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September 7, 2023

North Central CASC’s tribal engagement specialist explains how “ethical space” can be built from mutual respect and trust between people using different knowledge systems to strengthen climate research.

Climate research collected by scientists often lack regional specificity leading to gaps in data and understanding. However, researchers are increasingly working with Indigenous Knowledge holders and citizen scientists which brings people into science that are often excluded. 

James Rattling Leaf Sr., a member of South Dakota’s Rosebud Sioux tribe and the Tribal Engagement Specialist for the North Central CASC, describes how “ethical space” – a space where different types of knowledge can be shared without giving more weight to one over another – can be part of the solution to challenges that arise in collaborations between Western Science and Indigenous Knowledge in a recent Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists article. In this space, skills, strategies, and strengths of each way of knowing complement each other and can only emerge from mutual respect and trust. This is an important step away from “parachute research” where researchers use Indigenous knowledge without appropriate Tribal collaboration on how that knowledge might be collected, used, and how tribal nations might benefit from that collaboration. 

The National CASC Chief, Doug Beard, acknowledged that the expansion of regional CASC consortiums to include many tribal organizations to the Alaska, Northwest, and Southeast CASCs, “reflect[s] our continued commitment to providing accessible climate adaptation science for the landscapes and communities that need it most.

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