This is Sarah Stachowiak, writing to you from the unceded lands of the Duwamish People, in present-day Seattle, Washington, in the United States. As of this writing, the United States government federally recognizes 574 tribes; the Duwamish tribe is not one of them. In the 1855 Point Elliott Treaty, the Duwamish ceded territory—but not sovereignty—to settlers, in exchange for reservation land and other rights. More than 150 years later, the U.S. government has not honored this agreement.
As an evaluator of advocacy and policy change efforts, I, for too long, also did not account for the sovereign tribal nations that also are part of the spaces I have evaluated. For too long, my experience of the field has been that indigenous issues have been sidelined as part of an “affinity group” focus area and not made central to the day-to-day work of APC evaluators.
But APC evaluators can change that and do better. We have opportunities to lift up/amplify/highlight the values, priorities, and existence of the sovereign nations and indigenous peoples who are always relevant to policymaking work in any city, region, state, or country and recognize the rightful nation-to-nation orientation this entails.
As evaluators, we help define what is in or out of bounds for inquiry and evaluation. In a recent project, we made the point to ask our client how they were engaging with and considering the indigenous people in the places they worked. They hadn’t, which was disappointing, if unsurprising. By asking the question, however, we are helping to expand the boundaries of who and what can and should be considered in their place-based work. While a very small step, it is starting a conversation that we can keep pushing on over time.
Additionally, taking time to learn more about the indigenous people on whose land I live, recreate, or work has helped me better know and appreciate their resilience, strength, and dignity, in ways that I can carry through all of my work.
- An amazing host of resources exist to help you learn more about the land you are on and how to honor indigenous people through land acknowledgements, including https://www.ncai.org/about-tribes, https://usdac.us/nativeland and https://nativegov.org/a-guide-to-indigenous-land-acknowledgment/. Spend time learning what land acknowledgement means. Expect to dig a bit to learn the deeper truths of the lands you work on. Think about whose “truth” you are hearing and find ways to think critically about whose stories are being told or hidden.
- Learn from our colleagues in the Indigenous Peoples in Evaluation TIG. Their website includes newsletters with a lot of useful information!
- In the New Directions of Evaluation Special Issue: Examining Issues Facing Communities of Color Today: The Role of Evaluation to Incite Change, Dr. Nicole Bowman contributed: Nation?to?Nation in Evaluation: Utilizing an Indigenous Evaluation Model to Frame Systems and Government Evaluations, which helps evaluators conceptualize systems evaluation design used between sovereign governments. And, with that, a quick note of gratitude for the labor of Dr. Nicky Bowman in lifting up these issues in our association and within our TIG.
The American Evaluation Association is hosting APC TIG Week with our colleagues in the Advocacy and Policy ChangeTopical Interest Group. The contributions all this week to aea365 come from our AP TIG members. Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this aea365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the aea365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an aea365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to firstname.lastname@example.org. aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the American Evaluation Association, and/or any/all contributors to this site.