Decolonizing Evaluation Week: Welcome to Decolonizing Evaluation by Sheri Scott and Michael Petillo

Welcome to a week of posts focused on Decolonizing Evaluation. 

We are on stolen land. Indigenous peoples are still here. 

The American Evaluation Association (AEA) headquarters sit on the unceded ancestral lands of the Nacotchtank (Anacostan) and neighboring Piscataway and Pamunkey peoples. The areas along the Anacostia and Potomac River watersheds, Chesapeake Bay, and the states of Maryland, Virginia, and Delaware are currently home to over 12 tribal nations, including the Piscataway Conoy Tribal Nation, Pamunkey Indian Tribe, The Confederation of Sovereign Nanticoke-Lenape Tribes, Mattaponi Tribe, Chickahominy Tribe, Monacan Indian Nation, and Rappahannock Tribe.  

Acknowledgment is more than historical commentary; it considers AEA members’ future work in many locations on other Indigenous communities’ unceded lands. As the co-organizers of this week’s posts, an AEA-sponsored online resource, we recognize the ongoing harms of settler-colonialism. We stand with these tribal communities, their ancestors, and future generations. We encourage readers to learn about Indigenous peoples, past and present, their stories, and how to actively support Indigenous communities. We know that there is work to do and commit to reparative action.

Decolonizing Evaluation

This week’s posts represent a small sample of reflections on what it means to decolonize evaluation, in theory and practice, from different perspectives and within different contexts. Last year’s week of posts inspired this continuing conversation. What has changed in our understanding or approach? More recent posts, such as in this year’s DRG TIG week, also demonstrate this topic’s importance in the evaluation community. We hope this conversation and practice is ongoing and evolving; as the impacts of colonization continue, so must our efforts to decolonize. 

Defining “decolonizing”? 

Consider what sources we turn to and what worldview(s) we center to understand any concept. A Western-centered approach may begin with the Oxford Dictionary’s definition of “decolonize.” Such a definition focuses on political control imposed by one people (settler nation) over another people (Indigenous nation). This definition overlooks settler-colonialism’s cultural, spiritual, psychological, economic, and environmental impacts, which remain long after political occupation. Another approach might refocus to ask what decolonization looks like and means to the communities who have been subjected to colonization. This approach garners a multi-versed understanding, as vast as the lands that were taken from Indigenous peoples, and the oceans that enslaved Africans traversed as forced labor for a new nation-state. 

We cannot reduce the experience of so many communities – including those fighting for federal and state recognition, for treaty rights to be upheld, for sacred site protection, for equal voting rights, and for safety from state-sanctioned violence in the form of police brutality, incarceration, and uninvestigated missing/murdered women, children, and Two Spirit peoples- into a singular definition.  

However, we can listen to and learn from these communities and consider how we, as evaluators, can disrupt the harm of settler-colonial logics that continue to frame many theories, methods, and methodologies. 

We can read BIPOC/QTPOC authors – such as Audre Lorde, Albert Memmi, Linda Tuhiwai Smith, Shawn Wilson, Vine Deloria Jr., Angela Davis, Taiaiake Alfred, Stephanie Guiterrez, Glen Sean Coulthard, Bagele Chilisa, Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha, and many more – to contextualize decolonization within our evaluation practices. We can learn from other evaluators, especially those who center decolonizing or indigenizing practices. We can hold ourselves accountable instead of requiring others to do it for us.

We thank all the authors who contributed and recognize the gift of their time and spirit. 

Sheri Scott (she/her) and Michael Petillo (he/him or they/them) are White, non-Indigenous, US-based evaluators who engage collaborative, community-based approaches, and work to disrupt the settler-colonial mindset. 


The American Evaluation Association is hosting Decolonizing Evaluation Week. All posts this week are contributed by individuals committed to the decolonization of evaluation. 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@eval.org. aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators. The views and opinions expressed on the AEA365 blog are solely those of the original authors and other contributors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the American Evaluation Association, and/or any/all contributors to this site.

2 thoughts on “Decolonizing Evaluation Week: Welcome to Decolonizing Evaluation by Sheri Scott and Michael Petillo”

  1. taansi Sheri and Michael,

    I found your blog to be very interesting and informative. As an Indigenous person I can easily relate to what is being shared and discussed through your blog. It begins with the statement “Acknowledgment is more than historical commentary.” (DiLuzio, 2021) I can relate to what is being shared because Indigenous education is much more than statement. It is important to know the land you inhabit but it is only beginning.

    “What does it mean to decolonize evaluation, in theory and practice, from different perspectives and within different contexts.” (DiLuzio, 2021) What does this question really ask the person? Why would you have to decolonize evaluation in theory and practice? These are all very important questions that I often wonder about and look for the answers. You wrote “We hope this conversation and practice is ongoing and evolving; as the impacts of colonization continue, so must our efforts to decolonize.” (DiLuzio, 2021) I agree that this conversation needs to happen in many areas and involving many people.

    I also found your discussion about the definition to be very insightful. You wrote “This definition overlooks settler-colonialism’s cultural, spiritual, psychological, economic, and environmental impacts, which remain long after political occupation. Another approach might refocus to ask what decolonization looks like and means to the communities who have been subjected to colonization. This approach garners a multi-versed understanding, as vast as the lands that were taken from Indigenous peoples, and the oceans that enslaved Africans traversed as forced labor for a new nation-state.” (DiLuzio, 2021) There was a lot of valid points and great connections made in what was shared on your blog. This alone makes people think about how colonialism has changed the fabric of our country. What exists within our school systems? Does colonialism also create a community that is unequal, if so, how do we change this?

    Finally, I thought this statement was a great way to end my review of this blog. “We cannot reduce the experience of so many communities – including those fighting for federal and state recognition, for treaty rights to be upheld, for sacred site protection, for equal voting rights, and for safety from state-sanctioned violence in the form of police brutality, incarceration, and un investigated missing/murdered women, children, and Two Spirit peoples- into a singular definition.” (DiLuzio, 2021) All of this are strong arguments for inequality and system created with racist intentions. The fact that murdered and missing Indigenous women and girls continues to grow numbers only proves that argument. There is so much change needing to happen, and we are the people to lead those changes.

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