Indigenous Community Engagement

There is a wide range of existing relationships between Dalhousie researchers and Indigenous communities across Turtle Island, including researchers who are members of the communities with whom they are working.

For anyone interested in Indigenous research, it is critical to have guidance and agreement from appropriate representatives in the traditional territories where the research is concerned.

First Nation, Métis, and Inuit governments, as well as many Indigenous communities and organizations, often have formal channels and/or protocols for potential research partnerships. It is essential for the researcher to have knowledge and awareness regarding the specific community’s culture, language, governance structure, and research priorities before initiating research. Additionally, all outreach activities with prospective community and organizational partners should be documented so that the information can be included in a community engagement plan and report. Please see below for additional resources.

Where there is an existing relationship between the researcher and members of an Indigenous community for a research topic that involves culture, language, Traditional Knowledge, or other topics that affect their community or citizens, the researcher is responsible for ensuring that the First Nation, Métis, or Inuit government, or advisory council agrees with the proposed research. In cases where research partnerships are with an urban Indigenous community organization, approval would be sought from the organization’s Council or Advisory. Article 9.2 provides examples of the nature and extent of community engagement.

When working with an organizational partner representing an urban Indigenous community, the organization may have an existing Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) or research protocol with the local Indigenous Nations. The partner could advise on whether additional approval with the First Nation, Métis, and Inuit governments would be needed, or if their MOU(s) or affiliation agreements would apply to the proposed research.

If researchers do not already have a pre-existing relationship with an Indigenous community or organizational partner, the Indigenous Research Facilitator in the Office of Research Services may be able to provide guidance towards existing connections, agreements, or partnerships. It is important for researchers to be aware of these existing relationships between Dalhousie and Indigenous communities and organizations before and during their community outreach and development of partnerships.

Many community and organization websites include publicly available information, such as strategic or economic development plans, research publications, or current research priorities and initiatives. Specific protocol and community engagement documents, including key contacts for community engagement and partnerships may also be available.

If specific names of an Indigenous community, organization, or individual (e.g., Elder, Indigenous Academic, Knowledge Keeper), are listed as a collaborator or partner in a proposal, ensure that consent and agreement to their participation is obtained prior to submitting the application.

Regional Organizations

  1. Atlantic Indigenous Mentorship Network (Atlantic- IMN) aims to support Indigenous-led health research in Atlantic Canada. They provide resources for Indigenous early career researchers and trainees, and have created a guide for Indigenous people who want to pursue health-related programs at the post-secondary level.

  2. Atlantic Indigenous Economic Development Integrated Research Program (AIEDIRP) is a unique research program partnership between the member communities of the Atlantic Policy Congress of First Nations Chiefs Secretariat, the Inuit of Labrador, 15 Atlantic universities, and 3 government funders. AIEDIRP’s key objectives are to fund and facilitate research on Aboriginal economic development, build research capacity and share knowledge on Aboriginal economic development.

  3. Atlantic Policy Congress (APC) of First Nations Chiefs Secretariat is a policy research and advocacy Secretariat for 33 Mi’kmaq, Maliseet, Passamaquoddy and Innu Chiefs, Nations and Communities. The APC Secretariat follows a relationship vision that concentrates on partnership and cooperation, government to government relationships, dialogue and education, quality of life, and self-determination in First Nations Communities.

  4. Confederacy of the Mainland Mi’kmaq (CMM) delivers a variety of programs and advisory services to First Nations in Nova Scotia. Their mission is “to proactively promote and assist Mi’kmaw communities’ initiatives toward self determination and enhancement of community.”

  5. Inuit Tapririit Kanatami (ITK) is a National Representational Organization protecting and advancing the rights and interests of Inuit in Canada. Their work includes many different types of initiatives including research, advocacy, public outreach, and education. Within their projects, please see a link to the ITK National Inuit Strategy on Research.

  6. Mi’kmaq Conservation Group (MCG) develops programs relating to issues involving species-at-risk and participates in programs such as habitat restoration. Their programs and services help promote the concept of Netukulimk – taking what you need today and leaving some for tomorrow – in the Bay of Fundy Watershed.

  7. Mi’kmaq Resource Centre is part of the Unama’ki College family at Cape Breton University and serves as a repository for documents. It also serves as a dedicated space for Indigenous research.

  8. Wabanaki-Labrador Indigenous Health Research Network  (WLN) is a dynamic, diverse, interdisciplinary and inclusive collaboration of Mi’kmaq, Wolastoqiyik, Inuit, Innu, and Passamaquoddy community members, organizations, health professionals, students, academics, traditional healers and allies from the four provinces of Atlantic Canada – Newfoundland and Labrador, Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick.

  9. The Ocean Frontier Institute (OFI) Indigenous Engagement Ocean Frontier Institute Indigenous Engagement Guide offers perspectives and guidance for working toward meaningful and respectful engagement with Indigenous communities, organizations, and groups.

Respect for Community Customs and Codes of Practice

Researchers should honour and respect that Indigenous communities and organizations require time to engage in their own governance and cultural processes. If communities or organizations do not have specific engagement protocols and processes in place, depending on the community’s priorities, there may be opportunities to integrate capacity building into research proposals. See TCPS Article 9.8 for more information about Respect for Community Customs and Codes of Practice.

If the community partner or organization identifies that capacity building is an area of interest for them, provisions to address this in the research proposal is highly encouraged. The Canada Research Coordinating Committee (CRCC) along with the federal research granting agencies developed a strategic plan, Setting new directions to support Indigenous research and research training in Canada 2019-2022. This document provides an overview of ways researchers can contribute to capacity building and supporting Indigenous community research priorities.

Community Engagement Resources

Collaborating with Mi'kmaq: Concepts, Approaches and Challenges

Unama’ki Institute of Natural Resources (UINR) presenters Tyson Paul, Angela Denny, Jennifer Sylliboy, and Skyler Jeddore discuss respectful and meaningful partnerships in the workshop Collaborating with Mi'kmaq: Concepts, Approaches and Challenges hosted by the Ocean Tracking network (2020).

Indigenous Community Research Partnerships

Queen’s University has developed an open online training resource - Indigenous Community Research PartnershipsThis training resource is for researchers who are new to research partnerships with Inuit, Métis and First Nations communities and Indigenous organizations.

A Start to Finish Guide on Partnerships

The Research Impact Canada has multiple resources including this online course module titled  A Start to Finish Guide on Partnerships. This module is dedicated to general principles and common practices for developing and navigating several types of partnerships.

Achieving Effective and Meaningful Engagement with Indigenous Communities

This webinar titled Achieving Effective and Meaningful Engagement with Indigenous Communities from the Canadian Environmental Law Association provides insights into Indigenous governance structures, operations structures, lands, and treaties, and how to develop an effective framework for Indigenous engagement planning.

Indigenous Research Level of Engagement Tool

This Free Module is available through First Nations University of Canada. The Indigenous Research Level of Engagement Tool (IRLET) aims to provide guidance to researchers and grant review committees who are involved in or are new to Indigenous research with guidelines on how to ensure a project proposal is being planned and executed in an appropriate manner.