Background/Question/Methods Amplifying Indigenous voices and weaving traditional knowledge with Western science has never been more vital as the world faces the impacts of climate change. Current and historical records of land use and management in New England often exclude the voices and knowledge of Indigenous People. For over a century, the Harvard Forest (HF) Long Term Ecological Research site has pursued its mission of research and education on 4,000 acres of unceded Nipmuc homeland. We address this displacement by diversifying the perspectives and voices in the forestry and land use paradigm represented at HF. Our work centers a reciprocal, respectful, and perpetual relationship with the Nipmuc People that ensures the land and its benefits are accessible and sustaining for future generations. Our project asks: How can we engage in respectful knowledge-sharing that supports self-determination of local Indigenous communities? What framework can be developed to amplify Indigenous knowledge and allow multiple ways of knowing in a land stewardship paradigm? Through the past two years, we established a diverse team from two cohorts of students in the HF REU Program and a cohort of interns from Harvard University to address these questions and develop a framework for fully understanding local land use history.
Results/Conclusions We present progress of our relationship building with the Nipmuc Nation and development of a land use history framework that centers Indigenous knowledge and perspectives at Harvard Forest. Our work shows the importance of consistent dialogue and transparency between Harvard Forest and Nipmuc leaders. It also demonstrates the value in collaborating with the community far before and long after a particular project. A system has been developed to provide financial compensation for time devoted to relationship building and the inclusion of Indigenous mentoring on projects. Interviews with Indigenous scientists across the US further informs the broader context of our work especially as we mentor the next generation of leaders in STEM. We emphasize that relationship building with Indigenous communities is an ongoing process with flexibility in goals and outcomes that arise through conversations. Taken together, our work demonstrates that moving beyond performative land acknowledgements by co-producing and collaborating with local Indigenous communities is needed to fully understand land use history and to inform science and stewardship into the future.