Absolon & Willett (2005). Putting Ourselves Forward: Location in Aboriginal Research.

Absolon, K., & Willett, C. (2005). Putting Ourselves Forward: Location in Aboriginal Research. In L. Brown & S. Strega (Eds.), Research as Resistance: Critical, Indigenous and Anti-oppressive Approaches (pp. 97–126). Canadian Scholars’ Press.

[“Locating Ourselves” (p 97) …]

“Identifying, at the outset, the location from which the voice of the researcher emanates is an Aboriginal way of ensuring that those who study, write, and participate in knowledge creation are accountable for their own positionality (Owens, 2002; Said, 1994; Tierney, 2002).” (p 97)

“We resist colonial models of writing by talking about ourselves first and then relating pieces of our stories and ideas to the research topic. … location is about relationships to land, language, spiritual, cosmological, political, economical, environmental, and social elements in one’s life.” (p 98)

[“Putting Ourselves Forward” (p 98) …]

“My mother was ‘dis-membered’ from her Nation because of the patriarchal Indian Act legislation. She has since been re-membered as a result of Bill C-31.” (p 98)

“Because of who I am, I have accepted that my location at times can be isolating as I strive to introduce ideas, methods, and practices of different ways of knowing, thinking, being, and doing.” (p 99)

“When I meet someone who is working in an Aboriginal community, I ask myself, ‘What stake does this person have in this community?’ … I will express views that I think might be shared and see whether they are reflected in the person that I’m talking to. It’s a way of connecting.” (p 102)

“White people are not subject to funny looks or funny things that people say.” (p 103)

“I let them know who I am and what my intent is because they are suspicious of people extracting knowledge. We are suspicious of people misrepresenting us. We are suspicious of people who take knowledge and use it and we are suspicious of being exploited and used.” (p 103)

“… I think that saying who we are and where we come from is just something that’s always been done. It’s putting ourselves forward. It is part of your honour and your respect not only for yourself, but for your family, your nation, your clan, your genealogy. It’s respect for who you’re addressing, or who you’re talking to, or who you’re representing. It lets people know your relatedness. It’s like when we were in our research class (in our doctoral program) and people did their presentations, we would often ask them, ‘So what does this have to do with you? Why are you doing this?’ It’s almost connected to your motive. ‘How are you invested in this research?’ and if people have an investment, then they’re going to do the best that they can do, be responsible and accountable.” (p 104)

“I think that if a researcher studies any question in which they have no stake, then they really don’t care what the answer to the question is.” (p 105)

[“The Purpose of Location in Aboriginal Research” (p 106) …]

[Countless? Maybe 17-18 generations. –oki]

“Aboriginal peoples have been misrepresented and exploited for countless generations as the subjects of academic, ‘scientific’ studies conducted by non-Aboriginals. As a result, Aboriginal communities [page break] today are no longer content to be passive objects of ‘scientific’ study, but demand to know who is doing the research and for what purposes. … researchers today must be prepared to explain who they are and what interest they have in the proposed research before they are allowed to proceed.” (p 106-107)

“If location were a more widely used component of Aboriginal research methodology, readers would be more easily able to distinguish between authors who have a vested interest in the research and those who do not.” (p 107)

“Ethnocentric writing can be avoided, however, if the writer reveals his or her epistemological location at the outset through a brief introductory autobiography.” (p 107)

[“Respectful Representations” (p 108) …]

“A minority of Aboriginal peoples who have successfully negotiated Western culture are too often held up as proof that the problems of oppression, racism, and inequity can be easily overcome or, worse, that the roots of these problems lie not within institutions or systems of governance but within Aboriginal peoples themselves.” (p 109)

“Life changes transform our locations and thus our locations become dynamic.” (p 110)

[“Re-Vising” (p 111) …]

“Historical written texts about Aboriginal peoples reveal more about the ideological perspective and position of the authors (patriarchy, paternalism, racism, White supremacy, fear, ignorance, and ethnocentrism) than they do about their subjects (Voyageur, 2000).” (p 111)

[“Re-Claiming: Avoiding the Extraction of Knowledge” (p 112) …]

“To locate is to make a claim about who you are and where you come from, your investment and your intent. To put yourself forward means to say who you are, give yourself voice, and claim your position.” (p 112)

“Considerations such as cultural protocol, sacredness, oral traditions, copyright, and ownership all must be factored into deciding what Indigenous knowledge goes into [page break] text. However, as we record our own Indigenous histories, stories, and experiences via location, we reclaim ourselves.” (p 113-114)

[“Re-Naming Research in Our Own Language” (p 114) …]

“The word ‘research’ has too much racist and colonial baggage attached to it to be used in an Indigenous context.” (p 114)

“… as native Ojibway and Cree speakers, our mothers held world views that were distinctly Indigenous. As we grew up, these world views were transmitted to us linguistically in English, but also physically and psychologically in Cree and Ojibway. Although English is our first language, we learned to speak it and write it through lenses (our mothers’) that were distinctly Indigenous. … [page break] … Her term represents a perspective that is unknown to Western ways of knowing and for which there was, until now, no English term.” (p 114-115)

“We need to transcend the rules and limitations of the English language to make it work for us as Indigenous peoples.” (p 115)

[“Re-Membering” (p 115) …]

“Despite the intrusions into our membership, we can re-member ourselves through our DNA, through our spirituality, and through our blood memory of cultural origin.” (p 116)

“Human beings also have a capacity for sensory, physical, spiritual, and emotional memory.” (p 116)

[“Re-Connecting” (p 117) …]

[“Re-Covering” (p 119) …]

[Emancipatory POV, not just Aboriginal –oki …]

“We cannot blame the individual for underlying racist assumptions acquired through socialization and education. However, it is not unreasonable to expect researchers, non-Aboriginal and Aboriginal alike (McNab, 1986), to bring with them a thorough background on the history of colonialism and a broad based knowledge of Aboriginal cultures when engaging in research with our communities. Researchers must have a critical interpretation of colonialism and western domination embedded in research methodology. They must be prepared to engage with community representatives so that their research methodology more accurately reflects an Aboriginal point of view. (Gilchrist, 1997, p. 80)” (p 120)

[“Re-Search Methods: Affirming Indigenous Paths” (p 121) …]

“Sinclair (2003) examines how Indigenous scholars operationalize Indigenous world views in their research. Interestingly, she finds that many Indigenous scholars have inherently and creatively integrated their world views into their research in resistance to the restrictive methods of Western positivist research.” (p 122)

[“Location Equals Contextual Validation” (p 122) …]

“Location ensures that individual realities are not misrepresented as generalizable collectives.” (p 123)

Selected References

  • Gilchrist, L. (1997). Aboriginal communities and social science research: Voyeurism in transition. Native Social Work Journal 1 (1), 69–85.
  • Owens, L. (2002). As if an Indian were really an Indian: Native voices and postcolonial theory. In G.M. Bataille (Ed.), Native American representations: First encounters, distorted images, and literary appropriations, pp. 11–24. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press.
  • Said, E.W. (1994). Culture and imperialism. New York: Vintage Books.
  • Sinclair, R. (2003). Indigenous research in social work: The challenge of operationalizing worldview. Native Social Work Journal 5, 117–139.
  • Tierney, W.G. (2002). Get real: Representing reality. International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education 15 (4), 385–398.
  • Voyageur, C.J. (2000). Contemporary Aboriginal women in Canada. In D. Long and O.P. Dickasone (Eds.), Visions of the heart: Canadian Aboriginal issues, pp. 81–106. Toronto: Harcourt.


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