Indigenous Research Methods

Depending on whether a project seeks to collect quantitative data, qualitative data, or both, and in consultation with the community or organization, there are various types of methods that could be used for data collection.

Here are a few that include examples of qualitative data collection methods:

  1. Talking Circles are used throughout a variety of different cultures and can be adapted as a research method. Dr. Angela Mashford-Pringle at the University of Toronto, Centre for Critical Qualitative Health Research presents considerations and possibilities for using the Talking Circle Method in this video Circles: Indigenous Research Methods.

  2. World Café Method is a fun, interactive community approach to hosting large group conversations. Guided by seven design principles, the World Café method can be adapted to many different contexts. A quick reference guide can be accessed here.

  3. The Research Impact Canada online course module Storytelling - Humanize the Numbers offers content that speaks to ethical and inclusive ways to include stories and narratives.

  4. The article Addressing the need for Indigenous and decolonized quantitative research methods in Canada  (Hayward et al, 2021), examines the importance of decolonizing and indigenizing quantitative research methods.


Video: Research is Ceremony: Researching within an Indigenous Paradigm

Research is Ceremony: Researching within an Indigenous Paradigm - Shawn Wilson presents an introduction to his indigenist philosophy and insights related to research paradigms that focus on Indigenous culture, identity, and well-being. Hosted by Royal Roads University (2020).

Video: Decolonizing Methodologies for Sustainability Research

Decolonizing Methodologies for Sustainability Research Session 4 with Prof. Linda Tuhiwai Smith shares her perspectives on values in research, bridging knowledge with being and doing, ways to avoid perpetuating colonialism while doing research, the importance of positionality and lived experience in doing research. Hosted by Waterloo’s Faculty of Environment (2022).

Video: Indigenous and Intercultural Research: Issues, Ethics, and Methods

Indigenous and Intercultural Research: Issues, Ethics, and Methods is a video featuring panelists Dr. Bagele Chilisa and Dr. Deborah McGregor. Hosted by SAGE Publishing (2020).

Video: Decolonizing Community-Engaged Research and Unsettling the Work

Decolonizing Community-Engaged Research and Unsettling the Work video features speakers, Jessie Williams, director of Indigenous relations for the SFU Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences Chris Lewis (ancestral name: Syeta’xtn), elected councillor for the Squamish Nation and Chair of the SFU Board of Governors. Hosted by SFU’s Community Engaged Research Initiative (2021).

Video: Etuaptmumk | Two-Eyed Seeing

A framework, developed by Mi’kmaw Elder Albert Marshall. Etuaptmumk incorporates both Indigenous and Western ways of knowing.  The website includes an introductory video.

Recommended Reading:

The Dalhousie Libraries' Indigenous Studies library guide provides links to sources for articles, books, documents, websites and other resources related to Canadian Indigenous history, socioeconomic and health issues, and cultural studies.

Absolon. (2011). Kaandossiwin: how we come to know. Fernwood.

Chilisa, B. (2012). Indigenous research methodologies. SAGE Publications.

Decolonizing research: Indigenous storywork as methodology (J.-A. Archibald & J. Lee-Morgan, Eds.). ZED Books LTD.

Kovach, M. (2009). Indigenous methodologies: characteristics, conversations, and contexts. University of Toronto Press.

McGregor, D., Restoule, J.-P., & Johnston, R. (2018). Indigenous research: theories, practices, and relationships (McGregor, J.-P. Restoule, & R. Johnston, Eds.). Canadian Scholars.

Smith, L. T. (2021) Decolonizing methodologies: Research and indigenous peoples. London, United Kingdom: Zed Books.

Wilson, Shawn. (2008). Research Is Ceremony: Indigenous Research Methods.

Indigenous Writing Style

Language is one of the many ways that has been used to oppress Indigenous Peoples. By being aware of the ways in which implied colonialism lives in language, you can re-frame the narrative and de-colonize your words.

Read on to learn how to better choose our words when writing about Indigenous Peoples (Elements of Indigenous Style: A Guide for Writing, 2018):

Avoid using the past tense when you write about Indigenous Peoples

Indigenous Peoples are not a historical phenomenon; they have not been assimilated into Canadian culture and they have not lost their own rich, distinct cultures. Indigenous Peoples are diverse, authentic, empowered and current. Avoid the past tense: “they practiced ceremonies”. Instead, use the present tense: “they practice Ceremonies”.

Think about Indigenous Knowledge as holding its own copyright.

Give Oral Traditions and Traditional Knowledge the same weight and respect as printed texts. You need to ask for permission before reprinting Oral Traditions and Traditional Knowledge, exactly as you would with written texts.

Always choose Indigenous Style over Canadian Press style.

Capitalization may not be where you’d expect to see it. Gregory Younging describes this as a “deliberate decision that redresses mainstream society’s history of regarding Indigenous Peoples as having no legitimate national identities; government, social, spiritual or religious institutions; or collective rights.” Instead of using Canadian Press style, use Indigenous style

Recognize and respect distinct and diverse Indigenous Peoples.

The Indigenous population in Canada is made up of Inuit, Métis, and some 634 different First Nations. Each has their own distinct Traditional Knowledge, culture
and heritage. Avoid writing about ‘First Nations’ as though they are a homogenous group; instead, be specific and ask for people’s preferred self-declaration. If no self- declaration has been made, try to identify the name of their community or nation. If it is still not known, then use Indigenous group names, such as First Nation, Métis or Inuit.

Read the 12 Ways To Better Choose Our Words When We Write About Indigenous Peoples, a guide published by the Indigenous Tourism Association of Canada and based on the book, Elements of Indigenous Style: A Guide for Writing By and About Indigenous Peoples.

Learn to master the Indigenous writing style: