Indigenous Researchers and Indigenous Research Methods: Cultural Influences or Cultural Determinants of Research Methods

An Excerpt



The question of how researchers work with and select research methods is complex. For Indigenous researchers, the complexity takes specific forms, usually forms that are embedded within the values and beliefs about human interaction. These values and beliefs are inherent to the culture implicated in the research, and if the researcher is a member of that particular cultural group, the challenges can be even more complex. Many, if not most, Indigenous scholars engage in contemporary research for the explicit purpose of bringing benefits to their communities and their people, and they are usually prepared for such challenges. The challenges that some of us may not be well prepared to face are those associated with what seems to be recognized in the academy as ‘acceptable’ scholarly research, with definitions and descriptions from within a specific discipline. However, even to have full understanding within the parameters of one discipline would still leave some of us struggling with the issues that surround the situation of ‘acceptability’ within an inter-disciplinary approach to research. My observations and research experience have shown a predominance of inter-disciplinary approaches in the research carried out by Indigenous researchers working from or within an Indigenous reality.1 While documenting support for this statement is certainly important, that is not the focus of this paper. I mention it only as a part of the foundation to my thinking on the topic of Indigenous researchers in relation to Indigenous research.

In this paper, I want to focus on research methods that I have used in my work within Indigenous communities. More specifically, I would like to initiate a subtle examination of how such research methods were selected in these particular contexts. I will begin the discussion with a brief description of the context for the topic, addressing the particular significance that personal responsibility holds for most Indigenous researchers. The second part of the paper will describe several specific events in Indigenous communities — events planned and carried out with clearly stated research purposes. The third section will discuss the process of arriving at this particular research event, and the conclusion will speak to the significance that culture plays in relation to the research methods employed by Indigenous researchers.

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