Tribal Leader / Scholar Forum

The NCAI Policy Research Center’s Annual Tribal Leader Scholar Forum provides an opportunity for researchers, practitioners, community members, and others to present their findings to tribal leaders, policymakers, and tribal members during NCAI's Mid Year Conference. 

Our theme for the 2017 Tribal Leader/Scholar Forum is Sovereign Infrastructure: Building Our Communities from Our Values. As we return to the Eastern Region - hosting our Forum at Mohegan Sun in Uncasville, CT on June 14th, 2017 - we reflect on the strength and vision it takes to live our values and to construct our communities in ways that reflect who we are as peoples.

Click here to read the Tribal Leader Scholar Forum Fact Sheet

Agendas Now Available!

For more information about the Forum and how to engage, please contact Sarah Pytalski, Policy Research & Evaluation Manager, at

Conference Proceedings - June 29, 2016 in Spokane, WA
Link to 2016 Agenda

NCAI Policy Research Center Partner's Roundtable: Data Matters

Engaging Tribal Leadership in the Design and Implementation of National Research with Tribal Communities

Disability in Indian Country: A Proposal to Use the ICF and a Disability Disparity Model to Highlight the Needs of American Indian Children

Indigenous People at the US-Mexico Borderland: Challenges for Ecological Restoration, Governance, and Environmental Justice

Developing Climate Savvy Tribal Societies

Tribal Leader/Scholar Forum
Changing Climates, Inspiring Hope: Using Research to Transform Systems 

General Plenary

The Power of Data to Change Climates

Coeur d'Alene Tribal Education Pipeline: Rooted in Tradition, Growing Toward the Future

Data Access & Management: Understanding the Landscape and Fostering a Climate of Meaningful Research Data for Tribes

K'awaika You Count: Meaningful Data from the Pueblo of Laguna Census

2016 State of Our Watersheds Report: Tribes Telling their Stories to Protect their Rights and Resources

Poster Session: Innovative Climates for Tribal Research

Motivations for Climate Change Planning Among Federally Recognized Tribes in the United States

Tribal Codes of Ethics: Broad Applications of Ethincal Conduct & Compliance Across Indian Country

Protecting Our Children Through Tribal Law: A Review of 100+ Tribal Child Welfare Codes, Pt. II

Southcentral Climate Science Center's Tribal Engagement Strategy

               Uniting Nursing Homes in Tribal Excellence: Why Traditional Foods?

Afternoon Breakout Sessions

The Future of Food

Should AI/AN Communities Consider Genomic Technologies in Agricultural Practices?

Foodmedicine: Defining a New Framework for Self-Determined Indigenous Community Health

Our Food, Our Future: Subsistence Hunting & Harvest 

Creating the Conditions for Native Youth to Prosper

Promoting Community & Cultural Resilience to Prevent Violence in Indigenous Communities

Insights into the American Indian Life Skills Curriculum

Putting Our Minds Together to Address Trauma and Adverse Childhood Experiences

Sovereignty & Science

Lighting the Pathway to Faculty Careers for Natives in STEM

The Ethics of Biobanking

Indegenizing Genomics: Enhancing Genomic Research through an Indigenous Perspective

Stewarding Strong Economic Climates

Economic Development Assessment Study for Native Communities

Dissimilarity on the Career Path: A Comparative Analysis of the Occupational Structure of the AI/AN Workforce

Data's Role in Strategically Growing Tribal and State Economies

Creating Healthy Community Climates for Higher Education

Creating Campus Change in Tribal Colleges and Universities

Achieving Success and Overcoming Barriers while Achieving Your Goal for Higher Education

Investments in TRIBAL Higher Education: Strengthening Culture, Community, and Citizens

We would like to thank the Bush Foundation for their generous sponsorship of the 10th Annual Tribal Leader/Scholar Forum.

The NCAI Policy Research Center’s Annual Tribal Leader Scholar Forum provides an opportunity for researchers, practitioners, community members, and others to present their findings to tribal leaders, policymakers, and tribal members during NCAIs’ Mid Year Conference. Research presentations focus on areas that have or could have real impacts for tribal communities. The Forum presents tribal leaders with innovative research methods and relevant findings for local and national policymaking. A unique component of this forum is the dialogue between tribal representatives and researchers. These relationships are especially important given that data drives community planning and that the policy environment demands evidence-based justification as part of funding requests and grant applications.

The Tribal Leader/Scholar Forum is also distinctive because a scholar is acknowledged as more than one individual or team from a research institution who has visited a tribal community for a brief period of time and is inclusive of community-based researchers. The Forum has featured work by tribal leaders, tribally-based researchers, community members using program or other data to advance policy or develop research projects, university-based researchers, students, and agency partners. We welcome those with a demonstrated commitment to Native people whose insights can inform the development of effective policy and meaningful research.

The first Tribal Leader Scholar Forum was held in 2006, and the NCAI Policy Research Center continues to incorporate the unique contributions of American Indians and Alaska Natives to science, education, economic development, and an array of other priority areas. Since the first national forum in Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan the Forum has grown from 10 presenters to over 60 presenters.

Inside the Forum
The Forum usually takes place on the second or third day of NCAI’s Mid Year Conference.Typically, one panel is featured on the main stage as part of the morning’s General Assembly Session. Following General Assembly presentations, two tribal leaders respond to the cross-cutting themes of the panel and share their insights. Tribal leaders and others in the audience are then invited to raise questions and engage with the panel.

A lunchtime Poster Session was added at the 7th and 8th Annual Forums and features the work of emerging scholars and program initiatives by tribal and Native-serving organizations. 

Afternoon breakout sessions feature presentations across a number of topics that connect to the Forum theme and allow for deeper engagement between tribal leaders and researchers.

Occasionally, the NCAI Policy Research Center will host a Pre-Meeting Session for partner organizations and other interested participants that features research presentations.

Call for Proposals
At the end of each year, the NCAI Policy Research Center sends out a Call for Proposals, describing the upcoming Forum theme and detailing proposal requirements. Proposals are usually due in late February/early March. Most recent themes have emphasized the work of tribes to use research to plan for change and to exercise their sovereignty. The Forum prioritizes presentations that identify how current research can lead to policy priorities that have benefit for Native communities. In the past, the NCAI Policy Research Center has called for presentations using the following formats:

  • Panel proposal: Proposals can include up to four presenters discussing a topic of significance to the Forum Theme from different regional, institutional, disciplinary, or policy perspectives. Presentations should feature research and data, discuss key links between research and policy, and/or advance policy discussions by using research and data. This format is different from the ‘Individual Paper’ proposal format because presenters propose a pre-formed group of panelists rather than have NCAI arrange the panel from separate proposals. Panel proposals are not suitable for workshops or trainings. 
  • Individual Paper proposal: Proposals feature insights from a research or policy paper that has significance to the Forum theme. Selected proposals will be grouped as part of a panel by the NCAI reviewers.
  • Research Planning Roundtable proposal: This format is most suitable to discuss topics that may not have a great deal of current research available or where research may be stalled for specific reasons. Proposals can include up to four presenters and a particular set of objectives the session will help address related to the Forum theme, which may include goals related to developing a research agenda, coordinating data collection efforts, addressing research obstacles, and/or developing culturally-relevant concepts for research. This format is not suitable for researchers to propose to collect data at these sessions.
  • Poster proposal: Proposals can highlight completed or ongoing research with significance to the Forum theme. This format is most suitable for students, colleges and universities, and community programs to share information on their efforts and programs. 

Presenters are responsible to cover travel, hotel, and registration costs. While students are encouraged to submit proposals, unfortunately at this time there are no NCAI scholarship funds to support their travel or costs. Selected presenters may be asked to participate in teleconferences before the conference to coordinate with others on their panels and receive support from NCAI staff about how best to prepare a presentation for tribal leaders. Selected presenters will be asked to submit electronic versions of final papers, poster files, and/or PowerPoint presentations to NCAI as part of Forum proceedings.

Guidelines for Presenters 

Forum Participation Demographics
The Forum draws scholars from various disciplines and participants from a range of institutions and organizations. See below from some displays presenting information on Forum participants.


Forum Archives
The Tribal Leader/Scholar Forum is featured annually at the NCAI Mid Year Conference. Past Forum Themes include:

Related Media

“Cutting Edge, Collaborative Research Presented at NCAI’s 4th Annual Tribal Leader/Scholar Forum in Niagara Falls”