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The Indigenous Future Survey: Reclaiming Power through Data Sovereignty

Updated: Jan 21, 2022

Indigenous Peoples have experienced a great deal of violation when it comes to Western research. The historical mistrust between Indigenous People and research began with European colonization. From first contact, Indigenous people's appearances and culture were recorded in journals, often in dehumanizing and condescending ways. Recent movements such as Eugenics, and movements highlighting glaring disparities in health care continue to exemplify the dehumanization of Black, Brown, and/or Indigenous bodies. The mistreatment of these bodies in the medical system and in other systems is rooted in racialized systemic oppression and settler colonialism. Similar to the erasure of Indigenous history by colonial regimes through settler colonial tactics, our narratives are either not included or inaccurately told through Western research. We are only represented by our trauma, not by our resilience.

However, there is a movement in the United States for Indigenous People to reclaim sovereignty over our data and how it is used. The key lies within Indigenous people leading efforts to do research with their own communities. I emphasize with, because this is exactly the problem with Western research--- research is on subjects not active participants with valuable contributions. The Indigenous Futures Survey is a prime example of how Indigenous grassroots activists are using data to tell our own stories about our priorities in Indigenous communities. The Indigenous Futures Survey is a collaborative effort between The Native Organizers Alliance, Illuminative, and The Research for Indigenous Social Action and Equity (RISE) Center at the University of Michigan.

The results of the first Indigenous Futures Survey can be found at the link provided for free online through request. The survey was designed to highlight issues in Indigenous communities including democratic engagement and the impact of COVID-19. Over 6,400 Native peoples over 18 from 401 tribes from all 50 states participated. The results were presented in the White House and influenced paramount policy change related to issues in Native country.

The second Indigenous Futures Survey opened on December 15, 2021 and will close on January 31st, 2022. This is an opportunity to make sure that our voices are heard about issues in our communities and about the future of the United States. This is also an opportunity to show our strength in numbers. Although Native people are not a monolith, we are often impacted similarly by systemic racism and settler colonialism. It is important that we rise up to fight these battles together.

This is an opportunity to reclaim sovereignty over our data, and to show the colonial paradigm that we have the democratic influence to win elections with our voter participation as long as voter suppression of Native people are addressed.

Our data has been stolen from us and misused to tell false narratives about our communities, but we are taking this power back with a survey created by Natives, for Natives. This data will not only tell us how Native communities feel about issues that impact us the most, but it will also give us the teeth we need to hold perpetrators and our federal, state, and local government leadership accountable to our needs.

Transparency is important to us, and no personal data will be collected during this report. A separate survey will pop up upon the completion of the Indigenous Future Survey to participate in a raffle with gift cards from the most popular Native brands that will ask for personal data. You do not have to fill out the raffle survey if you do not wish to participate. Tribes and other entities are invited to become Survey Partners and will be granted access to raw data collected in their tribal communities.

Please take the survey and share it with your family, friends, community, and other networks. Let's take our power back!

UPDATE: The closing date for the survey has been moved to March 1st, 2022.

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