1 Indigenous Statistics & Environmental Justice Theory

Our understanding of data justice is rooted in a larger discourse of Indigenous sovereignty and the impacts of settler colonialism. Data collection, analysis and sharing can exacerbate historic inequities. Indigenous nations need data about their citizens, communities, and resources to make informed decisions. However, the types of data, collected and shared with Indigenous nations are often unreliable, inaccurate, and irrelevant. External governments and organizations have primarily collected these data for their own use (RDA).

1.1 The Importance of Data to Indigenous Communities

Indigenous peoples continue to suffer data inequities and data exploitation. Big data and secondary data are important tools for Indigenous peoples to make decisions, and spur innovation and discovery (Carroll et al. 2020). While quantitative methods have long been tools of colonization, recent work has reconsidered these methods through an Indigenous lens. Below is a small collection of resources that discuss or present the importance of Indigenous statistics, Indigenous data and Indigenous quantitative methods. Indigenous statistics: A quantitative research methodology

Maggie Walter and Chris Andersen. Routledge, 2016.

Quantitative data on Indigenous peoples have been taken for granted as straightforward, transparent numbers. With a focus on population statistics and examples from Indigenous peoples in the United States, Australia, and Canada, Maggie Walter and Chris Anderson suggest a paradigm for Indigenous quantitative methods. This book is especially useful in understanding the systemic nature of data inequality in the context of Indigenous communities, why data is important, and how we might improve upon these systems.

A review of Indigenous Statistics: A Quantitative Research Methodology

Elaine Coburn. Decolonization: Indigeneity, Education & Society 4.2 2015.

In this review of the book Indigenous Statistics, Elaine Coburn makes several observations about Indigenous quantitative methodologies, focusing on their subversion of mainstream, colonial methodologies. For example, they write: “an important task of Indigenous quantitative methodologies is to restore visibility to colonial and Indigenous social realities that are denied by colonial statistics. As I will explore briefly below, Walter and Andersen (pp. 78-79; p. 96) suggest that this means reversing the gaze, so that the Indigenous scholar becomes the expert knower, while colonizers and non-Indigenous peoples become the “known” subjects of the Indigenous gaze.” (pg. 126)

Indigenous data, indigenous methodologies and indigenous data sovereignty

Maggie Walter and Michele Suina. International Journal of Social Research Methodology 22.3: 233-243. 2019.

Indigenous Peoples have historically been excluded in research of Indigenous communities, both in the design of studies and in the data collection process. Indigenous data have also primarily been analyzed qualitatively. This paper suggests that the absence of quantitative methods that align with Indigenous methodologies has impacted statistical narratives about Indigenous Peoples. This paper explores the consequences of this absence, and describes Indigenous quantitative methods from a case study in New Mexico.

Census Powwow

Julian Noisecat. Snap Judgment. June, 2021.

Journalist Julian Brave Noisecat follows Cheyanne Brady, a member of the Mandan Hidatsa Arikara Nation, as she works to count everyone on her reservation for the US 2020 Census. This podcast details the complicated relationship tribal nations have with the US Census. Through storytelling, the listener can get a sense of the important role data has in shaping indigenous outcomes.

Census Powwow, Snap Judgement

Figure 1.1: Census Powwow, Snap Judgement

Addressing the need for indigenous and decolonized quantitative research methods in Canada

Ashley Hayward et al. SSM-Population Health 15: 100899. 2021.

Abstract: “Though qualitative methods are often an appropriate Indigenous methodology and have dominated the literature on Indigenous research methods, they are not the only methods available for health research. There is a need for decolonizing and Indigenizing quantitative research methods, particularly in the discipline of epidemiology, to better address the public health needs of Indigenous populations who continue to face health inequities because of colonial systems, as well as inaccurate and incomplete data collection about themselves. For the last two decades, researchers in colonized countries have been calling for a specifically Indigenous approach to epidemiology that recognizes the limits of Western epidemiological methods, incorporates more Indigenous research methodologies and community-based participatory research methods, builds capacity by training more Indigenous epidemiologists, and supports Indigenous self-determination. Indigenous epidemiology can include a variety of approaches, including: shifting standards, such as age standardization, according to Indigenous populations to give appropriate weight to their experiences; carefully setting recruitment targets and using appropriate recruitment methods to fulfill statistical standards for stratification; acting as a bridge between Indigenous and Western technoscientific perspectives; developing culturally appropriate data collection tools; and developing distinct epidemiological methods based on Indigenous knowledge systems. This paper explores how decolonization and Indigenization of epidemiology has been operationalized in recent Canadian studies and projects, including the First Nations Regional Longitudinal Health Survey and how this decolonization and Indigenization might be augmented with the capacity-building of the future Our Health Counts Applied Indigenous Epidemiology, Health Information, and Health Services and Program Evaluation Training and Mentorship Program in Canada.” (Hayward et al., 2021)

1.2 Indigenous Environmental Justice Theory

Many books provide a thorough introduction to Indigenous history and relationship to environmental management. As Long as the Grass Grows is a good start on these topics. If you know of additional sources that speaks to Indigenous environmental justice theory, sovereignty and resource management, please let us know.

As Long as the Grass Grows: The Indigenous Fight for Environmental Justice, from Colonization to Standing Rock

Dina Gilio-Whitaker, 2019

Book Description: “Through the unique lens of “Indigenized environmental justice,” Indigenous researcher and activist Dina Gilio-Whitaker explores the fraught history of treaty violations, struggles for food and water security, and protection of sacred sites, while highlighting the important leadership of Indigenous women in this centuries-long struggle. As Long As Grass Grows gives readers an accessible history of Indigenous resistance to government and corporate incursions on their lands and offers new approaches to environmental justice activism and policy.

Throughout 2016, the Standing Rock protest put a national spotlight on Indigenous activists, but it also underscored how little Americans know about the longtime historical tensions between Native peoples and the mainstream environmental movement. Ultimately, she argues, modern environmentalists must look to the history of Indigenous resistance for wisdom and inspiration in our common fight for a just and sustainable future.” (Gilio-Whitaker, 2019)