Indigenous/Science at UBC: Partnerships in the Exploration of History and Environments

Principal Investigators: 

Together, Canadians must do more than just talk about reconciliation; we must learn how to practise reconciliation in our everyday lives—within ourselves and our families, and in our communities, governments, places of worship, schools, and work-places. To do so constructively, Canadians must remain committed to the ongoing work of establishing and maintaining respectful relationships 

[Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada Final Report, V6, p. 17].


Our research cluster seeks to catalyze a conversation and study of Indigeneity and science, with specific application to understanding Indigenous history and the environment via both empirical evidence and critical social theory.

Our focus includes the Indigenous past, its material and historical manifestations, the environmental context within which it occurred, and the study of this past. 


We signal the complexity and overlap of our goals and interests in our cluster title by calling this ‘Indigenous/Science,’ allowing multiple interpretations of its meaning, including the science of Indigenous traditions, science by Indigenous scholars, the Indigenous study of science and scientists, the application of science to Indigenous contexts, and the exploration of the cultural conceptions of Indigeneity and science. 

Who We Are

Our cluster integrates four research communities:

  1. archaeologists and physical scientists focusing on molecular and chemical analysis of material things;
  2. First Nations communities interested in forming research partnerships with research institutions in the exploration of Indigenous history;
  3. scholars who explore Indigenous cultural traditions; and 
  4. scholars who explore the philosophy and culture of scholarship and knowledge production.

Although some of our participants come from more than one of these communities, these are cultural constituencies that benefit from greater engagement. 

What We Do

We are driven by three principal ideas.

  • First, we believe that science – which can be variously defined but includes both expectations of empirical commonality and the operation of recurring causal forces – is a valuable practice in any cultural context. We propose that empirical evidence, when sought widely, forms a landscape of data through which different explanations and understanding can weave.
  • Second, we argue that Indigenous traditional knowledge is robust scholarship comparable to other frameworks of science, though often couched in ways that non-Indigenous scholars may not perceive or comprehend. 
  • Third, we argue that the identification of evidence is not always obvious and is never divorced from the cultural context of the scholar. While we seek equitable partnerships between non-Indigenous scholars and Indigenous scholars and communities, we acknowledge that this can be difficult.

Our research cluster includes Indigenous communities and scholars to assess the efficacy of our efforts. For the latter, the creation of the research cluster and its negotiations and developments will be the subject of study, a reflexive stance that creates an additional layer of interdisciplinarity.