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Tribal Wilderness Research Needs and - page 4 / 5





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Researchers have to remember that the research occurs in a legal, political and cultural context when communities are still engaged in reversing the colonial intrusion of settler governments into their tribal lives. This process has often relied heavily on legal action and political resistance and, in addition to having external effects on the relationship of the tribe and the settler society, it may have also had the internal effect of politicizing and dividing the community over a variety of issues. Communities can become suspicious of outside researchers as agents of “colonial intrusion” and can view tribal members who assist the researcher as col- laborators (Graham 1997). Many communities are increas- ingly concerned about how research findings may be used in legal proceedings. In land claim areas, research funding is increasingly directed toward producing materials that can be used as evidence.

Research proposals within the Confederated Salish- Kootenai Tribes’ jurisdictional aboriginal territory are re- viewed for potential conflicts with current and future litiga- tion, in regard to water rights, hunting and fishing uses, other subsistence uses, and basic tribal governing authority. For example, a recent research proposal review identified conflicts on the potential outcome of diminished tribal mem- ber uses of national forest land, and the effect of this on aboriginal hunting and fishing rights.

Tribal communities have a very real desire to control both the gathering and the use of data (Nason 1997). In the past, many images of tribal communities have been flawed and caused considerable damage to the communities. Cultural misinterpretation has been identified as a major issue by both tribal researchers and leaders (Deloria 1991, Wax 1991). There is also the issue of intellectual property and use of cultural material by outsiders without any benefit accru- ing to the community. Communities are no longer interested in being the “informants” of the past and would rather provide the coresearchers and researchers of the future. The Confederated Salish-Kootenai Tribes prefer to conduct re- search in-house or have a tribal program become an integral part or partner in the research, with a very detailed agree- ment or contract in place to protect sensitive information or use of research information. One example of the current in- house research is the Tribes’ Natural Resource Department, which averages 100 staff persons in several environmental divisions. The majority of the work force performs research tasks, which could have been performed by outside contract researchers.

Access to tribal areas is also an issue, both in a physical sense and in a legal sense. Physically, many tribal areas in Canada that have jurisdiction on their land are in remote areas with no summer road access. The logistics of doing research, especially in a era of shortened fieldwork, can restrict research results. Legally, the incidence of tribes implementing research licensing/permit systems is on the rise (Nason 1997). This formal process of community consent is seen as crucial by most tribes, especially since some communities have been overrun by researchers in the past. Researchers now must get formal permission from tribal councils and from cultural committees before conducting research on tribal lands and with tribal peoples. In 1987, the Confederated Salish-Kootenai Tribes initiated a data collec- tion permit system to protect tribal interests on the Reser- vation. Many data-collecting procedures could impact on

USDA Forest Service Proceedings RMRS-P-15-VOL-2. 2000

tribal resources or conflict with ongoing management pro- grams. Yet that same data collected might provide insight into better resource management. Overall, the permit sys- tem is designed to regulate scientific collection activities and to ensure all data collected is approved by and available to the Tribes. Permit requests are reviewed by the Tribes’ natural resources, legal, and cultural departments and by the Tribal Council.

A more difficult area for many researchers will be the reconciliation of the cultural frameworks in the settler and tribal societies. The epistemology of indigenous peoples differs in may ways from the culture of science. Approaches seen as valid for a Western trained researcher may seem intrusive, disrespectful, unnecessary or harmful to tribal leaders and elders (Graham 1997). The reliance on oral transmission and lived experience in traditional ecological knowledge may seem suspect to the outside researcher. The possibility of miscommunication as two systems of knowing come together is very real (Conti 1997).

Two examples from the Confederated Salish-Kootenai Tribes may help illustrate the need for reconciliation of different epistemologies. The Mission Mountains Tribal Wilderness is home to a grizzly bear population. Information is needed about the behavior, habitat and food sources of these bears to ensure appropriate management that will preserve the grizzly as a lasting inhabitant of the Wilder- ness. A typical method of researching grizzlies is to catch them in a cable snare, administer drugs to immobilize them, and then install a radio collar to monitor their movements. Tribal members objected to this approach, saying it was not respectful of the bear. So, grizzlies in the Wilderness are now physically observed from a distance by a researcher with a spotting scope. In another case, researchers were interested in having tribal members describe a Native American land ethic. Rather than use a mailed survey, which the Tribal Natural Resource Department believed would be intrusive, the researchers used a qualitative approach, consisting of in-depth interviews with tribal members who were inter- ested in this issue and willing to share their views with a researcher.

The other framework that may challenge researchers is related more to rights and relationships in a community. Traditional knowledge is often owned by a family, and can not be accessed or used without permission and very clear arrangements for payment (Wax 1991). Much of the data found in communities are qualitative in nature and, like attributable qualitative data in the larger society, are sub- ject to acknowledgment and copyright. The Confederated Salish-Kootenai Tribes have created their own historic pres- ervation office and set of guidelines in their “Cultural Re- sources Protection Ordinance” to deal with cultural data, data requests and land disturbance issues. The office also gathers additional traditional knowledge for the Tribes’ long term use and dissemination. Researchers working with tribal entities will have to learn how information can be obtained, what information is off limits, and what payment or show of acknowledgment is expected.

Finally, researchers will have to become accustomed to constant scrutiny of their research efforts while in a tribal community. Such research can now be thought of as a process of constant consultation (Clayoquot Sound Scien- tific Panel 1995). Communities may decide to suspend the


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