Haskell Indian Nations University wins $20M award for Indigenous science hub project

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Haskell Indian Nations University has earned a $20 million award to create a knowledge hub that a faculty member says will be “a game changer for Indigenous peoples.”

The project will create a space “for the convergence of disciplines and epistemologies where Indigenous knowledge-holders from diverse coastal regions will work with university-trained social, ecosystem and physical Earth system scientists and students on transformative research to address coastal hazards in the contexts of their communities,” according to a news release from the U.S. Department of the Interior.

Its full name is the Large Scale CoPe: Rising Voices, Changing Coasts: The National Indigenous and Earth Sciences Convergence Hub, according to the release.

“This research hub is a significant part of the growing recognition that traditional ecological knowledges and Indigenous knowledges should be a part of the science that is being done today regarding global climate change,” Daniel R. Wildcat, Haskell faculty member and the hub’s lead investigator, said in the release.

“… We have been advocating for years that we need a seat at the table in scientific discussions regarding climate. I think the funding for this hub allows Indigenous knowledge holders to build their own table and invite leading academic trained scientists to take a seat.”

The five-year grant from the National Science Foundation is the largest research award ever granted by the NSF to a Tribal college or university, according to the release.

The hub’s goals are to “improve modeling and prediction of coastal processes to support decision-making by Indigenous communities, develop a framework for cross-cultural collaboration that can be adopted in the future, train the next generation of Indigenous researchers, and increase the infrastructure at Haskell needed to support future large research projects,” according to the release.

“The hub will focus on place-based research in four regions: Alaska (Arctic), Louisiana (Gulf of Mexico), Hawai‘i (Pacific Islands), and Puerto Rico (Caribbean Islands). It will combine Indigenous knowledge, modeling capabilities, archeological records, geographic information system techniques, socio-economic analysis and hazards research,” according to the release. “Together, these data, transdisciplinary analysis and convergent findings will enhance fundamental understanding of the interconnected physical, cultural, social and economic processes that result in coastal hazards and climate resilience opportunities, and increase the accuracy, relevance and usability of model predictions on multi-decadal timescales.”

The Haskell Foundation, a nonprofit that serves the university, secured the project’s funding. Partners in the hub will include the National Center for Atmospheric Research and its Rising Voices Center for Indigenous and Earth Sciences, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, Indigenous Peoples Climate Change Working Group, and community partners in the four targeted regions, according to the release.

“This award is wonderful and critically important today,” Haskell Foundation Director Aaron Hove said in the release. “It cements Haskell’s leadership role in Indigenous Climate Change research and demonstrates what a small institution can accomplish when it builds relationships with internationally known research institutions like the National Center for Atmospheric Research, Scripps Research Institute and large research universities.”

Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs Bryan Newland said in the release that the hub “is a tremendous step forward in supporting Tribal communities as they address challenges from a rapidly changing climate. This is an exciting and much-needed opportunity for scientists and Indigenous knowledge keepers to collaborate on how Indigenous people in coastal areas can build resiliency to the dynamic forces resulting from climate change.”

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