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First Nations, Métis and Inuit

Indigenous Knowledge

Indigenous Knowledge is traditional knowledge or knowledge that comes from a community. Indigenous methodologies are increasingly being used in research. 

Indigenous Knowledge (IK):

  • Is transmitted from generation to generation
  • Emerges from complete knowledge systems
  • Is expressed in many formats. eg. oral, ceremony, artistic creations, artifacts, etc.
  • Is not all in the past; there is continued growth, innovation and change in practices
  • Includes history, law, spirituality, agriculture, environment, science, medicine, animal  behaviour and migration patterns, art, music, dance, craft, construction, and more.

Indigenous research methods:

  • Challenge the notion of neutrality of the researcher
  • Aim to animate postcolonial institutions with Indigeneity
  • Challenge the assumptions of domination, patriarchy, racism
  • Are increasingly accepted in academic institutions

Finding IK resources

Issues in using Indigenous Knowledge include:

  • Assessing the quality of the information without peer review
  • Ethics requirements for obtaining information directly from people.

Primary sources

Many assignments require the use of primary sources, and Indigenous Knowledge resources can often be used. These might be:

  • Community-produced materials and information
  • Images of traditional clothing, regalia, activities
  • Recordings / digital versions of traditional practices (Ceremonies are not usually photographed  or recorded and if they are, it may not be appropriate to use them.)
  • Oral pieces

Suggested sources:

Indigenous Methodologies - Suggested Reads

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Sources and Methods in Indigenous Studies - Chris Andersen & Jean M. O'Brien

Sources and Methods in Indigenous Studies is a synthesis of changes and innovations in methodologies in Indigenous Studies, focusing on sources over a broad chronological and geographical range. Written by a group of highly respected Indigenous Studies scholars from across an array of disciplines, this collection offers insight into the methodological approaches contributors take to research, and how these methods have developed in recent years.

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Decolonizing Methodologies - Linda Tuhiwai Smith

This essential volume explores intersections of imperialism and research - specifically, the ways in which imperialism is embedded in disciplines of knowledge and tradition as 'regimes of truth.' Concepts such as 'discovery' and 'claiming' are discussed and an argument presented that the decolonization of research methods will help to reclaim control over indigenous ways of knowing and being.

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Kaandossiwin: How We Come to Know - Kathleen E. Absolon

In exploring the ways Indigenous researchers use Indigenous methodologies within mainstream academia, "Kaandossiwin" renders these methods visible and helps to guard other ways of knowing from colonial repression.

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Research Is Ceremony - Shawn Wilson

Describing a research paradigm shared by indigenous scholars in Canada and Australia, this study demonstrates how this standard can be put into practice. Portraying indigenous researchers as knowledge seekers who work to progress indigenous ways of being, knowing, and doing in a constantly evolving context, this examination shows how relationships both shape indigenous reality and are vital to reality itself. 

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Indigenous Methodologies - Margaret Kovach

What are Indigenous research methodologies, and how do they unfold? Indigenous methodologies flow from tribal knowledge, and while they are allied with several western qualitative approaches, they remain distinct. These are the focal considerations of Margaret Kovach's study, which offers guidance to those conducting research in the academy using Indigenous methodologies. Kovach includes topics such as Indigenous epistemologies, decolonizing theory, story as method, situating self and culture, Indigenous methods, protocol, meaning-making, and ethics. 

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Decolonizing Education: Nourishing the Learning Spirit - Marie Battiste

Chronicling the negative consequences of forced assimilation, racism inherent to colonial systems of education, and the failure of current educational policies for Aboriginal populations, Battiste proposes a new model of education, arguing the preservation of Aboriginal knowledge is an Aboriginal right. Central to this process is the repositioning of Indigenous humanities, sciences, and languages as vital fields of knowledge, revitalizing a knowledge system which incorporates both Indigenous and Eurocentric thinking.

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Indigenous Statistics - Chris Andersen & Maggie Walter

In the first book ever published on Indigenous quantitative methodologies, Maggie Walter and Chris Andersen open up a major new approach to research across the disciplines and applied fields. While qualitative methods have been rigorously critiqued and reformulated, the population statistics relied on by virtually all research on Indigenous peoples continue to be taken for granted as straightforward, transparent numbers. This book dismantles that persistent positivism with a forceful critique, then fills the void with a new paradigm for Indigenous quantitative methods, using concrete examples of research projects from First World Indigenous peoples in the United States, Australia, and Canada.

Photograph of three braids of sweetgrass.

University of Alberta Libraries - University of Alberta, Edmonton, AB, Canada T6G 2R3 - We are located on Treaty 6 / Métis Territory.