Our Values and Principles


The IFI is a project concerned, principally, with the transformative power of the future. From its inception, the Western academy has excluded Black, Indigenous, and other minority communities from research. Relationships that existed, hinge on the violent history of experimentation, exploitation, and extraction within Black and Indigenous communities by scientists, anthropologists, and other researchers; fostering a legacy of harm and distrust.

Unchallenged, such histories catalyze futures that continue to foreclose the possibility of Black and Indigenous knowledge production, innovation, and, ultimately, life. In other words, unless we actively challenge harmful narratives, practices, and theories that haunt the halls of the academy, harm and violence will continue to shape Black and Indigenous futures. A focus on the future is not merely a utopian project; it requires the recognition of past harms and a commitment to addressing them on Black and Indigenous peopleʻs terms. 

Rather than take “futurity” as an abstract concept focused uncritically on potentiality, the IFI takes to task the practice of futurity as an act of relational accountability and transformation. In pursuit of this goal, the IFI aims to put the power of scientific and academic knowledge back into the hands of communities that have been framed by dominant academic and scientific discourse as objects of study rather than producers of knowledge. 

Moving into the Future through the Past

In the Kanaka ʻŌiwi (Native Hawaiian) worldview, the ʻōlelo noʻeau (proverbial saying) “I ka wā ma mua, ka wā ma hope” reminds us that our ancestral knowledges will be the force that carries us into more just, more abundant, and more sovereign futures.  Translating roughly as “in the past is the future,” this ʻōlelo noʻeau is, as Hawaiian Studies scholar Lilikalā Kameʻeleihiwa explains, an instruction to keep our eyes on the past, our backs turned towards the future, each step forward in time grounded firmly in the storied knowledge of our ancestors. This Kanaka ʻŌiwi example guides, in part, our engagement with our own global Indigenous communities by emphasizing the importance of ancestral and place-based knowledge and their place in imagining our future. Such knowledge offers wisdom that frames the intricate relationships between people and places that sustain human and environmental flourishing in places and cultures [Couzin et al., 2007].  


Learning from the interventions of Indigenous researchers such as Linda Tuhiwai Smith (Ngāti Awa, Ngāti Porou), the IFI draws a contrast between community-based participatory research and the “helicopter” or “drop-in” approach of traditional social and scientific research. Such a detached and extractive approach has resulted in an unequal and often violent exchange with Indigenous peoples, where researchers profit off of data harvested from Indigenous communities, never to return to that community. Such a practice has, undoubtedly, resulted in the egregious mistreatment of Indigenous peoples, Indigenous land, and Indigenous data.  The IFI, instead, centers an approach that takes to task the question of sovereignty in research––that is, how can Indigenous communities be collaborators who set the terms, the questions, and the outcomes of research about them? Such a framing, we recognize, has not been the case in dominant research practice and understand the resulting data from these studies of Indigenous communities as extensions of communities, their cultures, and their lands. Thus, the concept of data as sovereignty is a pressing concern of the IFI and propels our commitment to building a path towards Indigenous data sovereignty through collaborative and participatory research. 

Global Indigenous Collaboration

As Native literary scholar Chadwick Allen writes (2012), a trans-Indigenous project as opposed to the dominant discourses of transnationalism might more nearly help us understand how global Indigenous communities, from Aotearoa to what is currently known as North America, can bring ourselves into relation with each other. Through the recognition of our shared struggles and plentiful and productive differences, a trans-Indigenous or a global Indigenous framework is a value the IFI embraces in convening scholars, researchers, and graduate students from different disciplines, communities, and institutions from across the globe. As dominant research paradigms elide the potential of Indigenous-to-Indigenous collaboration, a trans-Indigenous global approach interfaces with the most pressing issues we face today with those to whom their own lands and waters are in deepest relation too.