- Insurgent Research
Research is often an extractive process. In the contemporary academic environment, research and publishing expectations drive researchers to take deeply meaningful information, often from a marginal or "underresearched" community, and present it to a third party. This third party is usually a highly educated academic audience or government bureaucracy, both of whom have little staked on the preservation of the integrity of that extracted knowledge. Rarely are the people who participate in the research process as participants or "informants" considered to be the primary audience when it comes time to disseminate the research. This type of research functions on an extraction methodology. Lost in this extractive process are the context, values, and on-the-ground struggles of the people and communities that provide information and insight to the researcher. Furthermore, few researchers are willing to acknowledge a major responsibility to the communities that they study. Instead, their responsibilities are oriented toward the academy: either toward academic colleagues or toward some abstract notion of "truth" (while failing to account for many other versions of this truth). It is fair to say that the dominant trend of research in the academy tends toward extraction.
Although similar critiques arise concerning almost any marginalized community, research is especially alienating when the "objects of research" are Indigenous peoples.1 Research on Indigenous peoples tends to reproduce tired colonial narratives that justify occupation and [End Page 113] oppression. It also effectively renders the validity of Indigenous cultural knowledge meaningless through its appropriation and translation by knowledge-extraction industries such as anthropology, sociology, policy studies, and law. The extraction approach to research involves removing knowledge from its immediate context and presenting it to a highly specialized group of outsiders. In most academic settings, applying this model constitutes "good academic research" and is usually rewarded with degrees, jobs, tenure, and research funding. Consequently, community-based research projects that do not direct their final products at either academics or bureaucrats are devalued.
As a Métis scholar, I feel I have a particular responsibility to fight intellectual colonialism, as all critical Indigenous academics do. We have a specific responsibility to our communities, friends, and families that often outweighs academic considerations. This article, then, proposes a refocusing of research methodology in a way that recenters the community in the research process; it advances an approach that I call insurgent research. Insurgent research is rooted within existing Indigenous methodologies in three ways: (1) by explicitly employing Indigenous world-views; (2) by orienting knowledge creation toward Indigenous peoples and their communities; and (3) by seeing our responsibility as researchers as directed almost exclusively toward the community and participants. I will expand on these three points as key elements of the insurgent research paradigm. There is also a fourth element that differentiates insurgent research from most other academic methodologies: promoting community-based action that targets the demise of colonial interference within our lives and communities. In addressing these four elements of research, this article will apply the principles of insurgent research to some future projects that could emerge within an insurgent research paradigm.
Despite the increasingly vocal presence of Indigenous researchers and their allies in the academy and other research organizations, the bulk of research on Indigenous peoples works from within an extraction model. In this model, outsider academics conduct research on Indigenous peoples for the purpose of learning about certain aspects of their lives that they find personally interesting or intriguing or that may serve colonial processes (such as Western models of "healing" that reinforce Indigenous victimhood). In the extraction model, communities rarely participate in the development of research questions or are entitled to determine the validity of research "findings." However, increasing Indigenous awareness of these types of researchers has caused some communities to institutionalize research protocols to prevent further research exploitation in these communities. For example, the [End Page 114] Government of Nunavut, an Inuit territory in the Eastern Arctic, requires researchers to apply for a research license in order to conduct research in the territory.2
Extraction research, in terms of output, is primarily oriented toward non-Indigenous outsiders. Because it targets outsiders, researchers almost always translate their research findings into...