Koolamalsi njoos (Greetings, colleagues and friends):
I greet you as a representative of the least known people on Turtle Island and Mother Earth: Indigenous people. My Indigenous ancestors are Lenaape-Munsee and Mohican Indians, known to Europeans as “Delaware Indians.” I am proud to be part of an evaluation community at CREA that is leading the way to encompass the history, values, perspectives, strengths, and contributions that our collective and strong diversity represents.
As we embark on another “Thanksgiving” and “Native American history month” I’d like to offer a different, historical Indigenous perspective, “re-writing and re-righting” (Smith, 1999) the western narrative that often excludes, is ignorant of, or provides a romanticized version of Indigenous people’s perspectives, experiences, and contributions.
Current controversy provides a significant example for reflection and consideration. Within both Indigenous and academic communities, I’ve been asked about the conflict surrounding the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) and the #NoDAPL counter-movement launched by human, water, and earth rights protectors from Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities. #NoDAPL seeks to block a $3.8B, 1,100-mile fracked-oil pipeline currently under construction from the Bakken shale fields of North Dakota to Peoria, Illinois. DAPL crosses Lakota Treaty Territory at the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation where it would be laid underneath the Missouri River, endangering a source of fresh water for the Standing Rock Sioux and 8 million people living downstream. DAPL also impacts sites that are sacred to the Standing Rock Sioux and other Indigenous nations.
As a culturally responsive community of evaluators, we all must understand the cultural, contextual, historical, and legal implications of DAPL and similar projects with Indigenous communities and Tribal nations. Like many projects – research, evaluation, and otherwise – conducted with Indigenous people, DAPL has deep, destructive, and illegal historical roots. The project violates treaty rights afforded the Standing Rock Sioux as a sovereign nation, reflecting the lack of recognition of Tribes as sovereign nations that stretches back to the earliest treaties enacted in 1774 between colonists and Indigenous Tribal nations. How many research and evaluation projects have been enacted with Indigenous communities to “extract” knowledge and data without due consideration for Indigenous ownership of that knowledge and data?
Reflecting on the DAPL project reminds us that our broader evaluation community is also about power, networks, and resources. We only need to look at who gets funded, published, promoted, elected, or represented on key commissions, editorial review boards, or “invite only” events to see that while we talk about inclusion, equity, and diversity, there is little evidence of it in our “community” of practice. What business interests, amount of dedicated resources, and professional practices are most prevalent in our evaluation community? It depends on the conference and context. But the interests, practices and viewpoints of Indigenous and other marginalized groups are consistently and significantly absent!
DAPL and the #NoDAPL movement also remind us that our broader evaluation community privileges the written word and values certain evaluation voices – largely white and male – more than others. I welcome emerging voices that tell different stories in different ways – voices like those of Carl Sack, a graduate student at the University of Wisconsin-Madison who uses critical cartography as a culturally-responsive and scientifically-sound method to provide a counter-narrative to the lack of media coverage of the historic, Indigenous and #NoDAPL perspective.
#NODAPL calls us to action. Where are the social justice evaluators and researchers? How is our evaluation community holding up the mission of “generating knowledge about effective human action”? Surely, the Canadian Evaluation Society and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission give us an example of how that is done! Inclusion and action are the responsibility of everyone who claims to be a principled evaluator within the larger the evaluation profession. YOU are being called to action because knowing better should mean doing better! I am asking you at #NoDAPL and in other contexts to stand with us as global academic #warriors and as transformative evaluators. In turn, you too will be transformed.
As Waapalaneexkweew (Flying Eagle Woman; Accompanied by the Four Eagles), it is my responsibility to use my life to keep telling our origin and contemporary stories until the day Creator takes me back to the spirit world. Please visit the BPC blog to learn more about this important issue. We are one Tribe walking the Red Road; I will see you soon.
Sincerely, critically, and Indigenously yours,
Waapalaneexkweew / Nicole Bowman (Mohican/Lunaape), PhD
Evaluator & Researcher, University of Wisconsin-Madison (www.wcer.wisc.edu/)
President, Bowman Performance Consulting, Shawano WI (www.bpcwi.com)
For more context, I suggest the following:
Bigelow & Peterson (Eds.). (2003). Rethinking Columbus. Milwaukee, WI: Rethinking Schools.
Deloria, V. (1988). Custer died for your sins: An Indian manifesto; with new preface. Norman: University of Oklahoma.
Deloria, V. (1995). Red earth, white lies: Native Americans and the myth of scientific fact. New York: Scribner.
Hood, S., Hopson, R. K., & Frierson, H. T. (2015). Continuing the journey to reposition culture and cultural context in evaluation theory and practice. Greenwich CT: Information Age Publishing.
Tuhiwai Smith, L. (1999). Decolonizing methodologies: research and Indigenous peoples. Dunedin, New Zealand: Zed Books Limited.
Nicole Bowman is President/Founder, Bowman Performance Consulting (BPC) and Researcher & Evaluator, WI Center for Education Research, University of WI-Madison