16-2 “Tribal College Research” Resource Guide

Nov 15th, 2004 | By | Category: 16-2: Tribal College Research, Resource Guides
By Dr. Susan C. Faircloth (Coharie) and Dr. John W. Tippeconnic, III (Comanche)

Utilizing Research Methods that Respect and Empower Indigenous Knowledge

In reviewing the literature on conducting American Indian and Alaskan Native education research, several themes emerged, including access, methodology, and use. Although this is not a comprehensive guide, it is hoped that the references cited below will help both Native and non-Native researchers develop and conduct research that utilizes and respects indigenous knowledge in these communities.

Such research will help to ensure the future success of Indian education by empowering Native communities and researchers to explore, acknowledge, and implement educational practices that are culturally and linguistically appropriate and relevant to their students.

Agbo, S. A. (2001). Enhancing success in American Indian students: Participatory research at Akwesasne as part of the development of a culturally relevant curriculum. Journal of American Indian Education, 40(1), 31-56. Education Full Text, July 19, 2004.

Agbo describes the use of participatory research, one of many emerging research methodologies that involve individuals/communities of interest in the research process. This article focuses upon Akwesasne, a school system serving students of the Mohawk Nation. According to Hall (1981 as cited in Agbo, 2001), participatory research is “…a social action process that meshes the activities of research, education, and action” (n.p.). The most unique aspect of this particular methodology is the connection between research and action.

Brayboy, B. M., & Deyhle, D. (2000, Summer). Insider-outsider: Researchers in American Indian communities. Theory into Practice, 39(3), 164-69.

Brayboy and Deyhle discuss both the challenges and rewards of conducting research as an outsider as opposed to an insider. They argue that objectivity becomes increasingly difficult when the researcher is an insider or member of the group to be studied. However, this does not prevent the researcher(s) from conducting “good, rigorous research” (n.p.). This is echoed by Swisher (1986, as cited in Brayboy and Deyhle, 2000) who writes, “… being an insider in American Indian communities enhances the validity of the research process, data collection, and analysis” (n.p.).

Brayboy and Deyhle (2000) also argue that traditional methods of conducting research in Native communities must be reconsidered, that researchers must consider the “political nature” of conducting research with these populations, and that researchers must act in a culturally-sensitive manner and must protect the individuals with whom they work.

Cleary, L. M., & Peacock, T. D. (1997, Fall). Disseminating American Indian educational research through stories: A case against academic discourse. Journal of American Indian Education, 37(1), 7-15.

The authors detail the rationale for the methodology they used to report research findings in their book, Collected Wisdom: American Indian Education. In this book, the authors opted to use storytelling as opposed to more structured and scientifically-based methods of reporting data characteristic of many Western methodologies. The use of methodologies such as storytelling can help to facilitate the transfer of research findings to practitioners and others outside of the academy in a timelier and, some might argue, more accessible manner.

Crazy Bull, C. (1997, Summer). Advice for the non-Native researcher. Tribal College Journal, 9(1), 24.

Although Crazy Bull’s article was originally directed at non-Native researchers conducting research with Native communities, her recommendations are applicable to both non-Native and Native researchers. Recommendations include:

  • promotion of community input/participation in research,
  • consideration of the benefits/contributions of the research,
  • becoming knowledgeable of the community of interest,
  • developing a rapport with the community of interest,
  • avoiding exploitation of participants,
  • encouraging use of participatory research, and
  • being both cognizant and respectful of local control of research.

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