- The Indigenous Researcher as Individual and CollectiveBuilding a Research Practice Ethic within the Context of Indigenous Languages
We Indigenous scholars can exercise more proactive leadership by practicing critical introspection and building strength and capacity from within our communities. By critical introspection I mean a regular, rigorous, reflective self-evaluation process in which we consider our Indigenous research and scholarship practice in the context of our accountability to the collective. This evaluation should consider how Indigenous languages can inform our practice. It's not enough to ask only how we can be supportive of tribal communities; we must also practice personal accountability to our communities. We bring ourselves into the work with all our strengths, limitations, and complexities. Recognizing personal accountability to the larger collective is a humbling experience that helps us to understand not just who we are in the community but the legacy of our families and all the sacrifices large and small that have been made on our behalf. I wish to illustrate how the complex, vibrant, textured interweaving of a reflexive Indigenous research practice that examines our relationships with Indigenous languages can contribute to building self-determining communities. Reflexivity in qualitative research requires critical reflection on the linguistic and ideological underpinnings of the researcher experience.1 Critical introspection enables us to recognize where we are standing and should prompt us to transgress the implicit boundaries of a colonial legacy that devalues Indigenous knowledges contained in our languages.
In this article I describe my experience as an Indigenous researcher conducting dissertation research on Passamaquoddy ideas of health and decision making in my home community and how these can be applied [End Page 61] in contemporary tribal health decision-making processes. Sibyig nil noojayow, wabubanakig nil noodagudum. I come from Sibyig, on the edge, I'm related to the people of the dawn. Here I reflect on my practice of applied Indigenous scholarship, focusing on how my position, inextricably situated within the collective, informed my research process. I describe my self-examination process, using a critical frame of reference, in dialogue with community members. A careful examination of the data collected in my dissertation research and my responses to the research process revealed four salient themes of translation, reciprocity, disclosure, and reconciliation. I discuss how I recognized and negotiated the themes and offer my perspective as I struggled to understand and center Indigenous language and its teachings in my research. Ludwewognun wooleepeesuniw. Our language has good medicine.
Improving Health Research Practice in Native Communities
Much of the social science literature about how to conduct research in Native communities is directed to non-Native researchers and to achieving more culturally competent practice. Tribal participatory research (TPR), for example, which is applied in psychology but could be used in other disciplines, incorporates best practices and synthesizes existing theory into a model that includes active involvement of Native communities through tribal oversight, use of a facilitator for research meetings with the tribe, training community members as project staff, and the use of culturally specific intervention and assessment procedures.2
Other researchers suggest ways to reflect Indigenous values and practices using existing approaches. For example, qualitative research approaches can include processes that value the wisdom of elders, utilize narrative as a form of data, and recognize the importance of relationships and of serving the Indigenous community's interests.3 The use of phenomenological research methodologies that rely on narrative to reflect Indigenous knowledge can inform culturally appropriate health promotion strategies.4 Grounded theory approaches have been successfully applied to study Indigenous concepts of health and to design culturally relevant tribal health interventions.5 Individual and group interview data have been utilized to inform the development of culturally appropriate interventions in suicide prevention and smoking cessation.6 [End Page 62] Building relationships and credibility with a broad representation of community members are essential elements of a successful research practice in Indigenous communities.7 These approaches to health research hold promise for addressing challenges to community health in ways that reflect community concerns and interests. Some observers attribute advances in empirical research methods utilized in American Indian/Alaska Native health research to the shift toward participatory research designs.8...