Relational and reflexive research: peoples, policies, and priorities at play in ethically approving research with indigenous peoples

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University of New Brunswick


The paradigm is shifting in research involving Indigenous Peoples: research with Indigenous Peoples at a meeting place of multiple worldviews—the ethical space – instead of research on or about them. The emergent paradigm is an invitation for researchers to think, know and act differently – to do research with Indigenous Peoples leading. This story is just one example of doing differently while answering the question, “What are the perspectives and practises of Research Ethics Boards (REB) members, chairs, and administrators regarding the review and approval of protocols for research with Indigenous Peoples?” The conceptual framework of this study integrates disciplines, theoretical models, methods, and complementary story-generating and storygathering methods to support decolonizing and Indigenizing of the research simultaneously. An interdisciplinary methodological framework informed by decolonizing methodologies, autoethnography, and narrative inquiry guided this research process with 18 participant contributors (including myself) from nine provinces and territories in Canada. Data were collected and re/assembled through digital stories, interviews, and artifacts to share stories and insights about practical innovations with participants’ REBs. They suggested ways to improve the theory, application, and practice of ethics for research with Indigenous Peoples including office hours dedicated to Indigenous research ethics, asking the ‘right’ questions in protocols and forms, and having Indigenous Peoples sit on the institutional REB. All participant contributors called on researchers, REBs, institutions, and funding agencies to improve how we do research/review with Indigenous Peoples.