Universities and Indian Country: Case Studies in Tribal-Driven Research

Volume 28, No. 2 - Winter 2016
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Universities and Indian Country: Case Studies in Tribal-Driven Research Edited by Dennis K. Norman and Joseph P. KaltEdited by Dennis K. Norman and Joseph P. Kalt
University of Arizona Press (2015)
218 pages

Review by Lori Lambert

This work is an assemblage of eight case studies conducted by graduate students with support from Harvard University’s Native American Program, the Harvard School of Government, and the Harvard Graduate School of Education. The aim of the research was to investigate problems in Native communities and produce solutions that would improve the community under investigation. The topics for the case studies fall under economic development, health and social welfare, education, and governance.

Although the book was recently published, many of the case studies are over 10 years old. The methodology applied to the case studies is community-based, participatory research with Native communities. However, the current trend is to go further and focus on paradigms and Indigenous research methods. In working with Native communities, the researchers’ proposal ought to reflect on why they are passionate about that study. They should spend time thinking about methodologies appropriate for the community; how the question is asked in an empowering way and how the research moves the community forward; and they should examine the epistemology, axiology, and ontology of the project.

The current thinking about research with Native communities requires researchers to immerse themselves in the culture of the community by participating in tribal life, ceremonies (if invited), celebrations with traditional foods, and by visiting with elders. Researchers should not just visit the community a few times and think they know everything. In disseminating the results of the research, there needs to be discussion on how the data will be presented to the community. Tribal members are most likely not going to read a researcher’s book, dissertation, or paper. Community members need to understand the outcome of the research from their own paradigm.

The editors of Universities and Indian Country know that culture and leadership matter, and they have worked diligently to pass on these aspects of research to their students. This book is an interesting and historical view of research that could be valuable in a research class to show differences between community-based participatory research and Indigenous research methods.

Lori Lambert, Ph.D. (Nulhegan Abenaki), is faculty at Salish Kootenai College, co-founder of the American Indigenous Research Association, and author of Research for Indigenous Survival.