Contribution, Leadership, and Renewal: Centering Indigenous Voices by Elizabeth Taylor-Schiro and Nicole Bowman

Nicole Bowman & Elizabeth Taylor-Schiro
Nicole Bowman & Elizabeth Taylor-Schiro

Aaniin indinawemaaganag! (Hello my colleagues/relatives!) I’m Elizabeth Taylor-Schiro (Anishinaabe/Ojibwe) and the current Program Co-Chair of the Indigenous Peoples in Evaluation TIG, EvalIndigenous Member, and a PhD student in Evaluation Studies at the University of Minnesota.

Koolamalsi (Hello). I’m Nicole Bowman (Mohican/Lunaape) and one of the Chairs for the IPE TIG as well as a member of EvalIndignous since 2016. I’m an evaluator at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and Bowman Performance Consulting.

This week’s AEA365 posts aim to reflect on the Evaluation 2019 theme of Contribution, Leadership, and Renewal with today’s post addressing how evaluation can center Indigenous perspectives. As Indigenous evaluators, our commitment to renewal, reawakening, and remaining a relevant part of evaluation through theory, method, and traditional knowledge remains strong.


When walking in two worlds, Indigenous culture/communities and mainstream educational/professional systems, it is difficult to ignore the differences in verbiage and language that are used. These differences are critical because language is not only a tool of communication; language is a window into culture, identity, and values. In mainstream evaluation language and verbiage, it is not uncommon to see terms like: stakeholder, study, evaluator goals, inquiry, accommodate, and more. This type of language implies a disconnect between the evaluator and the communities they are partnering with, and situate evaluation as an impersonal science. In Indigenous evaluation, it is more common to see terms like: tribal goals, community, lived experience, sharing, and alignment. This type of language implies a relationship between the evaluator and community; and, it emphasizes connection and inclusion of culture (see indigenous language figure). When using this latter type of language in evaluation it is not only more ethical in that it optimizes benefits to the community, it also creates more valid and useful outcomes for the people whose goals should be the focus of your evaluation.

Why Indigenous Languages
Screenshot from website:

Unlearn, Learn, and Re-learn

Evaluation scholars have offered culturally responsive evaluation theories, methods and frameworks that attempt to integrate community values but there are still gaps; and, none address the unique legal and political components of sovereign Tribal/First Nations Governments. A Nation-to-Nation (N2N) Systems Evaluation Framework (see figure to the right) can be used to apply Tribal Critical Theory (TCT) to systems and governance evaluations to address this gap.  Building on an emerging Tribal Critical Systems Theory (TCST) to include culturally responsive and legally inclusive evaluation design at systems and governance levels, TCST is applied within an emerging N2N systems evaluation model helping evaluation practitioners conceptualize systems evaluation design used between sovereign governments.

Nation to Nation (N2N) Conceptual Evaluation Model Framework

The use of an N2N policy systems map helps us critically think through systems relationships and practices of Tribal and public governments, and as we do we must consider the sources of motivation, knowledge, power, and legitimation as we grow to unlearn, learn, and re-learn how to bring together evaluation, policy, and governance between Tribal and non-Tribal nations. Additionally, these frameworks can be a helpful tool to critically reflect on our evaluation work in any community or program setting.


The American Evaluation Association is celebrating Contribution, Leadership, and Renewal Week where a group of Minnesota-based evaluators reflect on the theme of Evaluation 2019, to be held in Minneapolis, MN. 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 aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.


3 thoughts on “Contribution, Leadership, and Renewal: Centering Indigenous Voices by Elizabeth Taylor-Schiro and Nicole Bowman”

  1. Hi Elizabeth and Nicole,

    My name is Carrie Mogollon and I am of Dakelh, Scottish, and Irish descent. I work and live on the unceded territory of the Semiahmoo, Kwantlen, and Katzie First Nations. I have a passion for indigenous education and I greatly appreciate how you both are educating the evaluation community through your blog posts.

    I am new to the evaluation community and I must say that the verbiage has been difficult to connect with. I feel that when I am reading about evaluation theory, there seems to be a disconnect with the community and the evaluator. Language is embedded in culture, community, and place. I agree with your statement that “language is a window into culture, identity, and values”, and with a greater understanding of language, both an evaluator and a community program will benefit. I believe that with Indigenous evaluation, an Indigenous community member may feel more comfortable with the evaluation process if they hear/see terms that are aligned with their own language and culture. This will then enhance the evaluation process because it allows for the development of trust and understanding with the evaluator.

    The Nation-to-Nation (N2N) model helped me see how Indigenous language and culture can be infused within the evaluation process. The graphic model is both visually appealing and informational. The N2N model also provides an inclusive framework for evaluation that acknowledges Indigenous culture, stories, language, knowledge, history, and laws. I will keep this model in mind as I continue to learn more about inclusive and culturally responsive evaluation.

    Thank you for your post and your commitment to “renewal, reawakening, and remaining a relevant part of evaluation through theory, method, and traditional knowledge.”

    Kind regards,

    Carrie Mogollon

  2. Hello Elizabeth and Nicole,

    My name is Jen, and I am a currently a student in a Masters of Education program in Canada. I am taking a course on Program Inquiry and Evaluation and often we are asked to engage in the evaluation community through the AEA 365 blog.

    I came across your post and after reading it began to reflect on my own lack of awareness regarding the Indigenous perspective in evaluation. Of course, this is true for many things because I am not Indigenous. However, I am trying to learn, grow, and teach my students differently as a way to support reconciliation in schools. I am part of a First Nations language project in my school district where we work with local First Nations communities to learn Ojibwe and share it with our school community. Throughout this two year project, I have learned that language, history, and culture are essential foundations to projects. It makes completes sense after reading your post that instead of using “stakeholder, study, evaluator goals, inquiry, accommodate” you would use “tribal goals, community, lived experience, sharing, and alignment”. I appreciate this reminder and will reflect on it moving forward.

    Also, thank you for sharing the N2N Framework and linking the policy systems map. I will certainly share it with my colleagues.

  3. Dear Ms. Taylor-Schiro and Ms. Bowman
    I am a settler from Kenora, Ontario, Canada living now in Southern Ontario. I am currently working toward my Master of Education and starting to learn about culturally responsive and equity focused evaluation as part of project work for my program evaluation course. I am soaking up everything you have offered in this article, thank you! With keen interest, I am exploring how I can use the N2N framework/tool to reflect on the program evaluation design that I am developing. I am looking at if and how the Kairos Blanket Exercise Program can be used in the public school setting. Specifically in the Keewatin-Patricia District School Board’s ability to deliver on (or at least contribute to) it’s goal of Reconciliation. Your tool illustrates the relationships and inter-dependencies at the level of formal government. Have you used the tool to critically reflect on more local programs and initiatives, within school boards for example?

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.