Exploring indigenous research possibilities in Oklahoma

Margaret Kovach

Margaret Kovach spoke about indigeneous research methods that are claiming ground in the academic world Thursday.

Indigenous research methods are about claiming ground in the academic world, an expert said Thursday.

Margaret Kovach holds a doctorate from the University of Victoria and is internationally considered an expert in indigenous methodology. She spoke to approximately 50 people about the methods developed in indigenous territory in Canada. In Oklahoma, there are 39 tribes that could use the research methods in sociological studies.

One of the current discourses about indigenous methods is whether non-indigenous people can use indigenous methodology with indigenous people, Kovach said.

Indigenous methods emphasize indigenous beliefs, community, ethics and the researchers own perspective. Researchers who use indigenous research methods will be able to conduct research in a way that results in a more accurate reflection of the community, Kovach said.

Indigenous methodology was used as part of Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission. The commission aimed to promote healing for people affected by Canada’s residential school system, which was similar to America’s boarding school system.

“There was truth,” Kovach said. “And it hurt. It hurt all of us.”

The majority of the approximately 150,000 indigenous children sent to residential schools experienced some form of abuse, often physical or sexual in nature, Kovach said.

The emphasis on community in these methods is a part of the research that graduate student Annie Bowen does.

“That connection between individual and community is key to understanding trauma,” Bowen said.

Indigenous research methods also require the researcher to maintain contact with the indigenous group and have a plan in case the group decides to halt the study for any reason. 

Doctoral candidate Janna Rogers said indigenous research methods are important because they provide relief from an otherwise Eurocentric academic world.

“That’s the default,” Rogers said. “So, whenever I’m reading, I have to strike through words that are loaded.”

The lecture was in MSCS 101 and organized by Martha Sibley, a graduate student in the sociology department. She said she was happy with the lecture.

“I enjoyed seeing the group that came tonight,” Sibley said.

Correction: A previous version of this story said that Margaret Kovach worked with the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and has been corrected to say Indigenous methodologies originated from that commission. Also, a sentence about the First Ammendment has been removed.