PROTOCOL FOR REVIEW OF ENVIRONMENTAL AND SCIENTIFIC RESEARCH PROPOSALS
Akwesasne Task Force on
the Environment (ATFE)
Research Advisory Committee (RAC)
© ATFE 1996
Copyright 1996 by the ATFE, Hogansburg, New York. All rights reserved. No
part of this publication may be reprinted, reproduced, or transmitted in any
form or by any means without the written permission of the Akwesasne Task Force
on the Environment.
All inquiries should be addressed to:
P.O. Box 992
Hogansburg, NY 13655
PREFACE: GUIDING PRINCIPLES
The principles of skennen, kariwiio and kasastensera serve as the foundation
and guiding force for the Akwesasne Task Force on the Environment (ATFE). Since
the beginning of time, our Creator has told our people to strive for peace and
as individuals, communities and Nations, we must constantly strive to talk,
work, live and be at peace. Skennen (peace) is more than just the absence of
conflict or war and is based on spiritual, social and political foundations.
Peace has been defined as "the active striving of humans for the purpose
of establishing universal justice... True peace is the product of a unified
people on the path of Righteousness and Reason - the ability to enact the
principles of Peace through education, public opinion and political and when
necessary, military unity. It is the product of a spiritually conscious society
using its abilities at reason."
When we work for peace, we develop a good mind, a good way of thinking.
Kariwiio (good word) refers to "the shared ideology of the people using
their purest and most unselfish minds. It occurs when the people put their
minds and emotions in harmony with the flow of the universe and the intentions
of the Good Mind or the Great Creator. The principles of Righteousness demand
that all thoughts of prejudice, privilege or superiority be swept away and that
recognition be given to the reality that the creation is intended for the
benefit of all equally - even the birds and animals, the trees and the insects,
as well as the humans...Reason is seen as the skill which humans must be
encouraged to acquire in order that the objectives of justice may be attained
and no one's rights abused."
When we work for peace and a good mind, we develop kasastensera (strength).
Strength flows from the power of the good mind to use rational thinking and
persuasion to channel the inherent good will of humans to work towards peace,
justice and unity to prevent the abuse of human beings and mother earth.
PURPOSE OF RESEARCH ADVISORY COMMITTEE REVIEW PROCESS
The Akwesasne Task Force on the Environment (ATFE) has established a
Research Advisory Committee (RAC) to review and comment on all proposals that
involve environmental and/or scientific research to be conducted in the Mohawk
Nation community of Akwesasne. Due to the increased number of research projects
being proposed by scientists, it has become necessary to establish guidelines
to protect the community of Akwesasne and its future generations. Towards this
end, the Akwesasne Task Force on the Environment must be consulted by all
projects or activities involving environmental and/or scientific research.
Researchers need to have the opportunity to deal with a community entity in
order to be respectful and not take advantage of intra-tribal differences. In
addition, it is important for scientists to recognize the need for community
empowerment, control of the research process and ownership of data and
This review process should not be viewed in a negative way or be seen as an
impediment to research. It has been developed to serve as a guide to improve
relations between the community of Akwesasne and scientists/researchers and to
promote collaboration within a framework of mutual trust and cooperation. A
good research agreement will be developed to ensure that studies proceed in a
manner that is both culturally sensitive and relevant to the participants and
community. Our three main guiding principles, skennen, kariwiio and
kasastensera, as well as the behaviors that flow from these principles,
respect, equity and empowerment, will serve as the criteria of this review
process. The Research Advisory Committee will help to ensure that the proposed
research benefits the community, gives the people of Akwesasne an opportunity
to be involved in decision making processes and empowers those involved through
education, training and/or authorship. This agreement will also ensure that
finances, personnel and power are shared between the community and researchers.
Finally, the Akwesasne Task Force on the Environment is responsible for
insuring that proposed research protects the environmental, natural and
cultural resources of Akwesasne.
ROLE OF AKWESASNE TASK FORCE ON THE ENVIRONMENT (ATFE) AND ITS RESEARCH
ADVISORY COMMITTEE (RAC)
The Akwesasne Task Force on the Environment (ATFE) is a community based
organization founded to conserve, preserve, protect and restore the
environment, natural and cultural resources within the territory of Akwesasne.
The Task Force works to fulfill the responsibilities that we as Onkwehon:we
people have to the natural world to promote the health and survival of the
sacred web of life for the next seven generations. The ATFE includes community
members who reside in all regions of Akwesasne.
The objectives of the ATFE include serving the people of Akwesasne by acting
as environmental representatives to external agencies and acting to establish
partnerships with educational and environmental organizations to assist the
community in developing and implementing strategies for environmental
The Research Advisory Committee (RAC) has been authorized and resourced by
the ATFE to review environmental and scientific research protocols and
proposals and submit recommendations regarding these proposals to the Task
Force at large. At any given time, a minimum of 5 individuals will be asked to
serve on this committee by a consensus decision of the members of the ATFE. It
will be up to the members of the ATFE as a whole to decide if the proposed
research will be supported or not. Approval by the Akwesasne Task Force on the
Environment means that a community based organization has reviewed the research
proposal and agreed that this project appears to potentially benefit the
community and/or environment of Akwesasne without causing obvious or
substantial harm to the environment, community and individual persons residing
The Akwesasne community includes Mohawk and other individuals, families,
clans, governments and people residing in the Mohawk Nation community of
Empowerment is defined as a sharing of power and the result of a good
research agreement developed by both the community and the researcher. Each of
the participants feel that their needs are being met and that their credibility
is increasing. Partnership and responsibility continue to grow as more and more
respect and equity enter the agreement. The application of the research as a
useful instrument of the community is balanced with the researchers need for
good science. Empowerment also means that authorship must be shared between the
community and the researcher. While this is sometimes difficult, the increase
in empowerment and credibility is very beneficial to the good research
Equity is defined as a sharing of resources. Both the researchers and the
community must bring equity to the agreement. Each of the participants in a
good research agreement must evaluate this equity in relationship to the
research. Finance or money is only one form of equity. Community knowledge,
networks, personnel and political/social power are other forms of equity useful
to the project. Each of these commodities have value and must be shared between
the researchers and community if a good agreement is to be formulated. It will
be necessary to continuously review equity over the duration of the agreement.
Good Research Agreement:
A good research agreement is developed between researchers and the community
of Akwesasne when it promotes collaboration within a framework of mutual trust
and cooperation. This agreement will result in shared power, shared resources
and mutual understanding and will ensure that studies proceed in a manner that
is both culturally sensitive, relevant and beneficial to the participants and
community of Akwesasne.
Research includes but is not limited to : agricultural, behavioral,
biogenetic, medical, behavioral, botanical, ecological, environmental,
ethnobotanical, neurological, psychological, toxicological or other scientific
In order to develop a good research agreement, the researchers and the
community must generate respect for each other. Respect is generated by
understanding each others social, political and cultural structures. The
researchers and the community can not assume that they believe in the same
things or share the same goals and expectations. Communication must work both
ways in order that a good research agreement be generated. Cultural sensitivity
training for the researchers and community awareness presentations will help
develop a mutual understanding of the research process. Definitions and
assumptions must be clarified and questioned by each side. The community and
the researchers must listen to each other with clean, clear ears. Consensus and
a mediation process will be used to develop the procedures which can be honored
by both the researchers and community.
Researchers must begin working with the ATFE in the earliest stages of
planning their proposals. Depending on the nature of the proposed project,
researchers are advised to allow sufficient time for community members to
thoroughly review and understand all aspects of the study, ask questions and
resolve differences. Even the simplest of proposals will need more than a month
for review, since the ATFE meets monthly. Because research is a cooperative
venture, it is not wise to wait until the last minute to write a grant
application and assume that the community of Akwesasne will automatically
The Research Advisory Committee requests that a short (maximum 5 pages,
single sided) synopsis of the project be submitted. A full length proposal
should be submitted as a supplement, but the requested summary must be able to
stand on its own. The following information must be included in any materials
that request approval or support letters for research projects:
Statement of the Problem/Research Question:
Briefly describe the problem you are addressing with your proposed research,
specific questions related to this problem and the theoretical rationale behind
the question. If you have specific hypotheses, please briefly state them.
Intent/Benefit to the Community of Akwesasne:
Clearly outline and discuss the intent of the research and the benefit(s)
that the project, research or activity will have to the community. What are the
anticipated consequences or results/outcomes of the project? What groups will
be affected and what groups will benefit? In what ways will these groups
Briefly describe the procedure for the collection of all data to be used in
your study. Include a description of subjects, settings, proposed procedure and
the nature of the data to be collected.
Describe how confidentiality will be protected. Indicate the circumstances
in which the obligations of the researcher will constitute a breach of
confidentiality. Describe how individual participants will be informed of the
degree of confidentiality that will be maintained throughout the study. It
should be remembered that unless otherwise specified, only aggregate data, not
individual data, shall be published or released to the general public. All
individual identifiers such as names, addresses and phone numbers must be kept
confidential and no sale or transfer of databases outside the specific research
project shall be allowed. You must state in your summary if the community of
Akwesasne will be identified in any data released to the general public.
Disposition of the data:
Describe how individual participants will be informed of how data will be
used. Remember that both the community and the participants must clearly
understand what the researcher plans to do with the information that is
collected. Describe plans to provide individual participants with their own
personal results. In addition, describe how the community at large will be
educated or empowered by this study. Describe how frequently and in what manner
aggregate data and progress reports will be shared with the Research Advisory
Committee. Describe communication strategies that will be used to present
aggregate data to the community at large. Remember, data must be shared with
the community of Akwesasne before it is shared outside the community.
Describe any potential legal, financial, social, physical or psychological
risks that are anticipated in this research. Describe any risks of deleterious
impact on the cultural, social, economic or political well-being of the
community. The assessment of risk will also address the steps that will be
taken to minimize, ameliorate or repair the problem in the event that actual
harm is caused to the community of Akwesasne. Explain how potential risks will
be explained to participants and how they are clearly justified by the
potential benefits of the research.
If this study is funded by any public or private granting sources, please
provide a full reference. If you are currently seeking funding, please list all
funding agencies for which you are sending proposals. Researchers are advised
to budget funding to cover cultural sensitivity training and to provide
adequate resources to cover community education and outreach efforts.
Cultural Sensitivity Training:
So that researchers are better prepared to work in our community, all
principal investigators, researchers, graduate students and any others involved
in data collection will be required to undergo cultural sensitivity training
which will be provided at the researcher's expense by the North American Indian
Traveling College. Costs will be determined based on the scope of the project.
The proposal must demonstrate how the participants and the community at
large will be given fair and appropriate return. Just compensation or fair
return includes but is not limited to: obtaining copies of the research
findings, authorship, co-authorship or acknowledgment, royalties, fair monetary
compensation, copyright, patent, trademark, compensation for expenses incurred
in reviewing/advising researchers, coverage of training/education or outreach
expenses or other forms of compensation.
The proposal must address mechanisms for informed consent which may be
required from individual participants, families, clans or the governments of
Akwesasne. Please list the agencies, professionals, government representatives
or individuals within the community with which you have previously discussed
this proposal and whether or not they have given their support.
Describe how individuals and community members will be empowered by the
research process through employment, training or outreach efforts. Native
American preference must be given in employment and training in all phases of
the project or activity, especially in the on reservation phases. The order of
priorities in hiring shall be: (1) Akwesasne Tribal members; (2) Native
American or Alaskan Native people generally; (3) local residents.
Intellectual property rights and review of product or research
Discuss the plans (pre, during and post-project) for publication or
commercialization of the research findings. How will the community share in the
authorship of publications or commercialization of the research findings? How
will the community have access to the project, research data or findings for
their own use? Researchers must inform the Research Advisory Committee of
journals, publishing houses or conferences that they plan to print or present
the results of their studies before papers are submitted or presented. The
proposal must demonstrate a process whereby the Research Advisory Committee and
the Akwesasne Task Force at large will have an opportunity to review and
critique the results of all studies before any publication, presentation, news
conferences or release of data to the general public. Researchers shall be
responsible for addressing, correcting and satisfying the concerns of the Task
Force in both drafts and final reports, papers or data summaries before they
are released to the general public.
The Akwesasne Task Force on the Environment reserves the right to require
deposit of raw materials or data, working papers or product in a tribally
designated repository, with specific safeguards to preserve confidentiality.
Duplicates of data or split samples may be required to be stored in such a
All requested research summaries and support documents should be sent to:
Akwesasne Task Force on the Environment, Research Advisory Committee, PO Box
992, Hogansburg, NY 13655
The Research Advisory Committee of the Akwesasne Task Force on the
Environment shall review the materials that are submitted and either:
1. Return the proposal to the researcher with requests for more information
or with suggestions for clarification or change; or
2. Send the proposal and request on to the Akwesasne Task Force on the
Environment to be placed as an agenda item at their next monthly meeting with a
recommendation for approval or disapproval; or
3. Consult with other community professionals, technical experts or
specialists for a second evaluation before sending recommendations to the
Akwesasne Task Force on the Environment.
The review process is complete when the researcher receives a letter of
notification from the Chairperson of the Akwesasne Task Force on the
Environment. Upon approval, principal investigators, researchers, graduate
students and any others involved in data collection must undergo cultural
sensitivity training at the investigators' expense before any research is begun
in the community. The Research Advisory Committee expects periodic progress
reports and will use these to update the Akwesasne Task Force on the
Environment on the status of the project.
Modifications of an approved project
If the researcher wishes to make substantial changes in his or her research
protocol after receiving approval from the Akwesasne Task Force on the
Environment, he or she must submit a summary of the proposed modifications to
the Research Advisory Committee. Modifications in the data collection
procedures must be approved by the Research Advisory Committee and must not be
implemented until the researcher receives written approval to make the changes
from the Chairperson of the Akwesasne Task Force on the environment.
If a research project received approval by the Akwesasne Task Force on the
Environment, the approval remains in effect for the period of time specified in
the research agreement unless substantial changes are made in the research
protocol. At the end of the approval period, the researcher must submit a
letter in writing which summarizes the status of the project (complete,
incomplete, discontinued), any unanticipated problems that occurred during the
data collection phase of the project and a time schedule for completion of all
work, including community education/outreach, related to the project. If the
project is incomplete, the researcher must also request in writing an
additional approval period for the data collection phase of the project.
The Akwesasne Task Force on the Environment reserves the right to:
1. Withdraw consent to use or release information and/or prevent the
publication of data which is unauthorized, sensitive, misrepresents or
stereotypes Mohawk people or will harm the health, safety or welfare of the
Mohawk people of Akwesasne or their environment.
2. Deny researchers the opportunity to conduct research in the community of
Akwesasne. In addition, other researchers or scientists from the same research
institution may be denied any future access to the community.
3. Withdraw approval for projects. When this is done, the Akwesasne Task
Force on the Environment will explain the rationale for withdrawing approval
and explain why this project or the release of data is deemed to be harmful to
individuals or the community as a whole. In the case of withdrawal of approval
by the community, all information and copies of data must be returned to the
If a project is terminated, the research organization must provide just
compensation to any field staff or member of the Akwesasne Task Force on the
Environment for their time and efforts spent related to the research project.
Akwesasne Notes, Mohawk Nation (1978). Basic Call to Consciousness.
Summertown, TN: Book Publishing Co.
American Indian Law Center (1994). The Model Tribal Research Code: With
Materials for Tribal Regulation for Research and Checklist for Indian Health
Boards. American Indian Law Center, Inc.
Colvin, J. G. (1992). Bridging the Gap: US Researchers in the Third World.
Eagle Project (1995). Access to Information and Information Management.
Eagle Project, Assembly of First Nations.
Masayesva, M. (1994). Cultural Appropriation: A Hopi Response. Indigenous
Woman, II(II), 35-36.
Mihesuah, D. (1993). Suggested Guidelines for Institutions with Scholars who
Conduct Research on American Indians. American Indian Culture and Research
Mohawk Council of Akwesasne (1995). Internal Review Board Procedures for
Submitting Requests for Approval of Research. Mohawk Council of Akwesasne,
Internal Review Board.
Pesticide Education Center (1991). Workshop on Community Education. In
Reproductive Hazards Conference. Woods Hole, MA.
BACK TO ARCHIVED RESOURCES PAGE