Healing The Distrust Between Tribes And University Researchers

Oct 20, 2015

The University of Wyoming launched a new program Monday that hopes to create a bridge between the school and the Wind River Indian Reservation, home of the Eastern Shoshone and Northern Arapaho tribes. Associate Director Torivio Fodder says the aim of the High Plains American Indian Research Institute is to help the state’s two tribes overcome a long history of distrusting governmental and academic researchers.

“In the past, research was much more extractive,” he says. “Researchers go on the reservation, conduct their studies, gather all this data and then take it back and the reservation never benefits. That creates skepticism. We’re hoping to turn the page on a lot of that and make research much more about making a contribution to the community.”

We are hoping to turn the page on a lot of that and make research much more about making a contribution to the community.

Fodder says the university has something to offer the tribes, as well: an outsider’s perspective on longstanding tribal issues.

Institute Director Judith Antell says the institute plans to guide UW researchers in how to use more culturally sensitive methods when conducting studies on the Wind River Indian Reservation.

“First and foremost, talking with the tribal leadership about research ideas and approaching tribes as sovereign nations and asking permission.”

Antell says the institute is already working with UW researchers on projects such as women’s health, legal issues in tribal politics and agricultural water management. She says, they hope to establish an office on the reservation in the near future.