Professor Robert Shepherd and Professor Katherine Graham have just edited and contributed to a special issue of Canadian Journal of Program Evaluation that focuses on evaluation in Indigenous contexts. The issue includes seven papers that focus on Indigenous evaluation theory, practice, and implementation in various policy contexts including energy, northern community policy contexts, and community health.

The Special Edition focuses on Indigenous evaluation as a field of inquiry and finding culturally appropriate and responsive ways to evaluate Indigenous programs and services from a community perspective. The work in this area extends from the 7-year SSHRC partnership grant project, Indigenous Youth Futures. The project extends from the Calls to Action of the Truth & Reconciliation Commission of Canada regarding the need to stem cultural damage caused by residential schools. A key recommendation is the need for evaluations to pay greater attention to culturally relevant approaches to research, including program evaluations. There has been an ongoing struggle to evaluate community programs in ways that serve both governmental interests in accountability and quality assurance, while at the same time serving Indigenous needs and interests for program effectiveness and respecting local autonomy. The Special Edition takes account of perspectives in social science, economics, Indigenous law, ethnography and sociology. The particular contribution by Shepherd and Graham attempts to understand the challenges bridging Indigenous and Western ways of knowing.

Abstract: The evaluation field’s understanding of Indigenous ontologies and epistemologies must improve in ways that do not serve to privilege Western ways of knowing or governmental priorities for accountability. The literature has not identifi ed ways to bridge these in practical ways, or to move the field to balance community and government needs. This article describes some prevailing epistemological and methodological issues related to evaluation and then identifies practical challenges bridging Western and Indigenous approaches, using the example of the Indigenous Youth Futures Partnership project (IYFP), a seven-year SSHRC-sponsored grant. It is suggested that there are approaches that work well in these contexts but that agency is vitally important to establish reciprocity.

© 2020 Canadian Journal of Program Evaluation / La Revue canadienne d’évaluation de programme 34.3 (Special Issue / Numéro spécial), 442–463 doi: 10.3138/cjpe.68866