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Rockefeller Foundation Grant for Trent University Professor to assist Hill Tribe people of the Greater Mekong Sub-region

Research will give insight into indigenous communities worldwide

Native Studies professor Don McCaskill has received a significant grant from the Rockefeller Foundation to conduct a comparative study looking at the impact of globalization, regionalism and nationalism on the cultures, social systems and environments of selected ethnic minorities.

Together with colleagues from Chiang Mai University, Prof. McCaskill has been awarded $142,133 U.S. to carry out this research. Once contributions from participating universities are added in, the total project grant equals $238,463 Canadian.

The study will focus mainly on the Hill Tribe people of Northern Thailand, Laos, Vietnam and Yunnan province in China. Prof. McCaskill admits that involving four countries in the research project "will be complex," but the Hill Tribe people populate these areas and the pressures of globalization are quite real.

Trent University and the Social Research Institute in Thailand were integral in the success of the grant. Together the two institutions had met and identified serious problems for the Hill Tribe people due to globalization in the Greater Mekong River Sub-region which includes northern
Thailand, Southern China, Laos, and Vietnam.

The project will develop an ongoing collaborative network among educational institutions in the five countries which will lead to greater regional capacity in transboundary research and development, gain an understanding of indigenous knowledge of selected ethnic groups in the Greater Mekong Sub-region, and train graduate students and ethnic researchers in communities in social science research methods. Findings from the project are expected over a two-year period and the group will host a conference and publish a book to share the results and make recommendations.

Many of the researchers involved in the two-year project will be members of the Hill Tribe themselves. One desired outcome for the project is the development of a consortium of educational institutions in the Greater Mekong Sub-region, one that could carry on research on topics of mutual interest in the region.

Graduate level researchers from Trent University, three of whom are of aboriginal origin, will participate along with Prof. McCaskill. He predicts that their research findings will have significant connections to the aboriginal experience here in Canada - and provide an opportunity to inform similar studies here.

"We hope that this study will help people in villages to understand and control social and cultural changes in their communities," says Prof. McCaskill, surrounded in his office by boxes packed for a long stay in Thailand. He believes that the process alone will legitimate the experiences of the Hill Tribe People and empower them to take a proactive role in their future.

Professor McCaskill has published a book that looks into these issues. Development or Domestication: Indigenous People of South-East Asia was published in 1998 by Silkworm Books.

The Rockefeller Foundation is a knowledge-based global foundation with a commitment to enrich and sustain the lives and livelihoods of poor and excluded people throughout the world.

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Last Updated December 10, 2003