Indigenous engagement in research partnerships.

The resources available here on the Indigenous and Non-Indigenous Research Partnership project pages are about partnerships between researchers.  As well as partnership between academics, they are relevant to the increasing number of UK-based researchers are working transnationally and internationally among Indigenous peoples.  

A recent webinar, organised by People’s Palace Projects for the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) and Economic and Social Research council (ESRC), addressed Indigenous engagement in research partnerships and knowledge mobilsation. 

Participants discussed the challenges faced in engaging with Indigenous communities while undertaking co-production of knowledge, and to identify good practice and gaps in good practice.

A particular highlight of the webinar was video contributions from Indigenous peoples about how the Covid-19 pandemic is affecting their communities.

A link to our project resources is also featured on the webinar page.

Decolonial dialogues

Riadh Ghemmour and Carol Ann Dixon have launched the Decolonial Dialogues website as a shared space for exchanging and advancing ideas and information about the decolonisation of knowledge. 

They cover blogs and information about resources on activism and campaigning, publications, research methods and ethics, and teaching and learning. 

You can subscribe to receive updates.  Riadh, Carol Ann and their colleagues welcome contributions to their dialogue pages.

Talking indigenous knowledges and intersectionality: A blog conversation between Helen Moewaka Barnes and Rosalind Edwards

Helen and Ros were invited to deliver a joint plenary address at the Centre for Research on Families and Relationships international conference in June 2020:   They were asked to write a blog about the relationship between their partnership project and ideas about intersectionality.  The COVID-19 pandemic meant that the CRFR conference had to be put on hold.  This is the blog that Helen and Ros wrote.

ROS:  We’re giving a joint plenary at the CRFR international conference on ‘Intersectionality, families and relationships’ which has prompted me to think about the relationship between indigenous knowledges and intersectionality.  I’ve learnt a lot from our discussions about decolonisation, kaupapa Māori approaches to knowledge, and our indigenous/non-indigenous research partnership project, including the importance of knowing who you are and where you are located.  So it seems to me that while we may see some overlaps between indigenous approaches and intersectionality, there also may be some tensions.  I think that quite what constitutes the relationship between the two depends on where you are standing.  If you are an intersectionality researcher then you may view indigenous approaches as one of the elements of a resistory and transformative intersectional endeavour.  But if the ground that you stand on is indigenous, then maybe that could feel like indigenous knowledge becomes a handmaiden for intersectionality?  Maybe intersectionality could serve to find a space for and welcoming of indigenous approaches in mainstream universalising western thought?

HELEN:  Firstly, I have to confess that I have only a passing acquaintance with intersectionality. My relatively shallow understanding is that it is an implicit part of how we, as the ‘other’ understand our lives. It might also provide a useful lens through which to understand colonial history and its interconnectedness with poverty, racism and gender, to name a few. While its origins lie in discrimination in relation to race and gender, the gaze can equally be turned on privilege, power and the maintenance of these. This means looking at the identity and positions of dominant cultures, how these are experienced, maintained and reproduced. As an indigenous woman, intersectionality is one way of naming what we, as the ‘other’, understand and work at every day. In Aotearoa (New Zealand) our naming and claiming of these spaces is more usually framed within our worldviews as Māori.

ROS:  Dialogue between various marginalised knowledge projects such as decolonialisation is a feature of intersectional methodology and the generation of a resistory transformative intersectionality.  This takes me back to Patricia Hill Collins’ ideas about dialogue and pivoting the centre in the Afrocentric call-and-response tradition, where we work towards challenging dominant power dynamics: everyone has a voice, but everyone must listen and respond to other voices.  I was very struck by this idea when I first read about it two decades ago (eek!), and I hope that our partnership work has managed that.  I’m interested to know how you might see the notion of dialogue from a kaupapa Māori point of view. 

HELEN: Kaupapa Maori is one space where we can defend our right to centre our experiences and practice within our scholarly traditions and matauranga (knowledge systems). From here, many of us form alliances (or draw battle lines). My position then might be one of allegiance and dialogue with those located within intersectionality.

ROS:  One issue that I find both fundamental and challenging about indigenous approaches and kaupapa Māori specifically is the issue of accountability.  And it seems to me that this might be a point of difference with intersectionality.  As I understand it, as a Māori researcher, you are accountable to your research subjects in a very different way to me.  If you act in a way that harms your community, then it is not just your reputation that will suffer, but your extended family will be involved in that currently and into the future.  While I can see that, like me, intersectionality researchers can be self-reflexive about their location and feel strongly accountable to marginalised peoples through research and activism, I am not sure that there is the deep sense of accountability investment, generationally and communally, in the same way.

HELEN:  We are a small country and connections (whakapapa) are a central part of who we are as Māori and how we see ourselves in relation to all things; not just people. I carry my whakapapa with me and my actions aren’t just my own. If I go into a space that makes me uncomfortable or I need courage, I often tell myself beforehand that I can’t let my tupuna (ancestors) down, that I stand with them and for them. This gives me strength, but it also makes me accountable. What my tupuna did they did for future generations. Our ‘intersectionality’ covers time, space, place and relationships between all things and I take my place within that.

Webinar on Indigenous and Intercultural Research: Issues, Ethics and Methods

Deborah McGregor recently took part in a webinar on Indigenous and intercultural research, discussing Indigenous knowledge and environmental justice, Indigenous research approaches and intercultural research teams – such as our Indigenous and non-Indigenous research partnership project. 

Also participating was Bagele Chilsa, University of Botswana, raising the issues and methods for researchers to consider when they are studying formerly colonised societies, Indigenous peoples, or historically oppressed communities. 

The webinar is a really fascinating discussion with Bagele and Deb providing their unique and significant perspectives and stories about the concept of knowledge, research purposes and processes, and research relationships.

You can access a recording of the webinar and links to a range of posts and resources here:

Note: thanks to Janet Salmons for organising the webinar

Decolonising and Indigenous research

An event bringing perspectives together

Ian Calliou, an Indigenous researcher, and our Project PI Ros Edwards, a non-Indigenous researcher, presented a complementary pair of papers at a QUEST (Qualitative Expertise at Southampton) seminar looking at decolonising and Indigenous approaches to generating knowledge through research.

Ian talked about his project on Canadian truth and reconciliation from an Indigenous perspective and using an Indigenous methodology as ‘getting lost and finding your way home’. Ian was surrounded by members of the audience after his presentation, wanting to know more.

Ian Calliou presents
Ian Calliou

Ros discussed the Indigenous and non-Indigenous research partnerships project and its online resources, covering the context of the UK’s Global Challenges Research Fund, epistemologies and decolonisation, and Indigenous and non-Indigenous collaborations.

Ros Edwards

Transforming partnerships: what to consider

An illustrated discussion on effective Indigenous/Non-Indigenous research collaborations

Our video makes key points about what to consider

Our research team is delighted to make a 10 minute video available for anyone interested in the key things to consider when looking to develop an effective and impactful collaboration between Indigenous and Non-Indigenous researchers.

The video contains some of the key points from our longer 40 minute audio discussion between our research team members mixed with images from a comic we have produced as part of this project.

The resources created for the project are designed to stimulate discussion and help transform partnerships and have been created as part of our Indigenous / Non-Indigenous research project funded by the UKRI.

Transforming Indigenous / Non-Indigenous Research Partnerships

A comic for use by researchers, students and teachers of methods interested in effective partnerships.

A comic perspective on transforming Indigenous/Non-Indigenous Research Partnerships

Our project team is delighted to announce the publication of a comic resource exploring the challenges and opportunities that exist in the development of effective partnerships between Indigenous and non-Indigenous researchers.

The comic has been produced as part of this project, and is in itself a collaboration between Indigenous researchers Helen Moewaka Barnes from New Zealand, Deborah McGregor from Canada and Ros Edwards and Tula Brannelly from the UK.

The researchers worked with comic artist Olivia Hicks to develop the storyline and images.

Project lead Ros Edwards said:

We are delighted with how this fantastic resource has come together. It has been a real labour of love and a testament to what good collaborative working between Indigenous and non-Indigenous researchers looks like.

We hope this great resource will be used by students, teachers and researchers around the world who might like to work with Indigenous researchers and peoples but are unsure how to approach the idea and are looking for tips and ideas on how to achieve effective collaborations that will really benefit communities and the people who live in them.

Helen Moewaka Barnes added:

We worked hard to present a story that raised some common issues but didn’t have all the answers. We hope the comic will stimulate people to think about their context and explore what it means to them, rather than thinking ‘this is how you do it‘.

Deborah McGregor said the fun side of producing a comic was also key to engaging others in important discussions around good collaborations:

This resource offers a fun and visual way to learn more about the opportunities and challenges in engaging in Indigenous-non-Indigenous collaborative research.  We hope this comic presents an enjoyable way for people to learn about engaging in respectful and ethical research relationships.

Indigenous and non-Indigenous research partnerships resources

by Ros Edwards

Lead qualitative researchers from the ESRC National Centre for Research Methods were invited to run a panel session at the 4th World Conference on Qualitative Research, held at Lusófona University of Porto, Portugal, 16-18 October 2019.  As part of the panel session on ‘Methodological Innovations and Resources: Forms of Data, Partnership and Pedagogy’, Ros Edwards presented a paper on the Indigenous and non-Indigenous Research Partnerships project.  Here she outlines the main issues that she covered and those raised by the audience.

With researchers from 30-odd countries attending, the WCQR 2019 was an excellent venue to present the why and what of our web, audio and visual resources to inform Indigenous and non-Indigenous research partnerships.  

I explained the context for our project.  On a pragmatic level, this was the UK Research and Innovation call for International Collaboration Network proposals, but on a more fundamental level, we sought to provide resources to support researchers who are embarking on Indigenous and non-Indigenous research partnerships to think about their methods, assumptions and behaviour. 

I outlined the fundamental epistemological issues, where it is important to create and decolonise a space in which to value Indigenous knowledges, transform ways of understanding the world, and relate to Indigenous peoples and scholars that do not position them as deficit.

I showed conference participants the text, audio and visual resources that we had available on our website and those that were in development, to act as prompts to start thinking about the challenges and tensions in Indigenous and non-Indigenous research partnership working.

Researchers from the Philippines, Kenya, Columbia, New Zealand and Canada were especially interested in discussing the project and its resources.  There were suggestions that the resources could be used not only for research partnerships and in teaching methods, but also to inform research funders, government and the general public. 

Participants also wondered what the approach might mean for writing up research and disseminating it.  Others asked knotty questions about the relationship between Indigenous and non-Indigenous researcher partnerships and empowering Indigenous peoples, and raised the issue of the need to inform and decolonise the powerful elites in the Southern sphere so that they understand the value and significance of Indigenous knowledges.

In other words, I learnt as much from the audience in my presentation as they may have done from me.

Researching and educating with Māori in New Zealand – ethics of care in practice

by Tula Brannelly

This blog is a reflection on how I came to realise that the ethics of care offered a systematic framework for guiding non-oppressive and decolonising practices when I worked with Māori in Aotearoa New Zealand. I was a senior lecturer in mental health at Massey University in Wellington from 2006 – 2015. My initial stance was that as Māori are over represented in mental health services, I would need to learn more about why that was, including how the Māori worldview sits with Western psychiatry, and I needed to understand more about impacts of colonisation and development of approaches that were sensitive to Māori wellbeing. 

Through partnerships, I came to understand the ethics of care as a guide for ethical practice. Whenever I worked with Māori, I interpreted kaupapa (ways of doing) as an ethic of care in practice.

Amohia Boulton and I wrote about kaupapa and ethics of care (see further reading below).  Values such as care (manaakitanga), guardianship (kaitiakitanga) and relationality (whakawhanaungatanga) were evident through formal protocols such as welcomes on the marae (meeting place), in hui (meetings) and through students’ accounts of kaupapa mental health services.

I had previously used an ethic of care as a systematic framework to critique practices of care for people with dementia. In this new context it provided a way of thinking about ethical research practices that valued relationships, intellectual property ownership and care. 

Joan Tronto’s  Moral boundaries: A political argument for an ethic of careand Caring democracy ethic of care suggests a two-pronged approach – the first is to understand marginalisation where it exists, to take responsibility for addressing inequality. The second was the integrity of care that suggests five elements of practice that can review or guide care. They are:

  • Caring about – attentiveness to all in the relationship to understand needs and aspirations
  • Caring for – responsibility for taking action to meet those needs
  • Caregiving – competence to know how to take action and achieve care
  • Care receiving – responsiveness to the people involved to know whether care has been achieved
  • Caring with – solidarity in that the care meets the needs of the marginalised

Positioning indigenous people as ‘the problem’

One of the issues identified in our Footprints in the Sand podcast was the tendency for indigenous peoples to be positioned as ‘the problem’ without the ability to solve challenges. This signifies a Western-centric superiority that positions non-indigenous as having the answers, and thus negates indigenous knowledge and values. Understanding marginalisation through the ethics of care is relational, thereby requiring knowledge of experience, and understanding how people affected by marginalisation see what would work to overcome marginalisation. Taking responsibility takes account of this knowledge to design potential actions.  

The integrity of care, in research terms, may be expressed as attentiveness to the researched community, the researchers and others involved in the research process. Particular attention needs to be paid to the person who is arranging access as they are often a person of the community that is vouching for the researcher to have sensitivity to the community.

The community may want to be part of the research, but not in the way the researcher has planned. In my experience, individual consent forms became meaningless as many whanau (family) members wanted to join in the interview. People may want to guide the research or add something that is not part of the research proposal, and whether this is included may have profound effects on the agreement or willingness to participate. 

Responsibility can be shown in researchers being responsive to the requests of the community, including changes to the proposal or the addition of specific questions and reflexivity to include different perspectives. This would be usual in coproduced research, but maybe less accommodated in other approaches. 

Competence can be tricky. How competent is competent when working with a different worldview than you are used to, with concepts that are not directly translatable to a Western worldview? In the podcast for this project Helen discussed stepping forward and stepping back, and I understand this as being able to step forward and show competence in what is expected of you – your research approach, the questions you are asking and the knowledge you are producing that is valid, well designed and justified.

Stepping back is acknowledging the deficits in your knowledge and being open to instruction and direction, and accepting that from others. I found that some language knowledge to understand some parts of discussion in te reo (Maori language) was helpful, particularly to learn pronunciation. 

Responsiveness is shown by a willingness to revisit and check that what was agreed was achieved and whether any changes are required to how the research is progressing. This requires adequate time to inform people and get feedback, and a willingness to change course. 

Solidarity is shown by centralising the position of the people affected as the start and end point of activity. Solidarity is shown in building trust with people, by understanding and acknowledging experience, by accommodating suggested ways of overcoming challenges and by evaluating outcomes according to the wishes of that community of people. (See The ethics of care and transformational research practices in Aotearoa New Zealand.

Relationships and responsibilities

Central to care ethics are the tenets of relationships and responsibilities in an interdependent complex system. As a person who has benefitted from colonial power (as a UK citizen), it is my responsibility to consider the implications of research that is undertaken and the potential impacts on the communities it affects.

Before we meet, we are already in a relationship formed and shaped by previous connections. We also have the power to shape future connections, but only if the community feels some benefit of the research and sees a value in continuing such partnerships. 


I would like to acknowledge the following people and organisations – particularly Amohia Boulton with whom I have written extensively;  Te Waka Whaiora and Te Roopu Pookai Taaniwhaniwha supported the education of nurses; and Te Rau Puawai was a Massey University workforce initiative so I had a role supporting undergraduate and postgraduate Māori nurses through this programme. 

Further reading

  • Carol Gilligan, 1982, In a Different Voice: Psychological Theory and Women’s Development
  • Joan Tronto, 1993, Moral boundaries: A political argument for an ethic of care
  • Marian Barnes 2012, Care in Everyday Life
  • Tula Brannelly, 2018, An ethics of care research manifesto, (International Journal of Care and Caring).  
  • Amohia Boulton and Tula Brannelly Care Ethics and Indigenous Values: Political, Personal and Tribal in Barnes, M., Brannelly T, Ward L and Ward N (2015), Ethics of Care. Critical Advances in International Perspective, Policy Press.
  • Tula Brannelly, Amohia Boulton, and Allie Te Hiini, 2013. A Relationship Between the Ethics of Care and Māori Worldview—The Place of Relationality and Care in Maori Mental Health Service Provision. Ethics and Social Welfare.)  

In pursuit of the good life

by Deborah McGregor

The ‘research landscape’, internationally and within Canada, has shifted. Emergent Indigenous research approaches continue to shape broader research initiatives. Indigenous research is based on relationships and relationships require work, commitment, energy, communication and continuous engagement; they do not happen just because we want them to.

The importance of creating ethical space for discussion moves the consideration of Indigenous research forward, rather than perpetuating the binary notion of “Western” versus “Indigenous” research. The binary model, while helpful and necessary in distinguishing the key differences, has limited applicability in terms of addressing the rapidly shifting contextual landscape that calls for innovative approaches to Indigenous research practice.

Indigenous research is often viewed as a novel and recently-conceived research paradigm with the aim of explicitly and actively supporting the self-determination goals of Indigenous peoples. While it may be “new” to academia, engaging in Indigenous inquiry, along with its resultant knowledge production and mobilization, is actually far from new. Indigenous societies, like any autonomous and sovereign nations, required regularly updated knowledge to meet existing and emerging challenges. Indigenous peoples have thus been seeking knowledge to support their existence as peoples and nations for millennia

Indigenous societies framed their research through their own ontological and epistemological foundations and methods. Protocols for seeking knowledge were about establishing relationships and have remained so.  In such a research paradigm, one shares knowledge and remains accountable to that knowledge, rather than extracting or owning it.  Knowledge is grounded in the richly diverse intellectual traditions of Indigenous peoples. This means that there will be a diversity of theoretical frameworks, methods and applications that will reflect the variety of Indigenous traditions.

Moreover, such theories, frameworks and methods are not static: they are continually being revised and continue to evolve.  One is not required to “separate” oneself from the research, but to approach it holistically, with the intellectual, emotional, spiritual and physical aspects of the whole self.

Indigenous modes of inquiry have been undermined, deemed inferior (if recognized at all), and even erased through imperial and colonial practices. 

In her book, Research for Indigenous Survival: Indigenous Research Methodologies in the Behavioural Sciences, Abenaki scholar Lori Lambert observes that if one is not from the community or nation one is engaged with in research (Indigenous or non-), one can never truly understand the stories being told. Researchers in this sense must be open, honest and transparent about their own limitations with themselves and the communities with which they are working.

In this light, the researcher’s goal is not to tell the community’s story, but to empower the community to tell their own story, on their own terms, their own purpose. Self-determination in research means that, ultimately, communities will determine who they participate with in research, and what methods will be employed. Indigenous scholars have advanced Indigenous research theories and methodologies based on their own cultural foundations, full acceptance of Indigenous research paradigms within the academy remains elusive.

One of the barriers to such acceptance is that “unlearning” of Western modes of research seems to be a prerequisite for embracing Indigenous research.

Rights of Indigenous Peoples

The application of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) in research contexts has yet to be fully explored, although it can be argued that any research involving Indigenous peoples should support Indigenous peoples’ pursuit of self-determination. Article 31(1) of UNDRIP has specific implications for Indigenous research:

Indigenous peoples have the right to maintain, control, protect and develop their cultural heritage, traditional knowledge and tradition- al cultural expressions, as well as the manifestations of their sciences, technologies and cultures, including human and genetic resources, seeds, medicines, knowledge of the properties of fauna and flora, oral traditions, literatures, designs, sports and traditional games and visual and performing arts. They also have the right to maintain, control, protect and develop their intellectual property over such cultural heritage, traditional knowledge, and traditional cultural expressions. 

Article 31 (1) UNDRIP

Indigenous peoples have the right to maintain, control, protect, and develop their cultural heritage, traditional knowledge and traditional cultural expressions, as well as the manifestations of their sciences, technologies and cultures, including human and genetic resources, seeds, medicines, knowledge of the properties of fauna and flora, oral traditions, literatures, designs, sports, traditional games and visual and performing arts. They also have the right to maintain, control, protect and develop their intellectual property over such cultural heritage, traditional knowledge, and traditional cultural expressions. (UNGA, 2007)

The concept of negotiating between different knowledge systems is an important aspect of Indigenous research. Indigenous peoples are not rejecting western knowledge systems outright, but are seeking equitable consideration and application of both systems when and where appropriate.  There is no single Indigenous research paradigm approach. Indigenous research is as diverse at the peoples who engage in the process.  

Anishinabek research

The Anishinabek have been actively seeking assistance and knowledge since time immemorial; research for us is therefore not a novel experience. University-based Anishinaabe researchers also seek Minobimaadizwin (good life) as an outcome of their research, although different methods may be used to achieve this goal.  Anishinabek research is a form of reclaiming our stories and knowledge through personal transformation while in the pursuit of knowledge. As Anishinaabek, we have our own worldviews, philosophies, ways of being, and research traditions that account for our relationships and existence in the world. Anishinabek transforms and represents a diversity of ways in which Anishinabek are tackling the challenging, yet transformative, work involved in re-creating our knowledge on our own terms.

Anishinabek research is a form of reclaiming our stories and knowledge through personal transformation while in the pursuit of knowledge. As Anishinabek, we have our own worldviews, philosophies, ways of being, and research traditions that account for our relationships and existence in the world. 

The Anishinabek researcher’s preoccupation is to learn to engage appropriately in a series of relationships with other beings in Creation to serve our nations now and into the future.  

Ethical research protocol requires that respect be given to those who have shaped and contributed to our knowledge (community, familial, and personal knowledge) and have greatly influence the approach that we take to research. For the Anishinabek, cultural protocols require us to acknowledge our personal knowledge sources, just as we would cite sources from the scholarly literature.

Ethically, we work to recognize and livethese relationships. In an Indigenous research paradigm, our ethics or conduct always includes the environment (or all of Creation), as well as the spirit world, no matter what the research questions or topic. In Anishinabek research paradigms, our original sources of information are our ancestors, who were real people living their everyday lives, as well as the places that we come from.

Wendy Geniusz, Cree scholar refers to this view of Anishinabek research as biskaabiiyang,or “returning to ourselves”. As Anishinabek, we must engage processes of decolonizing at many levels so as to reclaim, recover and revitalize Anishinabek intellectual, spiritual and ethical traditions, or Anishinaabek-gikendaasowin (knowledge).  

Anishinabek people have always sought knowledge in systematic ways, engaging in protocols that included the proper ethics and conduct for doing so. This is not new. Knowledge is a gift to share for the well-being of the people and is acknowledged by other Anishinaabe scholars as the pursuit of Minobimaadizwin or “the good life”.