A group of researchers, most based in Yukon, is calling on peers in the sciences to recognize Indigenous rights, communities and knowledge when they study the natural world.
Drawing upon the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's 94 Calls to Action, the group put out 10 calls to action for natural scientists working in Canada. Their paper on how natural scientists can work on reconciliation in their studies was published this month in the journal Facets.
Lawrence Ignace is with Lac des Mille Lacs First Nation and is one of the paper's authors. He says the idea behind the calls to action is to improve how scientific research is conducted.
For one thing, he said, "there's a real lack of Indigenous representation within the hierarchy of academia to better guide and influence how to work with Indigenous communities."
Take Call 3: "We call on natural scientists to enable knowledge sharing and knowledge co-production."
Ignace says this call is about including Indigenous knowledge systems, and supporting the interests of Indigenous communities, in scientific study.
Carmen Wong, another of the paper's authors, says Call 2 is about understanding that building knowledge of the land is a goal shared with Indigenous communities.
"We really ask in that call to start research by approaching Indigenous communities, not with a set agenda, but perhaps with an open mind," she said, adding it's also about looking for ways to create benefits for both science and for Indigenous communities.
Paper prompted by frustration
The paper was born, in part, out of frustration.
"The authors have witnessed examples where natural scientists treat Indigenous communities with blatant disrespect or with ignorance of Indigenous rights," reads its abstract.
Wong says she's seen research get approved and funded in a First Nation's traditional territory without necessarily getting the go-ahead from the First Nation itself.
"It seems crazy that in 2020 funders aren't asking for evidence that permission has been sought to conduct research on certain jurisdictions," she says.
There's a real lack of Indigenous representation within the hierarchy of academia. - Lawrence Ignace
The calls to action also urge natural scientists to create opportunities for Indigenous young people to get involved in science and pursue work in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) fields.
"There's been nothing but positive support being expressed" for the paper, said Ignace.
"Our hope is that our paper will play some role in terms of supporting the positive changes that we've seen in terms of inclusion of Indigenous research in the system."
Wong said friends and colleagues in social work, human resources and social sciences have told them the calls to action are relevant to the work they do as well.
A key point of the paper, said Ignace, is that "reconciliation is achievable by each and every one of us.
"It's not something to be afraid of or shy away from. We all have lessons to learn from each other and it just takes some open minds to really consider what all the possibilities are."