Indigenous Perspectives on Research

“We, as tribal people, want research and scholarship that preserves, maintains, and restores our traditions and cultural practices. We want to restore our homelands; revitalize our traditional religious practices; regain our health; and cultivate our economic, social, and governing systems. Our research can help us maintain our sovereignty and preserve our nationhood” (Crazy Bull, 1997, p.17)
This quote by Crazy Bull (1997) has relevance beyond Native American people and extends to indigenous communities globally.  Though written more than two decades ago, it still provides an excellent summation of what indigenous people want from research and scholarship.
An indigenous perspective of research goes beyond the idea of community-based, participatory research (CBPR), which seeks mutual benefit an community empowerment in the research process.  Rather it involves infusing traditional values and practices into our work that supports efforts toward revitalization and maintenance of indigenous cultures.  Through this process, we regain our health, socio-economic well being, rights, and land.
A project I am currently developing looks at the added value of traditional Native Hawaiian healers within a health clinic setting.  Through interviews with patients, providers, administrators, and healers, we examine the impact  of healers and their level of integration into clinical practice. Outcomes include perceptions of cultural appropriateness, satisfaction with services, rates of missed appointments, adherence to medical regimens, patient activation and autonomy, and empowerment. Following this demonstration of indigenous healers at these clinics, we will develop research that examines their impact on chronic disease.
My colleagues, Dr. Jane Chung-Do and ‘Ilima Ho-Lastimosa, MSW, use the term “pono” research to relate to what Crazy Bull describes above.  Simply stated, pono research is research that seeks to do research righteously , justly, and equitably for the benefit of the Hawaiian community (LaFrance, 2004).  In this example, the very naming of the research methodology denotes self-determination and empowerment.  “Such naming accords indigenous values, attitudes and practices a privileged, central position rather than obscuring them under Westernized labels such as ‘collaborative research” (Smith, 1999, p. 125).  Part of decolonizing research is defining research from indigenous perspectives, which can include renaming the process in a way that is pono.
References
Crazy Bull, C. “A Native Conversation About Research and Scholarship.” Tribal College
Journal, 1997, 9, 17 – 23.
LeFrance, J. Culturally competent research in Indian Country.  New Directions for Evaluation, 102, pp. 39-50, 2004.
Smith, L. T. Decolonizing Methodologies: Research and Indigenous Peoples. London: Zed
Books, 1999.

2 thoughts on “Indigenous Perspectives on Research

  1. Mike; have you read the book Research as Ceremony? Was introduced to it in Ramona Beltran’s inDIGIqualitative class and have found it incredibly thought provoking in how I ground research. I think it may now be out of print, but I have a copy you can borrow if you would like.

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