knowledge

American Indian Law Center, 1999, Model Tribal Research Code

ANKN & UA Fairbanks 2006, Alaska Federation of Natives Guidelines for Research

Assembly of First Nations, 2009, Ethics in First Nations research

Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies (AIATSIS), 2020, Code of Ethics for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Research

CARE Principles for Indigenous Data Governance, 2019

Coeur d’Alene Tribe & University of Idaho, 2015, Protocol and best practice for the research on and public distribution of information from projects involving Indigenous Peoples

CTKW, 2014, Climate and Traditional Knowledges Workgroup (CTKW) Guidelines for considering traditional knowledges in climate change initiatives

Desert Knowledge Cooperative Research Centre, 2009, Protocol for Aboriginal knowledge and intellectual property

Ermine, 2004, Ethics of research involving Indigenous peoples

Indigenous Peoples Council on Biocolonialism, 2000, Indigenous Research Protection Act

International Society of Ethnobiology, 2006, ISE Code of Ethics (with 2008 additions)

Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, 2018, National Inuit Strategy on Research

Kahnawake, 2007, Kahnawake Schools Diabetes Prevention Project Code of Research Ethics

Karuk Tribe & UC Berkeley, 2020, Practicing Pikyav: Policy for Collaborative Projects and Research Initiatives with the Karuk Tribe

Khoisan Council, 2019, Rooibos biocultural community protocol

Kulana Noiʻi Working Group & UH Sea Grant College Program, 2021, Guiding framework for decision-making in natural resource management and research (v.2)

Mataatua, 1993, Declaration on cultural and intellectual property rights of Indigenous peoples

Metis Centre, 2011, Principles of Ethical Metis Research

National Congress of American Indians (NCAI), 2010, Research that benefits Native people: A guide for tribal leaders

Ontario Federation of Indigenous Friendship Centres (OFIFC), 2016, Utility, Self-voicing, Access, and Inter-relationality (USAI) research framework

Quechua, 2011, Community Biocultural Protocol

RHS, 2007, First Nations Regional Longitudinal Health Survey (RHS) Code of Research Ethics

Sahota, 2007, Research regulation in American Indian/Alaska Native communities: Policy and practice considerations

South African San Institute, 2017, Code of research ethics

Straits et al, 2012, Guiding principles for engaging in research with Native American communities

Te Ara Tika, 2010, Maori research principles

Te Mana Raraunga, 2018, Principles of Māori Data Sovereignty

United nations declaration on the rights of Indigenous peoples, 2007

This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation SBE Postdoctoral Research Fellowship under Grant No. 1911673. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.

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