Tribal Sovereignty and Research Ethics: a Review of US Tribal legislation

Ibrahim Garba - IIRC
Friday, November 20, 2020

Overview: In the past, Indigenous Peoples’ engagement with research in the United States and elsewhere was hampered by a lack of standardized guidelines, institutional partnerships, and tribal control, resulting in group harms. More recently, Indigenous nations have been using a number of tools to govern research within their human, geographic, and/or issue-based jurisdictions. While previous scholarship has explored the variety of models used in specific areas of research (e.g., biospecimens, cultural intellectual property), our work develops a comprehensive review of tribal research governance mechanisms generally.

Methods: We gathered publicly available tribal research codes as well as tribal, tribal college, and regional Indigenous Institutional Review Board (IRB) documents through web searches and emails to tribal, tribal college, and organization offices. Documents were included if entities reviewed research for or on behalf of tribes as sovereign nations.

Analysis: Our research team created an expanded set of document coding criteria based on those in Garrison et al., "Genomic research through an indigenous lens: understanding the expectations." Annual review of genomics and human genetics 20 (2019). Our extended set includes (1) Jurisdiction, (2) Engagement and Participation, (3) Review, (4) Costs, (5) Appeals, (6) Enforcement/Sanctions, (7) Evaluation, (8) Values, Culture, Tradition, Knowledge, Religion/Spirituality, (9) Ownership and Control, (10) Intellectual Property, (11) Prepublication Review, (12) Authorship and Acknowledgement, and (13) Commercial Applications and Financial Benefit. Two researchers coded each set of documents with a third mediating any discrepancies.

Goals: Our presentation will focus on tribal codes as expressions of selfdetermination and, where pertinent, will refer to research governance documents from tribal colleges/universities (TCUs) and regional IRBs. The presentation aims to (1) identify self-governance practices in research oversight; (2) support Indigenous nation research governance; (3) inform policy development; (4) promote development of a model tribal governance framework for research that has international relevance for Indigenous Peoples.