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Indigenous Research

Indigenous Knowledges (IK)

Indigenous Knowledges are Traditional Knowledges or knowledge that comes from a community. Indigenous methodologies are increasingly being used in research. 

Indigenous Knowledges (IK):

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

It is important to note that while there is no accepted definition of Traditional Knowledge at an international level it can be said that;

  • TK in a general sense embraces the content of knowledge itself as well as Traditional Cultural Expressions, including distinctive signs and symbols associated with TK.

  • TK in a narrower sense refers to knowledge as such, in particular the knowledge from intellectual activity in a traditional context, and includes know-how, practice, skills, and innovations (WIPO, 2020 


In some Indigenous communities only specific members have the right access to certain Knowledges. In many communities Knowledge is "owned" by families, elders, or the community as a whole.  It is always best to be in contact with a community and it's members about the dissemination of Knowledges that may be considered sacred, or sensitive. 

Indigenous Ways of Knowing 

Indigenous Ways of Knowing have at least 5 characteristics 

  1. They are personal 
    • There are multiple perceptions. It's and intersection of different voices and different perceptions. 
  2. Indigenous Knowledges are orally transmitted
    • Oral Traditions ensure the collective nature of Knowledge gathering. Telling stories creates complex narratives that are reflective of the context that they are told. This also connects us to the past through narrative. 
  3. They are experiential 
    • You cannot know without experiencing, interacting, or being present. 
  4. They are holistic
  5. they are a narrative 

Finding IK resources

Issues in using Indigenous Knowledge resources 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:

Suggested Books