Stories as Data: Indigenous Research Sovereignty and the “Intentional Fire” Podcast

Murveit, A. M., Delphin, S., Domingues, C., Bourque, S. D., Faulstich, S. D., Garfin, G. M., Huntly, N., Meadow, A. M., & Preston, V. (2023). Stories as Data: Indigenous Research Sovereignty and the “Intentional Fire” Podcast. Environment and Planning F, 2(1-2), 180–202.

Natural resource management intertwines with cultural practices and health outcomes for Indigenous peoples. Indigenous communities have managed and contributed to knowledge on ecosystems and sustainability since time immemorial. However, Indigenous communities in California face significant institutional constraints when implementing practices such as cultural burning. Indigenous-led research projects, programs, and political action are crucial to overcoming such constraints. It is important for non-Indigenous researchers to support Indigenous research agendas. This article helps to meet this need by identifying research procedures that respect Indigenous sovereignty and by using methods informed by Indigenous knowledge systems. The authors, representing the Southwest Climate Adaptation Science Center and the Karuk Tribe Department of Natural Resources, present a collaborative approach that integrates Native American and Indigenous Studies scholarship, participatory research methods, and engagement in the sovereign research protocols established by the Karuk Tribe. We share a process of effective collaborative research that respects Karuk research sovereignty. This process resulted in the Intentional Fire podcast series, a co-produced data set that documents Karuk stories on fire suppression, social impacts of fire exclusion, and Karuk determinants of healthy, resilient homeland ecosystems. The authors did not analyze the data further because Indigenous people do not need outside academics to speak on their behalf. The process also developed relationships, amplified knowledge, and strengthened capacities. We share our process and lessons learned to provide a model that can inform other collaborations that aim to support Indigenous research sovereignty.