Last month, the POLIS Project co-sponsored a national policy event on Indigenous research ethics. The Working Better Together conference was held in Vancouver and brought together almost 80 people from diverse cultural, academic, and professional backgrounds to discuss what it really means—and what it takes— to engage in respectful research with Indigenous communities. Keynote speakers included Dr. Marlene Brant-Castellano (Community Co-chair, Aboriginal Council of Queen's University) and Professor Willie Ermine (First Nations University of Canada) — two of the most influential Indigenous ethics policy scholars in the country. Brant-Castellano spoke about the evolving dialogue on Indigenous research ethics over her past several decades of first-hand involvement as an Indigenous professor and policy expert. Ermine elaborated on the concept and application of "ethical space," a pivotal term that he introduced into Canadian research ethics over a decade ago.
Coast Salish elder Florence James shared traditional teachings that reminded all delegates of our interconnections and relationships with the environment and all creatures with whom we share the earth. And youth delegate Mike McKenzie encouraged participants to consider that ethics is about relationships and begins with developing a relationship with ourselves; ethics is a principle, like water, that is a part of each of us.
The conference built on previous WSP events, including sessions held at the Watersheds 2014 forum. It also complemented ongoing WSP initiatives exploring aboriginal co-governance of water and watersheds by raising important considerations of water ethics in co-governance arrangements.
A comprehensive proceedings report of the Working Better Together conference will be published in the coming months. For more information email: email@example.com. The proceedings will also be available on the conference website.
Working Better Together was organized and chaired by POLIS co-director Kelly Bannister, with assistance from POLIS affiliates Brian Egan, Olivia Sylvester, Eli Enns, and many others. It was supported financially by the Intellectual Property Issues in Cultural Heritage project, the International Society of Ethnobiology, UVic's Centre for Global Studies and POLIS Project, and an Impact award from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC).