Indigenous Research Methodology?
As Indigenous researchers, we have encountered a number of challenges in conducting research from Indigenous perspectives. Essentially research is a Western paradigm based on Western philosophies and values. Research has traditionally been conducted by non-Indigenous researchers who have interpreted our peoples, cultures and languages through their own cultural and social lens. This has resulted in false representations of us and our cultures. These research findings have been presented as truth firstly to Western society and then back to us in the form of policy, programs and academic discourse and texts.
Indigenous researchers from Aoteoroa (New Zealand), Australia and Canada; [Tuhiwai Smith (1999), Irabinna Rigney (1997) and Battiste (1996)] have identified that the concept of research is deeply problematic for Indigenous peoples. It involves an emotional roller coaster journey, savors humiliation, depression, anger, pain, outrage, guilt and anxiety. It is not simply an intellectual process. It conveys deep cynicism and suspicion. The concept of research elaborates histories of encounters between Indigenous peoples and researchers embedded in the story of imperialism and colonialism. Indigenous peoples until recently have always been 'the researched'. We have been measured, judged and treated as the 'object', the 'subject' of research - the 'other'. Tuhiwai Smith (1999) further states that the word 'research', is probably one of the dirtiest words in the Indigenous world's vocabulary.
How many of us have heard people in our own communities utter with such venom;
It is critical at this point of the debate, that Indigenous peoples who have been the 'object' of research have an outlet to voice their expectations about research methodology.Appropriate research must be conducted to give voice to peoples concerns and to identify the most appropriate means to conduct research. Umulliko is committed to conducting research and indeed exploring research methodologies that celebrate and centralise these voices.
Indigenous researchers such as Tuhiwai Smith,1999, from Aoteoroa, Battiste,1996, from Canada and Irabinna Rigney,1997 and Brady,1992 from Australia assert that Indigenous research agendas are overtly political, are highly emotive, are about changing and improving conditions and are concerned with the survival of Indigenous peoples, languages lands and cultures. Further Indigenous research agendas are driven by a purposeful dream not a prescription. The purpose and activities of the research are strategic. The approach is critical of non-indigenous world view of Indigenous peoples and cultures. It is informed by an analysis of imperialism and colonialism; of what it has meant and what it means to be colonised. (Tuhiwai Smith,1999, Battiste,1996, Moreton-Robinson,1998). It is concerned with social change and emancipatory outcomes for Indigenous peoples (Irabinna Rigney,1997, Tuhiwai Smith, 1999). The approach is concerned with self-determination and liberation. It is concerned with linguistic competence, a new composite language. Battiste argues that;
Central to much of the discussion surrounding the development of an appropriate research agenda is the process of decolonisation. This is fundamental according to Tuhiwai Smith and Battiste because the term 'research' is inextricably linked to European imperialism and colonialism' (Tuhiwai Smith,1999).
All Indigenous peoples continue to strive for a decolonised context in an hysterically antagonistic Eurocentric canon, a context in which our Indigenous cultures, languages and knowledges can exist legitimately and safely. We seek a postcolonial context that builds, analyses and synthesis without exclusions or a strategy of differences. (Battiste 1996)
It is important to note here that 'decolonised does not mean and has not meant a total rejection of all theory or research or Western knowledge. Rather, it is about centring our concerns and world views and then coming to know and understand theory and research from our own perspectives and for our own purposes. (Smith 1999).
The Umulliko Research Team is committed to conducting research that positions ourselves as Indigenous researchers, our participants and their communities at the centre of our research with everything else standing in relation to that. We will continue to explore the notion of decolonisation which is a step towards us retelling our own stories, reconstructing and re-presenting knowledge about us. We will continue to explore and evolve our own constructs.
Indigenous peoples will become increasingly receptive to the importance and significance of research; research that is designed, implemented, evaluated and fed back to Indigenous communities so that 'something is left on the ground'.
The Umulliko Research Team is committed to research methodology/ies that provide the basis for analysing the works of non-Indigenous researchers that have been promoted as fact, and the findings of the perceived 'experts' on our peoples and cultures. We are committed to facilitating Indigenous voices at the centre of our research.