Through OSCAR’s Undergraduate Research Scholars Program, I have been given the opportunity to begin research on a topic that I have been planning to pursue for a while now, and which I plan to continue in years ahead. This summer, I have been working on a project titled “An Alternative Approach to Indigenous Rights: Biocultural Rights in the Case of Borikén.” In summary, my research is seeking to understand how Indigenous peoples’ of Borikén (also known as Puerto Rico) perceive of the new concept of biocultural rights, which recognizes the notion that cultural resources and natural resources are inextricably connected.
Last semester, I worked as an OSCAR research assistant under Dr. Cher Weixia Chen who allowed me to experience working on a full research project. With Dr. Chen’s support as my mentor this summer, I have been able to take my past experiences working for her and apply it to my own work as a student researcher looking at Indigenous rights. Additionally, Dr. Chen’s previous work regarding biocultural rights has also been a wonderful connection for me into understanding the topic. Outside of my work as a researcher, I have a personal vested interest regarding Indigenous rights and in particular for those in Borikén because of my own personal family history. Understanding the ways in which colonialism and genocide have affected and continue to affect Indigenous peoples both in my own community and elsewhere is large part of the reason why I am interested in fields relating to decolonization and Indigenous reclamation of power.
My research is an interview-based study, and as a result, lots of communication between community members is necessary; a large part of this study encompasses communicating between participants and other contacts. Moreover, translation between English and Spanish is necessary for text, such as those approved by IRB for distribution, as well as in conversations between participants when necessary.
Because of the complexity of addressing different identities and definitions of Indigeneity within my research project, my work encompasses multiple fields of study. I have had to learn to navigate through multidisciplinary texts such as human rights, anthropology, and sociology fields to come to a more complete understanding of my research question. Although the summer is coming to a close, I am only beginning to get a glimpse at what the entirety of this research will look like in the future, and I am excited to continue this project and learn from all of the experiences I encounter.