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Native American Programs Many Nations. One Community.

Resources for Collaborative Research with Indigenous Communities


CNRC Events:

WSU CNRC Collaborative Research Workshops:

The summer 2021 Affiliates & Associates meeting date will be announced soon.

Please contact Ken Lokensgard for more information or to schedule a workshop.

Indigenous Research focused Professional Organizations:
WSU CNRC Affiliates & Associates Program
American Indigenous Research Association (AIRA)
Other Events:
Stay tuned!

Government-to-Government Relations and Tribal Consultation

Federally Recognized Tribes are sovereign nations and must be treated by WSU and other government employees as such. Federal and state legislation, as well as University policy, dictates that all projects that have “tribal implications” must be implemented through government-to-government relations. Click on the links below to read these laws and policies in full.

Treaties, Executive Orders, Acts of Congress, and other federal court decisions or actions that establish Federal Recognition:

  • Many treaties stipulate that tribes maintain certain rights, particularly regarding environmental, subsistence, and health-related matters, throughout their aboriginal or ceded territories (which extend beyond current reservation boundaries).

Federal Law:

  • Executive Order 13175, Consultation and Coordination with Indian Tribal Governments (Pres. Clinton, 2000; reaffirmed by Pres. Biden, January 28, 2021). Relevant text from the order follows:
    • Sec. 5. Consultation. (a) Each agency shall have an accountable process to ensure meaningful and timely input by tribal officials in the development of regulatory policies that have tribal implications.

State Law:

  • Centennial Accord (WA State, 1989)
  • Millennium Agreement (WA State, 1999)
    • Among other things, this agreement affirmed that WA State, the 29 federally recognized tribes within its borders, and the tribes below agreed to the following (text taken from the agreement):
      • Strengthening our commitment to government-to-government relationships and working to increase the understanding of tribes’ legal and political status as governments;
      • Continuing cooperation in the future by developing enduring channels of communication and institutionalizing government-to-government processes that will promote timely and effective resolution of issues of mutual concern,
  • Out-of-state Accord (WA State, 2004): Extends the above to include the Nez Perce Tribe and Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation.

University Policy:

Washington State University, though the Tribal Relations branch of the Office of Native American Programs, meets regularly with the Native American Advisory Board to the President (NAAB). This board is comprised of official representatives of the MOU Signatory Tribes. At these meeting and through other communications, WSU provides updates on developments or initiatives that have tribal implications and receives regular input and guidance from board members. The NAAB is therefore an important means of engaging in the consultation process, and we urge those interested in collaborative research to use it. Note that projects with tribal implications are not limited to those conducted within reservation boundaries. Many tribes retain distinct rights that extend into their traditional territories, particularly with regard to subsistence. Also, tribes are regularly impacted by policies that are enacted far from their own homes. For more information, contact Dr. Higheagle Strong (profile) or Dr. Lokensgard (profile).

The CNRC offers regular workshops on government-to-government relations, tribal sovereignty, and collaborative research. Public meeting dates are posted above. You can also contact us to schedule a meeting.

The CNRC also encourages anyone interested or engaged in collaborative research with Indigenous communities to read the tribal consultation guidelines established between the State of Washington and signatory tribes of the Centennial Accord and Millennium Agreement. These guidelines are published by the Governor’s Office of Indian Affairs: Guiding Principles of the Consultation Process.

Human Subjects Research/IRB

The CNRC, in collaboration with the WSU’s HRPP/IRB in the Office of Research Assurances, has created a checklist for reviewing research proposals that involve American Indian and Alaska Native individuals and communities. This checklist is intended to ensure researchers meet federal, state, tribal, and Washington State University guidelines for ethical research. It is also intended to ensure research is genuinely collaborative and meets the needs of American Indian and Alaska Native (AI/AN) individuals and communities. We are thankful for the input from WSU’s Native American Health Sciences and many of our CNRC Affiliates and Associates

The CNRC invites WSU employees, who are writing research proposals that involve Indigenous individuals and communities and that require IRB review and approval, to contact us for guidance prior to submitting to the IRB office. The checklist is shared here so that researchers will know what guidelines IRB reviewers follow. Please note that many parts of these guidelines also pertain to non-human subjects research.

CHECKLIST for Research involving American Indians and Alaska Natives: AI-AN IRB Checklist 

Tribal Approval of Research

Certain research projects require tribal approval. Some tribes have formal their own IRBs or Tribal Review Boards to review research proposals. Others have different research review mechanisms. In most cases, the process includes review by a government committee, tribal council, or the tribal council chairperson. This means the process can take time, and the individual proposing the research should plan accordingly. For human subjects research, WSU requires tribal approval for studies that take place on tribal land/reservations or which will make general claims about an particular AI/AN community(ies) or segment of a community(ies). The researcher should obtain tribal approval before submitting to the WSU IRB, unless the tribe dictates otherwise. The CNRC can provide further information about submitting proposals to the MOU Signatory Tribes.

Collaborative Research Design

The CNRC recommends the following process. We also recommend you examine the literature on Indigenous Research Methodologies on our literature page.

  • Establish collaborative relations before DESIGNING your proposal/commencing project.
  • Native representatives should be included in grant proposals as funded personnel.
  • Partners should discuss data ownership, access, and the dissemination of results.
  • If the research is generalizable to a tribe or to be conducted within reservation boundaries, tribal approval is required.
  • If the project has “tribal implications,” consultation is required. Tribal approval is a means of documenting the consultation.
  • Letters documenting tribal approval should be submitted with IRB applications, grant proposals, etc.
  • Addressing date ownership may require explicit agreements, beyond tribal approval, with the tribe and WSU.