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circular pattern of DNA

Across the globe, Native peoples are leading a movement to assert authority over what was theirs from the very start.

The wide-ranging, long-lasting effects that colonialism left in its wake have plagued Indigenous peoples for centuries: disproportionate poverty rates, marked health disparities, outsize violence, and lower life expectancies. But we’re just beginning to fully understand how data has long been wielded—from unjust collection techniques to the weaponizing of information to the total exclusion of certain populations—as a way to perpetuate racial inequities. 

Now, following a global racial reckoning and amid concerns about artificial intelligenceand information commodification, self-proclaimed data warriors are championing Indigenous data sovereignty (also known as IDSov) across sectors like healthcare, philanthropy, and more.

The pandemic thrust the issue of owning, accessing, and applying one’s own data into the spotlight. While Native Americans experienced inordinate COVID-19 illnesses and deaths, reporting on tribal communities in the United States was “woefully inadequate,” according to the Urban Indian Health Institute. Led by Pawnee data auntie Abigail Echo-Hawk, the organization analyzed data from...