Section 1: Setting the Context

An Indigenous Research Approach

Self-determination in a research agenda becomes something more than a political goal. It becomes a goal of social justice which is expressed through and across a wide range of psychological, social, cultural and economic terrains. It necessarily involves the processes of transformation, of decolonization, of healing and of mobilization as peoples. The processes, approaches and methodologies … are critical elements of a strategic [Indigenous] research agenda.

– Linda Tuhiwai Smith, 1999, p. 116

Interconnected, relational, and intersected are ways to describe an Indigenous research approach. These ways of knowing, being, and doing describe a non-linear approach to the research process as ontology, epistemology, axiology, and methodology and are “inseparable and blend from one into the next” (Wilson, 2008, p. 70).

In a Western research approach, action and participatory research come forward as critical research approaches that involve the participant, yet the researcher maintains control of the depth and type of interaction and manages data gathering and analysis.

In an Indigenous research approach, participants guide and embody the research process and results. Ownership, control, access, and protection of the data is held by the community, not the researcher. The researcher is part of the process of research in that they hold the ceremony or act of research. They intersect between the academy or funder and the community, and they ensure the relationships built in the research process continue past the project. This responsibility is ongoing, as many researchers who practice Indigenous research are part of the community or allies of the Indigenous community. As Indigenous voice gains prominence in research, these approaches are expanding the ways research can be held as a transformative change process. However, Indigenous voice and knowledge in research has required a few other processes to shift practice.


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Pulling Together: A Guide for Researchers, Hiłḵ̓ala Copyright © 2021 by Dianne Biin; Deborah Canada; John Chenoweth; and Lou-ann Neel is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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