CREA-HI week: Data Sovereignty by Katherine Tibbetts

Curator’s note: This week’s AEA365 posts contain Hawaiian language words that use certain diacritical markings. We make our best efforts to include these markings to be as culturally and grammatically accurate as possible, however, these markings often display as question marks or boxes, and may display differently on different browsers and devices. For best readability we have omitted some of those marks here. 

Katherine Tibbetts

Katherine Tibbetts

Aloha, I am Katherine Tibbetts, a proud member of the Hawai’i Affiliate of the Center for Culturally Responsive Evaluation and Assessment

This week we are orienting our posts around categories of wellbeing from Kukulu Kumuhana: Creating Radical and New Knowledge to Improve Native Hawaiian Wellbeing. Today we feature ea which is pronounced /eh-ah/ and refers to self-determination. Ea is often manifested in the intergenerational transmission of knowledge and kuleana (responsibilities and rights) to ‘ohana (family). In this post, we highlight Data Sovereignty as one manifestation of ea.

Jon Osorio, a leader in the Hawaiian community and Dean of Hawai’inuiakea expressed a Hawaiian perspective on access to and use of knowledge: 

There is a very, very different way of looking at knowledge if you are a Kanaka [Hawaiian] in terms of kapu, in terms of sacredness, in terms of where it comes, and in terms of your kuleana to it. If you do not have a kuleana to something, you should not be going there. If you have a kuleana it means being from a community in which you have a stake that everyone recognizes; it is not something you can claim. One does not just get a kuleana, one is always given a kuleana. One is always handed it after some kind of training. So this is not about race, not about ethnicity; it does not have to be about koko [ancestry]. It has to be about, Does the community recognize you? If they do, then you have a kuleana.


The authors of Indigenous Data Sovereignty: Toward an Agenda suggest: 

… while not denying some role for centralised data collection, what indigenous peoples are seeking is a right to identity and meaningful participation in decisions affecting the collection, dissemination and stewardship of all data that are collected about them. They also seek mechanisms for capacity building in their own compilation of data and use of information as a means of promoting their full and effective participation in self-governance and development planning. (p.4)

When we have relationships that impart kuleana to access and use knowledge from Native Hawaiian and other Indigenous communities, what can we learn from the intersection of Evaluating with Aloha and Data Sovereignty to guide our behavior? In my opinion, this means I have a responsibility to gather and use data in ways that protect and promote the sovereignty and wellbeing of the community and individuals, including, but not limited to ways that: 

  • respect and help sustain their culture, values, and worldviews
  • maintain rights to privacy,
  • avoid or minimize retraumatization, 
  • include community in data interpretation and communication,
  • are strengths-based, and
  • provide context to promote understanding and disrupt misattribution of negative data as something inherent to culture, values, and worldviews.

Rad Resources:

The American Evaluation Association is hosting CREA-HI Week. The contributions all this week to aea365 come from members of the Hawai’i affiliate of Cultural Responsive Evaluation and Assessment (CREA). 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. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the American Evaluation Association, and/or any/all contributors to this site.

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.