A Guiding Policy for Collaborative Projects and Research Initiatives with the Karuk Tribe
In the Karuk language, the verb píkyav means “to repair,” or “to fix.” Another Karuk word is pikyávish, which refers to the world-renewal ceremony, a set of ceremonies that the Karuk and neighboring tribes continue to hold annually. When describing the Karuk culture, tribal members often explain, “We are fix-the-world people.” For the Karuk Tribe, the center of the world is Katimin, the place where the Klamath River and the Salmon River meet. As part of this philosophy, the Karuk Tribe is working to repair and restore the complex socio-cultural and ecological systems that make up the Klamath River Basin. This work includes fixing some of the environmental and social damages that continue to have profound impacts on Karuk people, traditions, and Karuk ancestral lands and territory.
One example of píkyav in action today is the Karuk Tribe’s active engagement in research programs that are currently informing land management policy change and restoration activities in the Klamath River Basin. Entering into a collaborative research project, or other type of collaborative project agreement with the Karuk Tribe, means creating a project that supports Karuk philosophies and practices of píkyav, including Karuk eco-cultural restoration and revitalization efforts that strive “to fix the world.”
Organization and Origins:
This agreement has been developed by the Karuk-UC Berkeley Collaborative – a partnership between the Karuk Tribe and UC Berkeley researchers working together with their allies to enhance the eco-cultural revitalization of the people and landscapes within Karuk ancestral lands. In 2011, the Collaborative launched an initiative to co-create a set of guiding principles that can govern future research and other collaborative projects with the Karuk Tribe to ensure protection of intellectual and cultural property and recognize tribal sovereignty. Acknowledging that individuals and institutions at UC Berkeley and other institutions have not always acted in the best interest of California Indian Tribes, the Karuk-UC Berkeley Collaborative members and our allies hope that we can be part of a larger effort “to fix it” – an effort to begin mending problematic relationships among universities, researchers, and Indigenous peoples.
These guidelines were inspired by the Indigenous Research Protection Act created by the Indigenous People’s Council on Biocolonialism, http://www.ipcb.org/publications/policy/files/irpa.html, which we have adapted to reflect the Karuk Tribe’s governance structures, overarching goals, and project needs. We have also drawn from materials developed by the Indigenous Peoples Specialty Group with the American Association of Geographers, the Intellectual Property Issues in Cultural Heritage (IPinCH) research group, and the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
Practicing Píkyav: A Guiding Policy for Collaborative Projects and Research Initiatives with the Karuk Tribe (referred to as Practicing Píkyav or the Guiding Policy) begins with the purpose and core principles governing collaborative initiatives with the Karuk Tribe. The document then introduces guidelines for developing a collaborative project with an emphasis on anticipated challenges. Finally, we have developed an appendix that outlines step-by-step recommendations for developing a collaborative proposal. There are also two important accompanying documents: a one-page Individual Partnership Agreement that lays out minimum requirements for projects (short-term or long-term) and a separate Practical Tips document that compiles current best practices.
Purpose of the Guiding Policy:
At a global scale, histories of biocolonialism and associated impacts on Indigenous peoples demonstrate the serious implications and risks of potential expropriation of Indigenous Knowledge through research and so-called “collaborative” projects. While working to achieve its goals through authentic collaborations, the Karuk Tribe hopes to prevent exploitative relationships by creating a clear process for collaborative research/project development. A key element to this process is establishing free, prior, and informed consent over information sharing practices. The Guiding Policy pertains to all research activities and/or collaborative projects that may impact Karuk culture, people, and ancestral lands and territory.
The Guiding Policy sets the terms for communication, informed consent, and mutually agreed-upon expectations in collaborative research or other project initiatives with the Karuk Tribe. The initial purpose of this document was to provide guidance for individual researchers working through the Karuk-UC Berkeley Collaborative. In response to the Karuk Tribe’s request, however, we have expanded the Guiding Policy to apply to a variety of collaborative projects – research or otherwise. This document is viewed as part of an adaptive process, whereby authors will continue to revise guidelines to fit the evolving needs of the Karuk Tribe.
Another goal of the Guiding Policy is to protect the traditional cultural property, intellectual property, and self-determination interests of the Karuk Tribe. Research results and other project outputs may contain sensitive information about Karuk cultural resources, tangible and intangible: animals, plants, lithic materials used for subsistence and ceremonies or other material culture, villages and culturally important use sites or areas, or other vital aspects of Karuk knowledge and traditions. Research that involves Karuk cultural sites can put Karuk cultural properties at risk. Research that involves Karuk cultural knowledge may expose sensitive information in inappropriate ways. The age of electronic information exchange has created significant challenges for Indigenous peoples who wish to protect their intellectual property and self-determine how their culture is portrayed in the public domain.
There are many instances where volunteers, researchers, project leaders, or agency representatives do not have sufficient information, training, experience, or discretion with Karuk culture to determine what information or images are appropriate for broad public use, or what information or images should remain confidential. Cultural knowledge, such as Traditional Ecological Knowledge, often requires careful interpretation. It is in the Tribe’s interest to ensure that Karuk knowledge and associated materials are communicated correctly to the public. By working through a collaborative framework, the Karuk Tribe will be better able to guide responsible communication of Karuk knowledge, including the appropriate time, place, and manner of sharing Karuk cultural information.
Application of the Guiding Policy to Multiple Collaborators & Tiered Approval:
The Karuk Tribe is engaged in many different forms of collaborative projects. This document was initially drafted to address the complexities that can arise in the context of PhD and agency-led research with Indigenous peoples. However, the Karuk Tribe has determined that this approval process must also apply to a much broader range of project partners, including the following:
Although some projects may be small in scope, most project collaborators are still interpreting data, disseminating information and making decisions that affect Karuk intellectual property, including how Karuk people and/or Karuk ancestral lands and territory are portrayed in the public domain. Thus, this document sets out core approval principles that apply to all research and collaborative projects involving the Karuk Tribe. At the same time, the document allows for an exemption from full project review, based on the nature and scope of the project.
The three tiers of approval requirements are:
Tier 1, Non-Exempt Projects requiring full review. Non-exempt projects are longer-term initiatives where the researcher or project leader is writing or presenting outputs that will reach the public. The projects may involve culturally sensitive information. Non-exempt projects will go through full review, which includes presenting to Tribal Council and working with the Karuk Resource Advisory Board (KRAB). For non-exempt projects, project leaders and their partners are required to (a) read and sign the Guiding Policy; (b) form a Review Committee (RC), which must include a local mentor/liaison, a Karuk tribal employee, and an experienced researcher/project leader, unless the Project Lead is an experienced researcher him/herself; (c) submit a six-page (maximum) project proposal and Data Management Plan to their RC for approval; (d) receive approval of the Karuk Tribal Council; (e) receive approval from the Karuk Resources Advisory Board (KRAB) for any culturally sensitive project components; (f) provide their RC with copies of any parallel IRB approvals, or approvals from non-IRB institutions (e.g. agencies); (g) develop a Publications Plan and a Communications Plan; (h) ensure the RC has adequate time and opportunity to review final written and visual materials prior to publication; and (h) provide copies of final publications, share datasets as determined by your Data Management Plan, and give an oral presentation to the Karuk Tribe. Project leads may also be required to sign a confidentiality agreement.
Tier 2, Exempt Projects requiring partial review. Exempt projects are initiatives where the researcher or project leader is typically working on a short-term project, where results will reach the public. These projects typically do not involve culturally sensitive information. Exempt status is determined based on the nature of the individual project by the Review Committee (RC), which must include a local mentor/liaison, a Karuk tribal employee, and an experienced researcher/project leader, unless the Project Lead is an experienced researcher. Exempt projects are required to (a) read and sign the Guiding Policy; (b) form a Review Committee (RC); (c) submit a six-page (maximum) project proposal and Data Management Plan to the RC for approval; (d) inform the Karuk Tribal Council about the project; and (e) provide copies of final publications, share datasets as determined by your Data Management Plan, and give an oral presentation to the Karuk Tribe. Exempt projects may not require a presentation to Tribal Council. Project leads may also be required to sign a confidentiality agreement.
Tier 3, Volunteers and Assistants. Volunteers and Assistants are individuals working under the close supervision a researcher, project leader, or Karuk tribal employee on a project that has already received approval under Collaborative Project Review process. Volunteers and Assistants themselves should not be writing up or presenting primary findings, but rather should be working on a smaller project component together with the project leader. Volunteers and Assistants are required to (a) have a local mentor and (b) read and sign a confidentiality agreement with the Karuk Tribe.
II. Core Principles for Collaborative Projects
This section of the Guiding Policy sets out the foundational principles of establishing a collaborative project with the Karuk Tribe.
a. Principle of Community Engaged Scholarship:
In collaborative research, community members are research partners. Research questions are generated by or in collaboration with the Karuk Tribe to address the needs and priorities identified by community members. In contrast to top-down approaches, collaborative research strives for knowledge production through exchange. Karuk perspectives must be included in research goals, processes, and results.
b. Principle of Free, Prior and Informed Consent
Research that may affect tribal communities and individuals should not be conducted until there has been full consultation with the Review Committee (RC). The RC is the governance body that guides the consultation process on the proposed research project. They are a project-specific group typically composed of a local mentor/liaison, a Karuk tribal employee, and an experienced researcher/professional.
Depending on the scope and nature of the project, full consultation may include input and approval from the Karuk Tribal Council, the Karuk Resource Advisory Board (KRAB), Karuk elders and cultural practitioners, individuals, specific families, and/or identified family groups that have particular interest in the project. The process for gaining full consent on the proposed research project is described in detail below.
Researchers must disclose the full range of potential benefits and risks associated with the research, all relevant affiliations of the person(s) seeking to undertake research, and all sponsors and funding sources. The Karuk Tribe reserves the right to turn down project applications, and the Review Committee may request that researchers adjust or discontinue a project at any time.
c. Principle of Benefits to the Tribal Community
The research should benefit the Tribal community, and the risks associated with the research should be minimal. If some risks are involved, expected benefits should outweigh these risks. Researchers should also specify actions that they will take to mitigate potential negative effects.
d. Principle of Mentorship/Training/Youth Development
All research should strive to involve Karuk tribal youth in the proposed project, if feasible. This involvement may include employment, internships, or volunteer opportunities as an effort to support development of tribal youth learning opportunities.
e. Principle of Confidentiality
This principle recognizes that the Karuk Tribe, at its sole discretion, has the right to exclude information from publication and/or to require confidentiality for information, particularly with respect to information concerning their culture, traditions, mythologies, sacred sites or spiritual beliefs. Furthermore, researchers and other project collaborators must explicitly describe how they will ensure confidentiality within their research proposal and Data Management Plan.
f. Principle of Mutual Respect, Inclusiveness, and Empowerment
To allow for a successful collaboration, project leads and project partners with the Karuk Tribe must respect and learn from one another. This principle recognizes the necessity for researchers and other project leaders to respect the integrity, morality, traditions, and spirituality of the Karuk culture, and to avoid imposing external conceptions and standards on community members.
This principle of empowerment means that each affected party should feels that their needs are being met in a fair and equitable manner, if the collaboration is to succeed. The contributions of Karuk community members must be acknowledged in the project design, implementation and outputs.
We gain empowerment and respect for each other through mutual understanding of our respective social, political, and cultural structures. Therefore, open communication is a must. Collaborative partnerships should not assume that they have had the same life experience or share the same beliefs, goals, or expectations. Each side must work to clarify their own questions, definitions, and assumptions for one another, which may be facilitated through cultural sensitivity training.
g. Principle of Equity/Reciprocity
This principle recognizes the importance of equity, reciprocity, and sharing of resources in any collaborative project. Reciprocity can take many forms, which may include giving back through financial and/or non-financial means, such as sharing knowledge, networking, or needs-based projects. Other examples of reciprocity include co-authorship or in-kind materials and services, etc. (See specific suggestions listed in the policy section under III. g. Benefit Sharing and Building Tribal Capacity.)
h. Principle of Self-Determination, Prior Rights, and Inalienability
Researchers and organizations working with the Tribe must acknowledge Indigenous peoples’ right to self-determination. Indigenous peoples also retain prior proprietary rights and interests over resources, such as air, land, and waterways, as well as associated natural and cultural resources. These are inalienable rights that Indigenous peoples have established in relation to their traditional territories and the natural resources within them.
Researchers must recognize the Karuk Tribe as a sovereign nation. Researchers should also develop their awareness of Karuk Tribal Ordinances and traditional laws that govern Karuk ancestral lands and territory, and agree to abide by these laws.
i. Principle of Respecting Indigenous Knowledge and Intellectual Property
This principle recognizes the interdependence between humanity and the Earth’s ecosystems, including the spiritual component of this relationship. Indigenous peoples maintain a long-standing obligation and responsibility to preserve and maintain their role as ecosystem stewards through the maintenance of their cultures, mythologies, spiritual beliefs and practices.
Researchers and project leaders must handle Karuk knowledge with extreme care. It is the researcher or project lead’s responsibility to protect Indigenous knowledge, culture, biological and material resources, and the intellectual property of the Karuk Tribe. Prior to conducting their study, collaborators should make themselves aware of any data that is of particular interest to the Karuk Tribe and to establish clear agreements over terms for data sharing. The commercialization or patenting of research findings derived from Karuk cultural property, practices, or knowledge is generally prohibited.
The Karuk Tribe is made up of a diverse set of families and individuals. Researchers or project leads must respect the resulting complexity of Karuk knowledge systems. Sharing cultural knowledge is a complex endeavor for most Indigenous communities. This includes complexities of how permission may be granted to share an individual’s knowledge, since knowledge also belongs to the collective group. Even when one individual chooses to share cultural knowledge, this decision may not reflect the collective interests of the larger family group or Tribe in maintaining intellectual property rights. Researchers/project leads should work with their Review Committee and the Karuk Resource Advisory Board to identify any additional project advisors who could provide additional advice on appropriate consultation procedures. As the primary project oversight body, the Review Committee will guide project leads in developing appropriate project-specific protocols for obtaining permissions.
Project advisors may include members of the Karuk Tribal Council, the Karuk Resource Advisory Board (KRAB), Karuk tribal program directors, Karuk elders and cultural practitioners, and/or individuals, specific families, or identified family groups that have particular interest in the project. (See policy section III. i. Proprietary Knowledge and the Karuk Resource Advisory Board.)
j. Principle of Píkyav and Appropriate Conduct
All proposed collaborative projects must incorporate the Karuk Tribe’s philosophy and practice of píkyav, including Karuk eco-cultural restoration and revitalization efforts that aim to “fix the world.” This means that researchers’ personal attitudes and behaviors in initiating their project are important. The Karuk Tribe will evaluate the proposed project according to its own cultural values. In this way, the Tribe will determine whether researchers/project leads have exhibited the right intent and appropriate conduct in their project approach and their preliminary interactions with tribal members.
III. Guidelines for Collaborative Project Design
This section provides guidance for collaborative project design. In particular, this section discusses several important and challenging issues around (a) establishing the RC; (b) designing methods; (c) navigating the consent process; (d) planning for data sharing; and (e) ensuring mutual benefit.
a. Establishing the Review Committee (RC)
Partnerships between academic researchers, agency representatives, or other organizations and Indigenous communities bring together multiple knowledge systems. This is why it is important to have a diversity of mentors guiding collaborative projects.
It is the responsibility of researchers/project leaders to convene a three-person Review Committee (RC) prior to starting their project, unless the project leader is an experienced researcher or professional him/herself. Community members have many demands on their time, so project leaders should take appropriate steps to ensure that the project is useful for their proposed individual RC advisors, as well as for the Karuk Tribe. It follows that the Karuk Tribe and its member may have limited capacity to address all interested researchers or project leaders. Inability to convene an RC means that the proposed project is not of sufficient priority to the Karuk Tribe for the initiative to go forward at the current time.
The RC will be the primary oversight body for research and project agreements and should include the following representatives:
1) A Local Mentor/Liaison who knows the specific project topic, and who lives within Karuk ancestral lands and territory. This may be a tribal member or not, depending on project needs.
2) An Employee of the Karuk Tribe who is in a leadership position within the Karuk Department of Natural Resources, the Karuk Tribal Council, or working within other Karuk Tribe programs or governance bodies.
3) An Experienced Researcher or Professional who has prior experience successfully working with the Karuk Tribe on collaborative research or projects, which are relevant to the proposed initiative. This requirement may be waived for senior researchers.
b. Designing Project Methods: Cultural Sensitivity and Situated Knowledge
Project design should take Karuk cultural practices and beliefs into account. All principal investigators, researchers, graduate students and other project leads are required to learn about Karuk cultural perspectives. Researchers need to be aware of the ongoing history of uneven power relationships between tribes and researchers. This continuing education can occur by studying the recommended literature, engaging with project advisors, and spending time in the Karuk community. The Karuk-UC Berkeley Collaborative and the Karuk People’s Center can provide recommendations for websites, books, articles, and films relating to Karuk history and culture.
Communities are diverse entities, comprised of many families and individuals, and so it is important to recognize that an individual’s knowledge is “situated” or shaped by particular life experiences and interactions. Thus, different community members bring different kinds of knowledge to the collaboration. When planning for interviews or surveys that may represent the culture of the Karuk Tribe, it is therefore essential for researchers/project leads to speak with a range of tribal members, Karuk descendants, and non-tribal community members who represent different community viewpoints, as appropriate for the study and as approved by their RC.
c. Navigating Consent: Addressing Collective Rights and Transparency
Gaining free, prior, and informed consent before beginning a collaborative project is a multi-faceted process. The Review Committee (RC) is the primary oversight body that will ensure that researchers or project leaders have followed correct procedures for free, prior, and informed consent. Multiple forms of informed consent may include:
1) Review Committee (RC) approval – informed consent provided by the RC, confirming that the project leader has agreed to follow all collaborative requirements as indicated by a signed Individual Partnership Agreement.
2) Tribal Government approval – informed consent provided by the Karuk Tribal Council, allowing the project leader to initiate a collaborative project.
3) Karuk Resource Advisory Board approval – informed consent provided by board members and the Karuk Tribal Historic Preservation Officer (THPO, pronounced “tippo”) to allow the project leader to work with particular cultural information.
4) Group consent – informed consent provided by specific families or identifiable family groups, as recommended by the RC, who may be particularly affected by the collaborative project.
5) Individual consent – informed consent provided by individuals who are invited to be research informants in an approved collaborative project.
For all long-term research or other projects that involve exchange of funds, the project leaders must gain approval from the Karuk Tribal Council. Typically, researchers/project leaders must arrange to present their proposal in person at a Council meeting. For short-term projects, a formal Council presentation may not be necessary, although Council should still be informed about the project and have the opportunity to request a presentation.
For projects that involve sensitive cultural information, the Karuk Resource Advisory Board (KRAB) must also review the project. This is particularly important if the project pertains to Karuk culture, traditions, collective knowledge, sacred sites, or cultural practices shared by the community. With the help of any additional cultural practitioners that the KRAB chooses to consult with, the KRAB will help determine what cultural information may be shared through project outputs; guide what formats should be used to share cultural information; and help resolve more complex project-specific questions about Karuk cultural knowledge. For example, the KRAB will help address challenges regarding individual and collective consent for sharing cultural information.
Gaining informed consent from specific families or identified family groups may also be important and this process should be tailored to the specific project. Researchers or project leaders should work with their RC and the KRAB to determine which specific families or identified family groups they need to contact before starting their projects.
Group consent should NOT be substituted for individual consent. Individual consent is essential when researchers are gathering personal information from individual informants. Researchers often use a written “consent form”; however, options should not be limited to written consent. Researchers/project leads should work with their RC to develop appropriate tool for gaining informed consent from individual study participants, specific families, or identified family groups. Researchers/project leaders and their RC should also discuss how key participants should be cited in publications.
Ensuring full transparency about the nature of the research is essential. Therefore, applicants must inform the Karuk Tribe about all funding sources or fiscal contracts, as well as any requirements pertaining to these funds. Of particular concern are funding agency conditions that affect the confidentiality of results. If project leads are still seeking funding, they should list all agencies and programs they are applying to.
In addition, researchers must share any consent protocols developed through their university, agency, or otherwise. University-based protocols are typically prepared for an Institutional Review Board (IRB), and agency-based researchers may have additional consent requirements. Any data sharing constraints should be noted.
d. Planning for Data Sharing:
Researchers and other project leads must submit a Data Management Plan that specifies how data will be shared, stored, and protected, which should be submitted along with the proposal. Developing a Data Management Plan together is one way for collaborators to build common understanding about their respective needs and expectations. For example, when engaging in academic research, the Tribe needs to be aware of researcher responsibilities to maintain the confidentiality of “human subjects” data. When collaborating with the Tribe, researchers need to be aware that their research may impact the Karuk Tribe’s inherent cultural responsibility to care for their lands and people, or affect overarching Karuk self-determination strategies.
The purpose of discussing data sharing opportunities and limitations up front is to avoid problems that can develop during project implementation, which can potentially harm collaborators and their relationships. All project proposals should address which background materials (data, background documents, photographs, footage, etc.) are important for the Karuk Tribe to have access to in their own archives following the study.
If the Karuk Tribe is interested in receiving particular data, RC members should communicate this information to researchers or the project lead, along with any relevant time frames or deadlines. Similarly, if researchers are unable to share some kinds of data, this should be discussed with the RC and noted within the proposal. In some cases, confidentiality required in “human subjects research” may prevent or limit data sharing. In other cases, university, agency, or organization policy may limit data sharing.
For all final outputs (reports, publications, presentations, curricula, films) intended for the public, researchers and other project leads must ensure that printed and electronic copies are provided to the Karuk People’s Center for archiving. Electronic copies or links to final outputs should also be uploaded to appropriate websites, e.g. the Karuk Tribe website and the Karuk-UC Berkeley Collaborative website.
All collaborative project proposals must also address opportunities for archiving data and other materials with the Karuk Tribe. The goal is to ensure that the Karuk Tribe has access to information that can be an asset for the Tribe into the future. Although they may be consulting with the Karuk Resource Advisory Board and tribal program directors, the RC retains primary oversight of the approval process for releasing and archiving information gathered through each project. The RC may request that the names of specific people or locations be removed from research documents or other project outputs. It is important to note that use of unpublished interview material held in tribal archives for new projects, which extend beyond the original research purpose, typically requires going back to individual participants to obtain their informed consent.
e. Ensuring Mutual Benefit and Fair Return
All proposed collaborative projects must demonstrate how study participants and the Tribe will receive a fair and appropriate return as part of the collaborative project. Reciprocal or fair return includes but is not limited to: receiving copies of publications, authorship or co-authorship, royalties or fair monetary compensation, copyright or patent, coverage of training/education or outreach expenses, etc.
Project leads should plan ahead to provide appropriate monetary or in-kind returns. At the same time, compensation must not be used to coerce individuals into participating in research or other type of project. Collaborative projects should follow the principle of free, prior, and informed consent. When possible, researcher projects should plan to hire local research assistants and compensate community partners who commit significant time to the research projects. Researchers and other project leads should budget for any community education, training, or outreach efforts recommended by the RC. Project leads should also plan to compensate the Karuk Tribe for infrastructure used for the study, such as office and meeting space or printing and copying.
Non-monetary forms of fair return are also valued and are particularly important for students with limited funding. Benefits can take many forms, and may extend beyond publications. Supporting tribal capacity building goals is always important, and three such priority areas that have been identified thus far are (1) supporting Karuk youth; (2) writing collaborative funding proposals; and (3) developing the Karuk Library.
When local partners provide meaningful intellectual contributions to a project, the proposal should outline how the Tribal community may be authors or co-authors. While acknowledging all intellectual contributions is essential in collaborative research, co-authorship should be discussed for specific projects as an option, not as a requirement.
We would like to thank members of the Karuk-UC Berkeley Collaborative and their allies for their contributions to the writing and review of this Guiding Policy: Tom Carlson, Sibyl Diver, Arielle Halpern, Leaf Hillman, Frank K. Lake, Kari Norgaard, Ron Reed, Ben Riggan, Dan Sarna, Carolyn Smith, Toz Soto, Jennifer Sowerwine, and Bill Tripp. We also wish to express our appreciation of the Indigenous People’s Council on Biocolonialism for developing the initial template that inspired this document.
The Karuk Tribe wishes to use this Guiding Policy as the basis for agreements with all researchers and project leaders who propose collaborative projects with the Tribe that affect the Karuk People, culture, traditions, and/or Karuk ancestral lands and territory. At the same time, the Karuk Tribe recognizes that as time passes, this agreement may no longer meet the needs of evolving projects and partners. As needs for adaptation are identified, the Karuk Tribe will work through the Karuk-UC Berkeley Collaborative to revise this document. Following an initial trial period and revision, the Karuk-UC Berkeley Collaborative anticipates making a comprehensive revision every five years.