Keynote: Unsettling the Settler State

In Search of Origin Stories, Kinship, and Sustainable Solidarity with Evaluators and Through Evaluation

We all have origin stories. And together, we all are part of the evaluation story.

This keynoter will share ways to change your mind, heart, and the behaviours that influence you as an evaluator and affect how you conduct evaluations. Your explicit knowing and participation in your own origin story and sharing it with others via evaluation can give you a meaningful education while helping you to find kinship and sustainable solidarity in the field. Origin stories provide evaluators with a way to process and act upon information so they better understand who they are, how they choose to design and implement their work, and why their evaluation work matters. Part of this process is unsettling the settler state to unpack what they have learned to unlearn, re-learn, and understand themselves through evaluator origin stories and as expressed via contemporary evaluation practices. Being a settler or colonizer is not something you are, it is something you do. If you are going to stop being a settler and start being kin, we must start with what you do. (Patty Krawec, Becoming Kin, 2022, pp. 178-179). So being self-aware individually and as a field helps to practice in ways that demonstrate being a good relative, which goes way beyond doing no harm. This field of awareness about what is harmful as well as being a good relative is accessible within you, your origin story, and your future story about the way you enter into community contexts and conduct evaluations.

In this keynote, an origin story and traditional teachings with applicable real-world strategies and examples will be shared to give insights into the processes and behaviours that can be part of a healing, transformative, and sustainable evaluation journey within the self and across the field. As part of a broader movement to decolonize evaluation, building kinship and solidarity to support this movement is first understanding at an individual level how to cultivate yourself as an authentic and responsive instrument (Symonette, 2009). Reaching yourself is a short physical distance, but it may be the longest journey in that it will require engaging in continuous critical, courageous, and reflective practice. This journey toward intrapersonal validity is an ongoing process that is a foundational component to effectively, ethically, and responsively engaging in building interpersonal validity with and through other evaluators carrying out evaluation activities. Collectively these interpersonal and intrapersonal activities have impacts and can influence a field of evaluators who are making sustainable and meaningful changes through evaluation policy, resources, and practices.

Nicole Bowman, Founder/President, Bowman Performance Consulting and Associate Scientist, Wisconsin Center for Education Research, University of Wisconsin-Madison

Nicole/Waapalaneexkweew Bowman (Lunaape/Mohican), PhD, is a traditional Ndulunaapeewi Kwe (Lunaape Woman) and a traditional community member and citizen of the Stockbridge-Munsee Band of the Mohican Nation in Wisconsin, USA ( She is a curious, creative, and courageous innovator whose academic lodge sits at the place where traditional knowledge and Tribal sovereignty intersect with evaluation, policy, and research. She is Founder/President of Bowman Performance Consulting ( and an Associate Scientist with the University of Wisconsin-Madison, in the Wisconsin Center for Education Research (

Dr. Bowman holds knowledge and experience in multi-jurisdictional and complexity systems (Nation to Nation) and culturally responsive and Indigenous research, policy, and evaluation. She is an Associate Editor of the Canadian Journal of Program Evaluation and co-founder of Roots and Relations, a permanent section in the journal. Dr. Bowman is also the recipient of the American Evaluation Association’s 2018 Robert Ingle Service Award (the youngest and first Indigenous awardee) and serves on numerous global evaluation, Indigenous, and educational journal review and advisory boards.

Dr. Bowman has served for more than twenty-five years in elected leadership position of AEA’s Indigenous Peoples in Evaluation Topical Interest Group, and is a Global Advisory Member of EvalIndigenous (2015 – present), Blue Marble Evaluation (2018 – present), the Board of the International Evaluation Academy (2021 – present), and AEA’s International Work Group (2017-2022). Since 2016, Dr. Bowman has been an Affiliated Faculty Researcher at the Center for Culturally Responsive Evaluation and Assessment at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and continues to serve at the request of national, international, philanthropic, professional, and Tribal organizations and Tribal/First Nations as a collaborative, passionate, and effective thought partner and community and scholarly contributor.