Indigenous data sovereignty

Indigenous Data Sovereignty & Indigenous Futures

Webinar video | Biographies

Featuring: Jonathan Dewar (First Nations Information Governance Centre), Sofia Locklear (Western), and Jason Lewis (Concordia)
Hosted by: Alison Hearn (Western)

27 January 2022, 7:00PM

How do Indigenous peoples claim sovereignty over their data and information, and work to transform the very means, methods and values through which “data” is defined and disseminated? How can the exercise of Indigenous data sovereignty and broader computational empowerment enhance and inspire Indigenous identities, representations and futures? How can “data” be Indigenized? Why should settler scholars, organizations, and individuals learn about, support, and respect Indigenous data sovereignty?

The fifth and final event in our Big Data at the Margins series examines the growing movement of Indigenous scholars and activists working to challenge the ethical, legal, and cultural impacts of the colonial imposed and externally mandated forms of data collection about Indigenous peoples and to center the generation of autonomous Indigenous data values and computational visions. Indigenous peoples know all too well the potential harms to well-being, politics and culture that can come from the imposition of settler-colonial data-informed policies. But even while nation-states around the world, including Canada, “commit” to enact the provisions in The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), implementation of these provisions continues to rely on data collection by statistical agencies of nation states, NGOs and commercial interests. Uninformed by Indigenous priorities and values, these ‘scientific’ data practices inevitably reinforce the treatment of Indigenous groups as “populations” not as sovereign “peoples” with legitimate claims to their lands, cultures, and resources, including information. In addition to demanding custody and control over externally generated Indigenous data, advocates for Indigenous data sovereignty call for the re-design, collection, dissemination and use of “data” itself, and for the empowerment of Indigenous peoples to define and imagine their own narratives and futures. Autonomous data practices and broader computational skills are vital to Indigenous political and cultural autonomy.

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Jonathan Dewar (Métis) has spent most of his 20+ year career directing research and knowledge translation initiatives on behalf of Indigenous-governed national NGOs and is a recognized as a leader in healing and reconciliation and Indigenous health and well-being education, policy, and research. Jonathan is the CEO of the First Nations Information Governance Center, located in AkweSASne Ontario and Ottawa, Ontario.

Sofia Locklear (Lumbee) is an assistant professor in the Faculty of Information and Media Studies at The University of Western Ontario. Her research focuses on race, whiteness, and the racialization of Indigenous peoples and on Indigenous public health. She has worked with the Urban Indian Heath Institute, a Tribal Epidemiology Center serving urban Native communities across the US. Her public health work has focused specifically on developing Indigenous Evaluation Methodologies.

Jason Lewis (Hawaiian, Samoan) is a digital media theorist, poet, and software designer. He is also the University Research Chair in Computational Media and the Indigenous Future Imaginary at Concordia University and co-directs the Indigenous Futures Research Centre and the Aboriginal Territories in Cyberspace research network. Lewis’ creative and production work has been recognized with the inaugural Robert Coover Award for Best Work of Electronic Literature, several imagineNATIVE Best New Media awards and multiple solo exhibitions. 

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