Data sovereignty has emerged as a pressing issue for Indigenous leaders, scholars, and communities, especially when viewed against the troubling backdrop of inequity and exploitation that has historically characterized Indigenous-Settler research relations.
The misappropriation of cultural knowledge and problematic usage of Indigenous research data has spurred Indigenous peoples, communities, and their allies to advocate for the development, application, and implementation of principles, protocols, and best practices as a means of establishing and rigorously reinforcing ethical standards in Indigenous research data management.
The global movement for Indigenous data sovereignty (IDSov) affirms the inherent right of Indigenous peoples to control how information about them is managed, accessed, and preserved (Carroll et al., 2020; FNIGC, 2014). Indigenous data sovereignty is an assertion of Indigenous jurisdiction over all data about First Peoples, especially information held by non-Indigenous governments and institutions.
Indigenous peoples have developed various protocols to guide the implementation of Indigenous data sovereignty, including the OCAP® Principles and the CARE Principles for Indigenous Data Governance. The Indigenous data sovereignty movement also includes international networks such as the Global Indigenous Data Alliance (GIDA) and intellectual property initiatives such as Traditional Knowledge (TK) and Biocultural (BC) labels. First Peoples across the globe recognize and acknowledge the fundamental role of data sovereignty in sustaining the three pillars of a healthy government:
- Power (authority to act: constitution, laws, customs)
- Resources (natural, human, financial, information, knowledge, technology)
- Legitimacy (the ability to support and maintain public confidence in a government) (First Nations Centre 2005).
Access to and control of community data is more than just a matter of asserting rights of ownership over cultural materials. It represents the strong and dynamic connection between empowerment, cultural continuity, social cohesion, and resilience. There are distinct implications for social scientists working in collaboration with Indigenous communities in managing the control of, access to, and possession of their research data.