There is a frequent dissonance between western data science and Indigenous knowledge systems and data. Yet, traditional Indigenous technologies (e.g., sky knowledge, canoe building and voyaging, ecological knowledge) and modern data analysis tools (e.g., embodied computing, immersive data visualization) also share many similarities – both are embodied, spatial, tangible, and experiential.

Professor Dan Keefe (Computer Science and Engineering) and Professor Vicente Diaz (American Indian Studies) are working on a project called “Towards Indigenous Data Science: Novel Technologies to Support Protocol and Authorship in Immersive Data Visualization,” that takes the first steps in a data and computer science research agenda that advances and revitalizes modern and traditional technologies for the benefit of local Indigenous communities. The overarching, long-term goal is "digital self-determination" (DSD). The project develops new data science tools to address two foundationalaspects of DSD that emerged as critical during preliminary work: 1. protocol, and 2. authorship. The new tools and techniques will be applied and studied with community partners in the specific context of immersive data visualization for trans-Indigenous exchange of water, sky, and canoe knowledge. This interdisciplinary and community-engaged research draws upon longstanding collaborations and kinship ties to partner with local Dakota and Micronesian Indigenous communities to create and explore the future of Indigenous Data Science. 

This project recently received a Research Computing Seed Grant. RC Seed Grant funds are intended to promote, catalyze, accelerate and advance U of M-based informatics research in areas related to the MnDRIVE initiative, so that U of M faculty and staff are well prepared to compete for longer term external funding opportunities. This Seed Grant falls under the Environment research area of the MnDRIVE initiative. 

Small (up to $10,000) seed grants are awarded throughout the year and applications can be submitted at any time. Medium ($10,001 - $50,000) and large ($50,001 - $120,000) seed grants are awarded semiannually – the spring submission deadline is the last Friday of April and the fall deadline is the last Friday of October.


image of a planetarium audience looking at an image of a canoe with a sail