While working on a non-classified project for the US Navy, planning future logistics routes and associated security infrastructure in the Arctic region, I was aware of the numerous Indigenous Alaskan communities that were being left out of these life and environment altering government policies realated to global warming. As a member of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma, I have witnessed Native communities left out of resource use decisions, non-growth vs development decisions etc. This project was the genesis of my research through frameworks of STS into the potential to elevate Native community voices to not only contribute to research questions (Western institutionally centered) but also find ways to practice science which incorporates both Indigenous and Western ways of knowing. I have been doing some collaboration with ASA in the area of Problem Solving Sociology (PSS). My background is in problem solving, but the sociological aspects of this problem are too complex for traditional engineering/policy mechanisms. I have two topics I'm thinking through that have emerged from my discussions with the PSS workgroups.
First: Indigenous knowledge is often characterized as if it is automatically positive. It is a political and cultural position important to Native communities and I cringe at any efforts to dilute it's power. But I also recognize that there are power structures within Indigenous communities, such that some people's knowledge gets privileged and others' ignored. This complicates automatically giving veto power to Indigenous knowledge holders in a policy setting and could have negative consequences. How should I think about multiple embedded power structures and how decisions move through them?
Second: Relatedly, could there be a way to calibrate the knowledge production system to the ends that are desired by the Native communities? For example, it's possible that "western" scientific practice could actually be helpful for the ends that the Indigenous community desires--and vice versa. Possibly through thinking of beginning with the desired ends (e.g. desired by the Indigenous community) and then building the knowledge systems based on those desired ends.