Indigenous Communities and Ethical, Qualitative Research Methodologies

The introduction of the Handbook of Critical and Indigenous Methodologies written by Denzin, Lincoln & Tuhiwan-Smith (2008) was packed with in-depth information regarding research methodologies.  It outlined the culturally intrinsic and purpose of historical and current, Western knowledge and epistemologically-based research methods.  Throughout history, qualitative and quantitative research have been implemented throughout the colonization process.  The research methodologies employed objectified the “other” through observing, participating in, interviewing, and ethnographies of indigenous populations.  Thus, “in the colonial context, research [became] an objective way of representing the dark-skinned other to the White world” (p. 4).  Therefore, Denzin (2008) argue, decolonizing research should be conducted, specifically critical indigenous qualitative research.

Critical indigenous qualitative research is a means of promoting self-determination and empowerment for indigenous populations through the inclusion of critical indigenous pedagogy (CIP).  CIP is the cultural and traditional worldview, knowledge, and epistemology that is inherent within every ethnic community.  As, CIP is political, critical indigenous research should adhere to a few guidelines to be more effective in the political self-determination and empowerment of indigenous populations.  First, the research considers the issues as stated by the indigenous community.  Second, it must honestly and ethically represent the indigenous population and those who participate in the research. Third, the research is accountable to the indigenous community and should be given to them first.  Last, it must take the history, context, and political power within the indigenous community as well as goals of resistance and emancipation of Western knowledge and epistemology into consideration. Therefore, the decolonization process reverses the objectification, inquiry, and critique of the Western systems of knowledge (Denzin, et. al., 2008).

Before reading this book segment, I previously maintained the understanding that colonialism was perpetuated through myopic political gain and social intolerance.  I did not realize that research of various indigenous communities was used as a means of justifying racism as well as political and social disempowerment.  However, I am not only aware and understand how the institution into which I am fully investing myself, academia, is intrinsically perpetuating Western knowledge and epistemology, but I can now balance my research strategies to promote self-determination and empowerment.  Though participating and working with indigenous communities in the United States to address benefits and needs of research in specifically education, I can help them regain political and social power as well as emancipation from the lingering grasp of hegemonic colonialism.

This excerpt strongly connects to my research agenda because of its egalitarian and ethical methodologies to produce qualitative research.  Previously, I was unsure of how to not only ethically approach research, but also how to empower those with whom I work.  Considering and involving the voices and CIP of those with whom I work, and even dispensing my research findings to them highlights an egalitarian approach.  Furthermore, it facilitates self-determination through the community utilizing my data to determine and implement programs to address the needs they specifically cited.

By following the guidelines listed in the selection, I will conduct my research through the lens of mutual interdependence and respect.  Therefore, I can help indigenous communities but, in addition, improve myself as a researcher and educator through “learning how to dismantle, deconstruct, and decolonize traditional ways of doing science [and] learning that research is always already both moral and political” (Denzin et. al., 2008, p. 3).  If I am to truly understand the educational issues surrounding the indigenous communities in the United States, I will need the tools to empower marginalized them through the egalitarian, decolonized research methodologies.  These methodologies will enable me to effectively and ethically address and portray the educational issues surrounding the indigenous communities to not only the indigenous populations themselves, but nonindigenous people as well.  My research will underscore mutual interdependence and respect, and therefore promote awareness to not only the educational issues surrounding indigenous peoples, but the impacts of colonization.


Denzin, N., Lincoln, Y. & Tuhiwai Smith, L. (2008). Introduction. In Handbook of Critical and Indigenous Methodologies (pp. 1–20). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, Inc.

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Brittani enjoys reading, experiencing and learning about culture, food, language, and travel as well as hiking with her beloved pooch. Her interests revolve around acculturation and educational issues encountered by American Indian students, particularly on reservations.

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