Historically, most research conducted within tribal communities or about tribal populations has been inappropriate or misleading.  In some cases, the results were used against members of tribal communities; in others, results were discussed out of context. As a result, tribes are often wary of researchers' claims of neutrality and objectivity and may be reluctant to participate in research.
In the last few decades, however, communication between American Indian (AI) and Alaska Native (AN) people and researchers has improved, allowing AI/AN people to openly discuss concerns that previous research did not address or problems they confronted with previous research. A common theme in these discussions is the different expectations that tribes and researchers may have. Researchers often approach studies with the intent of promoting an academic or personal agenda. On the other hand, when tribes agree to participate in research, they expect that the knowledge gained will translate into policy changes within their communities. In general, tribes take the position that science and research should play a supportive role in the development of healthy and sustained tribal nations.
Collaborating with Native Americans to interpret research results related to tribal communities benefits both the researchers and tribal communities. It can help researchers avoid over-generalizations that carry stereotypical viewpoints, which in turn influence future research and reported findings. By participating in research and interpretation together, tribal nations and researchers can begin to address the serious need to bridge research, practice and policies.
[note 1] For example, many tribal communities associate the U.S. Census with past unfavorable government policies (e.g., forced removal from homelands or allotment of tribal lands). Learn more about forced removal and the Indian Removal Act.