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.

Also feel free to explore similar resources and projects at our partner Indigenous Land and Data Stewards lab website.

Our Team

From left to right

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

Colorado State University and Indigenous Land and Data Stewards Lab

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

Native Nations Institute

Serena Natonabah, Graduate Research Collaborator

Colorado State University

Brianne Lauro, Research Consultant

Colorado State University and Native Nations Institute

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

United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO)

Dan Wildcat

Haskell Indian Nations University

Ibrahim Garba

Native Nations Institute

Kyle Whyte

University of Michigan

Margaret Kovach (former)

University of British Columbia

Maria Fernández-Giménez

Colorado State University

Indigenous Ethics Guiding Documents List

Akwesasne Task Force on the Environment, Protocol for Review of Environmental and Scientific Research Proposals, 1996

Alaska Native Knowledge Network and University of Alaska Fairbanks, Alaska Federation of Natives Guidelines for Research, 2006

Alaska Native Knowledge Network, Guidelines for Respecting Cultural Knowledge, 2000

American Indian Law Center, Model Tribal Research Code, 1999

ANDES (Peru), the Potato Park Communities, and IIED, Community Biocultural Protocols, 2011

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

Assembly of First Nations Environmental Stewardship Unit, Ethics in First Nations Research, 2009

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

Climate and Traditional Knowledges Workgroup, Guidelines for Considering Traditional Knowledges in Climate Change Initiatives, 2014

Coeur d’Alene Tribe and University of Idaho, Protocol and Best Practice for the Research on and Public Distribution of Information from Projects Involving Indigenous Peoples, 2015

Commission on Human Rights Sub-Commission of Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities Working Group on Indigenous Populations, The Mataatua Declaration on Cultural and Intellectual Property Rights of Indigenous Peoples, 1993

Desert Knowledge Cooperative Research Centre, Protocol for Aboriginal Knowledge and Intellectual Property, 2009

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

Indigenous Peoples’ Health Research Centre, The Ethics of Research Involving Indigenous Peoples, 2004

Indigenous Peoples Specialty Group (IPSG) of the Association of American Geographers (AAG), Declaration of Key Questions about Research Ethics with Indigenous Communities, 2010

International Society of Ethnobiology, ISE Code of Ethics, 2006

Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, National Inuit Strategy on Research, 2018

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

Karuk Tribe and University of California Berkeley, Practicing Pikyav: Policy for Collaborative Projects and Research Initiatives with the Karuk Trib, 2020

Kulana Noiʻi Working Group and University of Hawaii Sea Grant College Program, Guiding Framework for Decision-making in Natural Resource Management and Research, 2021

National Aboriginal Health Organization, Principles of Ethical Métis Research, 2011

National Congress of American Indians, Research that Benefits Native People: A Guide for Tribal Leaders, 2009

National Khoisan Council, Biocultural Community Protocol, 2019

Ontario Federation of Indigenous Friendship Centres, Utility, Self-voicing, Access, and Inter-relationality (USAI) Research Framework, 2016

Sahota, Research Regulation in American Indian/Alaska Native Communities: Policy and Practice Considerations, 2007

Straits et al., Guiding Principles for Engaging in Research with Native American Communities, 2012

South African San Institute, San Code of Research Ethics, 2017

Te Mana Raraunga: Māori Data Sovereignty Network, Principles of Māori Data Sovereignty, 2018

The General Assembly, United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, 2007

The Global Indigenous Data Alliance, CARE Principles for Indigenous Data Governance, 2019

The Pūtaiora Writing Group, Te Ara Tika Guidelines for Māori Research Ethics: A Framework for Researchers and Ethics Committee Members, 2010

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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