Indigenous Research Methods

Jordan, S. (2019). The SAGE Encyclopedia of Action Research. In pages 437-439 (Vols. 1–2). Thousand Oaks,: SAGE Publications Ltd.

  • IR draws from
    • Participatory Action Research (PAR)
    • Freirian Critical pedagogy
    • non-positivist qual research methods
    • feminist
    • post-colonial
    • anti-racist
  • NOT a methodology for studying specific Indigenous populations

a heterogeneous set of methodologies and methods in the service of indigenous peoples aimed at comprehending, explicating and analyzing the contemporary world from their standpoint within it

  • allows Indigenous worldviews, epistemologies to define how research should be conducted according to protocols established by Indigenous communities

IRM is probably best conceptualized as a continuum that encapsulates a wide range of research methodologies and methods that are concerned with indigenous epistemologies, ontology, voice and identity.

History, Themes and Issues

  1. IRM is closely aligned with social and political movements focusing on decolonizing institutions imposed by colonial powers (residential schools), and resisting commodification of traditional Indigenous lands (mining, forestry).
  2. efforts aimed at self-determination, ranging from asserting individual and collective rights and self-governance to creating public spaces in mainstream society for indigenous issues, concerns and rights to be addressed (e.g. Truth and Reconciliation Commissions).
  3. recognition that indigenous knowledge, customs, spirituality, traditional medicine and healing practices are deep reservoirs for constructing indigenous research methodologies that are autonomous of, and distinct from, existing Western research traditions.

Despite establishment of Indigenous Education programs, traditional disciplines (humanities, STEM, medicine) have done little to acknowledge indigenous worldviews; Indigenous ppl are still objects of research.

  • notable examples are education and social work
  • Association of Canadian Deans of Education Accord on Indigenous Education
    • to actively foster a socially just society for indigenous peoples;
    • to acknowledge a respectful, collaborative and consultative process between indigenous and non-indigenous peoples;
    • to promote partnerships between educational institutions and indigenous communities and
    • to value the diversity of indigenous knowledges and learning.

Principles and Practices

The overarching consideration against which all IRM has to be contextualized is the history of colonization that most indigenous people have been subjected to over the past 500-plus years in North America and around the rest of the globe.

  • IRM is not just another tool in the box, but a challenge to the marginalization of Indigenous people
  • emerges from the nexus of decolonization and self-determination
  • principles arise from Indigenous worldview that emphasizes respect, reciprocity, relationships, and the centrality of the spiritual
  1. contemporary social theory needs to be reconceptualized through Indigenous lens
  2. research process must be inclusive of indigenous communities and individuals
  3. attention must be given to protecting specific aspects of indigenous knowledge, esp as related to spiritual practices, traditional medicines, and healing rituals
  4. Indigenous voices, epistemologies, and ways of knowing should be privileged
  5. within non-Indigenous contexts, IRM can provide an activist space for Indigenous people to push for open dialogue about issues affecting them

Future Directions and Critique

  • some core principles (spirituality) are so antithetical to Western traditions that progress will be slow and tentative
  • warning against co-option of IRM by private interests to only open up aboriginal communities to further neo-colonial development that IRM was meant to oppose

The future of IRM will, therefore, hinge as much on the work of indigenous scholars and sympathetic colleagues within the academy as on the outcome of political struggles engaged in by indigenous communities and their allies for self-determination.

Association of Canadian Deans of Education. (2010). Accord on indigenous education. Retrieved from