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Indigenous Research Methodologies and Ethics

The First Nations Information Governance Centre's Principles of OCAP

Ownership: "The relationship of First Nations to their cultural knowledge, data, and information. This principle states that a community or group owns information collectively in the same way that an individual owns his or her personal information."

Control: "First Nations, their communities and representative bodies are within their rights in seeking to control over all aspects of research and information management processes that impact them."

Access: "First Nations must have access to information and data about themselves and their communities, regardless of where it is currently held. The principle also refers to the right of First Nations communities and organizations to manage and make decisions regarding access to their collective information."

Possession: "While ownership identifies the relationship between a people and their information in principle, possession or stewardship is more concrete. It refers to the physical control of data."

(Information comes from The First Nations Principles of OCAP)

Indigenous Research Ethics and Practices


It is important to ask self-location questions when reading, participating and conducting research. A few sample questions could be:

  • Is an Indigenous person leading the project?
  • What Nation and territory are they from? 
  • What might this knowledge tell the participant, the community, a reviewer or someone planning action based upon the findings?
  • What insights might be drawn about the perspective, understanding and assumptions the person might bring to the research? 

Building Relationships: The Three Rs

  1. Respect
  2. Responsibility
  3. Reciprocity
  4. Relevancy
  5. Refusal

Ethics and Self-Determination

Ethic reviews fundamentally try to ensure that harm or risk of harm is limited for research participants, however Indigenous experiences and understanding of harm go beyond the individual to the collective. A few questions and things to think upon are: 

  • Who and what will be protected not only in the context of individual participants but also in the context of the local community and perhaps the Nation?
  • Will there be any benefits and risks of harm from the research?
  • The priority is to undertake research with a mindset that respects the story that will be told as the research evolves, research that is mindful of the meaning and impact it will have in the community and beyond, and sets out to contribute meaningful new knowledge in response to the reality to support the potential for positive change. 

Masching, Renée. (2014). Indigenous Research Ethics and Practice. In The SAGE Encyclopedia of Action Research (Vol. 2, pp. 431–436).