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Embracing Tribal Culture to Build Research Partnerships

NCJ Number
Date Published
November 2022
3 pages

Tribal communities carry rich cultural histories that are a longstanding source of pride. For centuries, these communities have practiced the traditions of their ancestors on historical lands. Previous research has been conducted on Tribal land without respecting the diverse and rich cultural beliefs that make American Indian and Alaska Native tribes unique. Oftentimes, tribes have been left out of the planning of research in their own communities and they have not been consulted in the interpretation or sharing of research findings. This has led to negative perceptions and other concerns about research being conducted within these communities. As a result of past research mistakes, The National Institute of Justice (NIJ) has made it a priority to ensure that tribal research programs are collaborative and sensitive to Native American heritage, culture, and diversity. To better support tribal communities that seek to address criminal justice issues with the help of scientists, NIJ launched the Tribal Researcher Capacity Building Program in 2018. This program aims to increase the capability to conduct rigorous research and evaluation projects in Indian country and Alaska Native villages by fostering engagement between researchers and tribal nations. Since the program’s inception, NIJ has awarded nearly $1.5 million to support projects that promote partnerships between scientists and tribal nations or organizations to research criminal justice issues that are most relevant to the tribal partner. This article describes how NIJ-supported projects connect with tribal communities to plan future research. It discusses four projects: Building Tribal-Researcher Capacity to Inform Data-Driven Practices, Technology, and Tribal Justice, Hoopa Valley Tribe and Tribal Law and Policy Institute Research Partnership, Northwest Juvenile Justice Alliance, and Pathfinder: Evaluating Services to Native American Victims of Sex Trafficking.