Indigenous Knowledge and Research
More than a century of colonial policy has resulted in Indigenous communities suffering unequal standards of living in terms of access to clean water, health services, and education compared to that of non- Indigenous Canadians. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) describes this policy, with residential schools at its core, as “cultural genocide.” Continual under funding of education, social and health services, and housing has affected every sphere of Indigenous peoples’ lives. Indigenous women, in particular, have withstood the worst of these impacts. Consequently, the federal government has acknowledged the racialized violence experienced by Indigenous women and recently launched the Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women.
The TRC Report outlines a number of principles and Calls to Action that address the inequities that Indigenous peoples have faced in this country, historically and in the present. Indigenous communities believe that the “truth” requires genuine engagement between Canadian institutions and the Indigenous populations they often underserve before real reconciliation can begin. The TRC describes “reconciliation” as an ongoing process of establishing and maintaining respectful relationships at all levels of Canadian society, and academic research is one primary site where this must occur.
Indigenous ways of knowing are differentiated by unique, sophisticated, and complex systems of knowledge across Indigenous communities within and beyond Canada. As distinctive Indigenous theories and methodologies continue to emerge, Indigenist research is becoming increasingly global, while remaining dependent on localized, community-engaged relationships. Of primary importance is the well-being of Indigenous communities and of research that emerges from cultural knowledge and Indigenous ways of knowing. Indigenous communities’ engagement also plays a primary role in guiding the ethics, parameters, and dissemination of Indigenous-focused research.
How will research questions and objectives be informed by Indigenous communities? In what ways can land-based pedagogies and ways of knowing translate into research within an academic setting? How will academic disciplines within the University be transformed by Indigenous research?
With the establishment of the McMaster Indigenous Research Institute (MIRI) in 2016, Indigenous research at McMaster will build upon its already strong relationships with local Indigenous communities and will be better supported at the development, implementation, and reporting stages. MIRI will also allow for the facilitation of an expanded body of work carried out by research teams that will support the advancement of Indigenous community-driven research in partnership with academic researchers, while working towards a more equitable environment for Indigenous researchers. Furthermore, MIRI will encourage and support research carried out by traditional cultural practitioners in addition to academics. As Indigenous-focused research continues to emerge and re-situate the voice of Indigenous peoples and communities in research questions and outcomes, MIRI will encourage and facilitate Indigenous research both locally and globally.