Kovach (2010). Indigenous Research Methods and Interpretation. (Indigenous Methodologies: Characteristics, Conversations, and Contexts.)

Kovach, M. (2010). Indigenous Research Methods and Interpretation. In Indigenous Methodologies: Characteristics, Conversations, and Contexts (pp. 121–140). University of Toronto Press.

“When it comes to Indigenous research methods, there is a continuum of ways to access information. This continuum runs from the most personal, internal knowledges that guide our research to the external knowledge that comes from others.” (p 123)

“While protocols may differ according to tribal group, there is a general set of guidelines around research-sharing circles. They normally require the accompaniment of food, and there is a meditative acknowledgment [sic –oki] of all those who are in the circle, including the ancestors that sit with us. An Elder or cultural person often leads the circle.” (p 124)

“It becomes less about research participants responding to research questions, and more about the partici- [page break] pants sharing their stories in relation to the question. They may do this in a direct or indirect fashion.” (p 125)

“Using open-structured methods, the task of researchers is to intuitively respond to the stories, to share as necessary their own understandings, and to be active listeners. Because sharing story triggers memory, the conversation may bring forth a range of human emotions, so the researcher needs to be prepared. … When asking Indigenous people for their stories in research, a researcher must be aware that the choice of this method opens a door for healing associated with decolonization.” (p 125)

“Given the extractive, exploitive history of research within Indigenous communities, efforts to mitigate power differentials in all aspects of research are warranted, whether using an Indigenous methodological approach or not.” (p 125)

“Probability sampling is equivalent to random sampling of a population group, and it is often used when a goal of the research is to generalize findings. Non-probability sampling is used when the goal is theory development, thus it is often a sampling technique found within qualitative designs.” (p 126)

“In my study, several researchers of Cree ancestry referenced as protocol the use of tobacco as a gift that signifies respect and reciprocity. Cree researchers Michael Hart and Laara Fitznor respectfully spoke about approaching Elders and research participants with tobacco.” (p 127)

“Laara Fitznor explained to her research participants that the use of tape recorders was the best way of ensuring that their voice came through as truly as possible. Another issue involves the use of transcripts. Fitznor explains that she transcribed the research interviews herself as a means of protecting the words of her research participants: ‘That’s why for me it was good for me to transcribe as opposed to somebody else because they might have excluded it because well that’s not part of the participants so they might exclude Elders’ words.’.” (p 128)

“For example, Patricia Steinhauer (2001) shares that she facilitated a talking circle to prepare her participants for the research, then conducted interviews to collect the data. Research-sharing circles have only recently appeared as a formal data-collection method.” (p 128)

[“Meaning Making within Indigenous Inquiry” (p 129) …]

“Interpretive meaning-making involves a subjective accounting of social phenomena as a way of giving insight or to clarify an event. It involves an inductive way of knowing. Analysis involves reducing a whole to the sum of its parts in order to explain a phenomenon. … The practice involves working with transcripts to arrive at a ‘meaning unit,’ or what is commonly referred to as coding (Ely et al., 2001: 162). Depending upon the qualitative methodology, there may be more emphasis on contextual interpretation (i.e., autoethnography) or on thematic analysis (i.e., grounded theory).” (p 130)

“In many Indigenous communities, individuals with the training and experience to inductively analyse patterns were the knowledge-keepers and were highly esteemed. … However, the patterns and observations were highly contextualized and particular, and did not assume that this knowledge could or should be generalized to other instances.” (p 131)

[“A Conversation with Laara Fitznor” (p 134) …]

“[Laara] … in sharing circles it is quite different. It is more of a ceremonial, sacred space where I am building in the cultural pieces of it, as opening and closing with an acknowledgment [sic –oki] or a prayer, and opening with a smudge. I used tobacco offerings.” (p 136)

“[Laara] … In the write-up, I think things start to unfold as you are doing it, things you hadn’t thought of ahead of time. For example, what do I do with the Elders’ words because you also transcribe them.” (p 138)

“[Laara] … I think it’s a lot more mindful, respectful of the bigger picture and the individuals within the bigger picture. It’s not just the institution that matters or what publications can come out of it. It is about how it [research] can benefit the community.” (p 139)

“From a pragmatic perspective, Laara said at various times that the Western approach to research and Cree ways did not reconcile with each other (e.g., exclusivity of sampling, rationalizing, and utilizing a circle as a method as opposed to using a focus group method).” (p 139)

“The sacredness of Indigenous research is bound in ceremony, spirit, land, place, nature, relationships, language, dreams, humour, purpose, and stories in an inexplicable, holistic, non-fragmented way, and it is this sacredness that defies the conventional.” (p 140)

Selected References

  • Ely, M., Vinz, R., Downing, M., and Anzul, M. (2001). On Writing Qualitative Research: Living by Words. London: Routledge Falmer.
  • Steinhauer, P. (2001). Situating myself in research. Canadian Journal of Native Education 25(2): 183–7.
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