Indigenous Methodologies

The means of prioritizing Indigenous ways of knowing, of being, and of doing in research.

Ever since ‘first contact’ in the context of colonialism, the story of Indigenous peoples’ has been one «of ‘nospeak’ and no-voice’. It has been a story of silence, of invisibility, of conquest, marginalization and powerlessness«. [1] As a consequence, Indigenous knowledge systems, as well as our world-views, perspectives, and values, have been equally silenced and disregarded.

The Sámi scholar, Jovnna Jon-Ánne-Kirstte Rávdná, has conceptualized this silencing as an epistemic ignorance. This refers, as she explains it, to the ways in which academic theories and practices ignore, marginalize and exclude other than dominant western European epistemic and intellectual traditions. [2]

For Indigenous scholars, the challenge is to overcome said ignorance. Not because we ourselves suffer it, but because it is felt keenly in our academic practices. When I began to consciously think of situating my PhD within an Indigenous methodology, I was warned to remember where I was. The person who gave me this warning meant it kindly. Their concern was that the institution where I was employed did not perceive Indigenous studies as a viable academic consideration, far less included it in their curriculum.

For me however, such kindness is killing. Because it teaches us that to get by as academics, we must center our projects in the established paradigms of Western thought. It perpetuates the belief that as Indigenous people, we are worth less and so is our knowledge[s] and systems of learning. And, if there is one thing I have learned as an Indigenous scholar, it is that our systems of knowledge are not lesser. It is not a competition, not a question of better or worse. It is simply a matter of how you approach the world, and how you think through it.

In its broadest sense, Indigenous methodologies can be “understood as a way of being in, thinking about and interacting with the world – the thinking behind the doing”. [3] As I see it, methodology can as such never be reduced simply to a systematic analysis of the methods applied in the field of a study. On the contrary, methodology is very much the lifeblood of who we are and what we do, the knowing of our self intersecting with the world. In short, Indigenous methodologies are rooted in Indigenous Peoples’ ways of being and making sense of the world. [4]

But how do we go from acknowledging the validity of our Peoples’ holistic perspectives to actually implementing them in our scholarly efforts?

I’ll not pretend to have the final answer. Nor do I really think that any one of us will find one. After all, the idea that reality can be comprised in an «objective scientific/rationalistic thought that […] the universe [is] from a purely mechanistic and materialistic standpoint» is the prerogative of Western science . [5]

From the starting point of Indigenous perspectives, there is in stead a multitude of ways in which Indigenous ideas and ways of being may be prioritized. But no one is asking you to start from the beginning as there are many that has gone before us, and has in doing so rooted their Indigenous ways of being, doing and knowing, to our benefit.

That being said, here is a listing of some of my scholarly ofeláččat [pathfinders] that have walked my path before me, and inspired me to walk it.

Fair warning; this is not meant to be a exhaustive collection, rather it consist of the books that has made the biggest impact on my scholarship. And maybe, they will have the same impact on you?

To start, whom else than the Maori scholar Linda Tuhiwai Smith, author of what, in my opinion, is one of the most groundbreaking books written on the topic of critical Indigenous methodologies. Decolonizing Methodologies: Research and Indigenous Peoples shows how research has been used to create and implement strategies to help subjugate Indigenous and colonized people through, among other things, disregarding Indigenous knowledge[s] and practices. It is one of the best places to start as it connects a call for Indigenizing academia with nothing less than social justice.

Doing much the same, but from a very different angle is Robin Wall Kimmerer from the Potawatomi Nation of Turtle Island, in her much celebrated work Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plant. Here she writes in a well thought-out language, about the interrelational quality of Indigenous ontologies, our worldviews, citing humans, landscapes and other beings as equally important in constituting reality.

Next on the list is Indigenous Methodologies: Characteristics, Conversations and Contexts by the amazing Cree scholar Margaret Kovach. Tough it is more subtle in its wording than Tuhiwai Smith’s work, it is no less hard hitting. It is a beautifully worded insight into Indigenous epistemologies, methods, and ethics delivered as if someone was telling you a story.

Storytelling is at heart in the next work. In Indigenous Storywork: Educating the Heart, Mind, Body, and Spirit, Jo-Ann Archibald, from Sto:lo First Nation on Turtle Island, has written on how Indigenous oral narratives are an important source for, and component of, Indigenous knowledge systems. Her beautiful intense writing invites reflection, and shapes perspectives. I highly recommend reading it, if only because it is a well-written mapping on how Indigenous methodologies might work in practice.

Shawn Wilson is an Opaskwayak Cree researcher that in Research is Ceremony: Indigenous Research Methods has tackled the difficult subject of Indigenous ontologies, and how this multi plurality impacts as a research paradigm. The complexities are not easy to grasp, but his writing style makes it a little easier. I am a huge fan of his, and I think everyone who takes the time to really try an understand his valuable contribution to critical Indigenous methodologies will be too.

Rauna Kuokkanen is the Sámi scholar that I cite above. In Reshaping the University: Responsibility, Indigenous Epistemes, and the Logic of the Gift , she has written an absolutely delightful expose of the epistemic ignorance of Western academia and it is just an explicit journey in the colonial structures that has been opposed on our ways of being, doing and knowing.

The next one is also a Sámi scholar. In her PhD, The hidden children of Eve. Sámi poetics. Guovtti ilmmi gaskkas, Kristin Jernsletten writes beautifully on Sámi research paradigms and methodologies. It is well wort reading, if only because even in the way that she writes she has managed to embody the Sámi epistemology of storytelling – thus amply demonstrating that Indigenous epistemologies do absolutely belong in an academic setting.

These eight works are a good place to start if you really want to take Indigenous research seriously. It might at time be an uncomfortable read, even for those of us that are Indigenous. But in the end, the journey will be worth it because it gives you the tools to academically articulate what your people has always known, and that, is truly a thing of beauty.

[1] Goduka, I. N. 1999: «Indigenous epistemologies – ways of knowing: Affirming a legacy», South African Journal of Higher Education, Vol. 13, No. 3: pp. 26

[2] Kuokkanen, Rauna. 2008: What is Hospitality in the Academy? Epistemic Ignorance and the (Im)Possible Gift, Review of Education, Pedagogy, and Cultural Studies Vol. 30, No. 1, pp. 60

[3] Smith, Hinekura. 2019: » Whatuora: Theorizing «New» Indigenous Research Methodology from «Old» Indigenous Weaving Practice», Art/Research International: A Transdisciplinary Journal, pp. 3.

[4] Kovach, Margaret. 2009: Indigenous Methodologies: Characteristics, Conversations and Contexts, Toronto: Toronto University Press, pp. 25

[5] Goduka, I. N. 1999: pp. 26

Legg igjen en kommentar

Fyll inn i feltene under, eller klikk på et ikon for å logge inn:

Du kommenterer med bruk av din konto. Logg ut /  Endre )


Du kommenterer med bruk av din Twitter konto. Logg ut /  Endre )


Du kommenterer med bruk av din Facebook konto. Logg ut /  Endre )

Kobler til %s