We acknowledge that ‘researchers’ are not just those who are outsiders coming into Native communities. We strive to be more holistic including ‘researchers’ who are tribal leaders, Elders, tribal employees, colleagues from other universities, Native scholars and students, community-based investigators, and staff of research organizations or government agencies. As we should walk softly and listen carefully when building research relationships with tribal communities.
Pulling together expertise from a wide range of backgrounds is needed to develop innovative solutions to complex challenges such as climate change. Developing ethical and meaningful research partnerships with local communities requires researchers to understand and commit to an ongoing process of authentic and deliberate relationship-building, cross-cultural learning, open communication, trust and reciprocity. Developing effective relationships is a learning process that requires active, in-person participation in the community. Partnerships between tribes and researchers require culturally-based and community-centered research.