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Navigating the Twisting Waters of Indigenous Communities and Scientific Research

Navigating the Twisting Waters of Indigenous Communities and Scientific Research

“A tribal consortium like Kawerak is here to provide services for the tribes,” said Amanda Tördal, an Arctic Energy Ambassador, current general manager of Pilgrim Hot Springs (a Kawerak subsidiary), and former energy development specialist for the business. “We don’t necessarily represent the tribes. We encourage direct contact with the tribal communities and Native corporations—especially when it evolves land and land use.” 

Kawerak constantly receives numerous requests from researchers, universities and other entities wanting to go out to the communities they serve, often in order to study their energy systems. Kawerak is endlessly directing these individuals to go through a specific process of working with local populations, setting up consultations and helping them navigate permission to physically enter villages—not only out of respect, also because some require visitors to purchase land crossing permits before entering. 

The goal of the formalized protocols is better communication, “So everyone feels involved in the process,” Tördal said.   

Their efforts underscore the importance of culturally sensitive collaboration, particularly in the energy industry’s engagement with Indigenous communities. Just as a neighbor’s unsolicited advice disrupts the flow of a family dinner, cultural differences can hinder effective communication and collaboration unless both parties take the time to understand each other’s perspectives. Kawerak’s release of “Tribal Research Protocols, Guidelines, Expectations & Best Practices” reflects a significant step towards fostering respectful engagement with Indigenous groups in the energy sector. 

By involving stakeholders in decision-making processes and respecting their cultural protocols, the industry can ensure sustainable and inclusive energy development practices. Kawerak’s proactive approach, including directing researchers to engage with local populations and providing language resources, sets a precedent for ethical and respectful collaboration. This initiative not only addresses past exploitative research practices but also empowers Indigenous voices and promotes Tribal sovereignty.  

To download and use Kawerak’s Tribal Research Protocols, Guidelines, Expectations & Best Practices, visit their website here: https://kawerak.org/natural-resources/research/   

Official news published at https://www.energy.gov/arctic/articles/navigating-twisting-waters-indigenous-communities-and-scientific-research

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