by Ken Lokensgard, Assistant Director, Center for Native American Research & Collaborations


Among the aims of the Center for Native American Research and Collaboration (CNRC) is to promote quality collaborative research that meets Tribal needs. The CNRC works toward achieving this in several ways. These include participating on the WSU Human Subjects Institutional Review Board and also offering trainings to faculty, staff, and others engaged in work related to the Tribes.

The WSU Institutional Review Board (IRB) reviews research activities conducted by WSU employees involving human subjects. The IRB website describes the mission of the IRB as follows:

The Institutional Review Board (IRB) for Washington State University (WSU) is responsible for the review and approval of all research activities involving human subjects. The IRB is charged with protecting the rights and welfare of human subjects to ensure that all are treated physically, psychologically and socially in such a way as to minimize embarrassment and stress, and to avoid harm or other negative effects in compliance with the federal, state and university regulations. All research activities involving human subjects conducted by WSU faculty, staff and students must be approved by the IRB regardless of the funding source or location and prior to initiating any portion of the activity.

Given this mission, it is essential that tribal interests are represented with members on the board. Thus, CNRC Assistant Director Ken Lokensgard sits on the part of the board overseeing “social and behavioral” research, and CNRC Director Dr. Zoe Higheagle Strong serves as an alternate member. WSU’s Native American Health Sciences Director Dr. Naomi Bender (Quechua) sits on the part of the board overseeing “biomedical research,” and Native American Health Sciences Assistant Director of Special Projects Dr. Lonnie Nelson (Eastern Band of Cherokee descendant) serves as an alternate member. Other board members, such as Dr. Astrid Suchy-Dicey, of Partnerships for Native Health, and Dr. Art Blume (Cherokee), of the Dept of Psychology, help ensure Native interests are protected. Lokensgard, with the help of other board members, has also drafted materials that will guide the IRB in respecting the rights of Native Americans and Tribal sovereignty, in all of its evaluations. These materials are available to anyone who is interested in commenting upon or even adapting it for their own use.

The CNRC also continues to host trainings on ethical research. The last was held on January 30 and was conducted by Drs Higheagle Strong and Lokensgard. The slides for the presentation that began the meeting can be found on the CNRC “Resources” page. There, anyone who is interested can also find a reading list of texts dealing with Indigenous Research as well as announcements for future events. As always, individuals interested in research ethics, Indigenous Research Methods, and so on, are invited to consider joining the CNRC Affiliates and Associates Program. Information about memberships can be found here.

As has been noted before, the Native American Pre-Health program for undergraduates is currently administered through the CNRC, though it’s a part of the larger Native American Programs office. Information about this program is now available online as well. It is an excellent source of support for Tribal members and descendants, who are interested in the health sciences or professions and who are committed to giving back to their communities. With help from the Native American Health Sciences office at WSU Spokane and various schools and departments, students in this join a huge network of people committed to their success.

For more information about WSU’s Center for Native American Research & Collaboration, or any of its activities, contact Assistant Director Dr. Ken Lokensgard.