Developing Partnerships Among Tribes, Geoscientists, and the National Park Service to Advance Informal Geoscience Learning at Grand Canyon

September 1st, 2023 - August 31st, 2024 | PROJECT

The Grand Canyon region is the ancestral homeland of eleven Indigenous Nations, the Traditionally Associated Tribes of Grand Canyon, who possess rich land-based expert knowledge of Earth processes and features. Grand Canyon National Park was established in 1919 and has become a globally renowned geoheritage site. Within the Park, geoscience resources and programs support millions of visitors each year to explore the immensity of geologic time and the geologic history through the landscapes and rocks. However, the Indigenous knowledge of the Traditionally Associated Tribes has historically been marginalized and excluded from geoscience education at the Park. This Partnership Development & Planning project seeks to foster respectful, reciprocal, and lasting partnerships at Grand Canyon among members of the Traditionally Associated Tribes, the Grand Canyon Trust, Interpretive Park Rangers, and Grand Canyon geoscientists. With multiple layers of Tribal oversight, the project will use the four Rs of Indigenous research (reciprocity, relevance, respect, and responsibility) and a Dine analytical model to support relationship and trust building activities (e.g., site visits, story circles, a workshop) and co-development. The group will work toward addressing and helping to remedy the historic exclusion of Indigenous presence and Indigenous knowledges at Grand Canyon, explore opportunities for mutually beneficial collaborations and future AISL projects, and draft recommendations for respectfully Indigenizing future interpretive resources and programs.

The project will be led by a Steering Committee comprised of a Tribal Council (all of whom are members of the Traditionally Associated Tribes of Grand Canyon), university geoscientists (some of whom are members of the Traditionally Associated Tribes of Grand Canyon) and National Park Service staff. Tribal Council members and other members of the Steering Committee have long-standing relationships as well as backgrounds or interest in geoscience. To ensure that the partnership remains mutually beneficial and fully accountable, and yields value to all partners, the project will center the four Rs of Indigenous research. Relationships will be fostered among members of the Tribes, geoscientists, and the National Park Service through gatherings and mutual engagement in geoscience activities at culturally and scientifically important places in and around Grand Canyon and the Park, in Tribal communities if requested, and at times virtually. The Steering Committee will use the Dine model of nitsahakees (critical thinking), nahat'a (planning), iina (implementation in life); and siihasin (reflection and iteration to renew the cycle) to guide the co-design process. Ultimately, the group will co-design and co-author common and mutually beneficial goals related to informal geoscience learning at Grand Canyon, ensure educational benefits expand to local Native youth, and draft recommendations for respectfully Indigenizing future interpretive resources and programs at the Park. Insights and recommendations will be developed while adhering to the CARE Principles of Indigenous Data Governance, which hold that all Indigenous knowledges remain the credited intellectual property of the appropriate Tribes, who hold control over all uses. When approved by the Tribes, the projects' recommendations will be shared with the informal STEM learning community, including other National Parks. External evaluation will use recognized Indigenous criteria to iteratively assess and inform the project's: 1) ability to establish ethical, respectful, reciprocal partnership(s) among practitioners, community members, and researchers; 2) conceptions of new decolonized, place-based, culturally inclusive plan(s) for informal geoscience education at Grand Canyon; and 3) potential for its approaches and recommendations to extend to other partnerships, Parks, and geoheritage areas.

Project Website(s)

(no project website provided)

Team Members

Steven Semken, Principal Investigator, Arizona State University
Karletta Chief , Co-Principal Investigator, University of Arizona
Laura Crossey, Co-Principal Investigator, University of New Mexico
Karl Karlstrom, Co-Principal Investigator, Arizona State University


Funding Source: NSF
Funding Program: Advancing Informal STEM Learning (AISL)
Award Number: 2314229
Funding Amount: $147,758.00


Access and Inclusion: Indigenous and Tribal Communities
Audience: Educators | Teachers | General Public | Learning Researchers
Discipline: Geoscience and geography
Resource Type: Project Descriptions | Projects
Environment Type: Park | Outdoor | Garden Programs