On January 26, U of T’s Centre for Research and Innovation Support (CRIS) hosted an online seminar on decolonizing and Indigenizing research.

The event was chaired by Nicole Kaniki — Director of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI) in Research and Innovation at U of T — who conversed with Sandi Wemigwase, a PhD candidate in Social Justice Education at U of T and the Indigenous Research Special Projects Officer at the Indigenous Research Network. Wemigwase is a citizen of Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians in Harbor Springs, Michigan.

The event was part of the In Conversation With…Visiting Topics in EDI in Research & Innovation series organized by CRIS. Each seminar focuses on a different topic related to EDI in research and innovation.

The seminar began with a discussion on the possibilities for Indigenous research at U of T. Wemigwase spoke about the resources that the Indigenous Research Network offers to researchers and students at varying stages of their careers, as well as the support available for Indigenous communities and nonprofits.

The panellists then discussed practices that researchers should consider when working with Indigenous communities. Wemigwase highlighted the need for Indigenous involvement, collaboration, and consent in research, and for recognizing the validity of Indigenous worldviews and perspectives.

Wemigwase also emphasized the importance of reciprocity in relationships between the researcher and the communities that they work with. She noted the importance of asking them, “what can I do for you that would help you?” and “how can this relationship be reciprocal?” 

Wemigwase said that decolonization should involve Indigenous communities regaining autonomy of their traditional lands, but that many other steps could be taken along the way to achieving this goal.

One aspect of decolonization, according to Wemigwase, is the cultivation of Indigenous sovereignty. This would entail allowing Indigenous peoples “to have their own agency over what it is that happens to them,” explained Wemigwase. 

Finally, the panellists discussed data collection practices. Wemigwase emphasized the importance of communication between researchers and the communities they work with during the data collection process. She also discussed how researchers should consult the people they work with when reporting on collected data.

Another important factor, said Wemigwase, is to consider the impacts of data and those who may be affected. She concluded, “Data isn’t necessarily just numbers, but there are actual… beings in the spirit behind that.”

The event concluded with a discussion on resources that the university offers, which researchers can use to learn more about Indigenous research and working with Indigenous communities.

The next event hosted by the CRIS will take place on February 1, and will focus on adopting EDI principles into humanities and social sciences research.