Shifting from Reading to Questioning: Some Thoughts around Ethics, Research, and Aboriginal Peoples

An Excerpt


During the summer of 2002, we worked on a project exploring issues surrounding ethics and research with Aboriginal people. As we reviewed a number of articles published in this area, our library and Internet searches were accompanied by multiple conversations. Within these conversations we often wondered about the written words, words primarily written by academics, rather than community members. In the written documents, many authors identify some of the complexities and ethical issues that are equally exciting, frustrating and engaging. Overall, however, there is a dearth of published and readily accessible discourse on ethics in the context of research and Indigenous communities, perhaps reflecting the early stage of critically contemplating the ethical implications of research within Aboriginal communities.

During the fall of 2002 we took the class From Written Text to Oral Tradition at the University of Alberta with Dr. Stan Wilson. Throughout the course we often thought about our ethics project and began to recognize the origin of our struggles with the project. We returned to our past conversations and writings with new insights, we wondered about ethical guidelines and are no longer certain they provide us with answers or appropriate frameworks for ethical research. We began to ask: What do Aboriginal communities perceive to be respectful research? How do they envision the research process to be unfolding? How do they conceptualize possibilities of engagement with researchers? How do we honour oral traditions? How could we honour who people are, and who they are becoming? Although we still do not have answers to many of these questions, this paper is the beginning process of reviewing some of the relevant literature, and of expressing our own views and questions about research, relationships, and possibilities.

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