Volume 4, Issue 1

Reaching Harmony Across Indigenous and Mainstream Research Contexts: An Emergent Narrative

Catherine E. Burnette & Shanondora Billiot

Research with indigenous communities is one of the few areas of research encompassing profound controversies, complexities, ethical responsibilities, and historical context of exploitation and harm. Often this complexity becomes overwhelmingly apparent to the early career researcher who endeavors to make meaningful contributions to decolonizing research. Decolonizing research has the capacity to be a catalyst for the improved wellbeing and positive social change among indigenous communities and beyond. The purpose of this critical analysis is to reach harmony across mainstream and indigenous research contexts. We martial critical theory to deconstruct barriers to decolonizing research, such as power inequities, and identify strategies to overcome these barriers. First, we critically analyze the historical context of decolonizing research with indigenous communities. Next, we analyze the concept of “insider” and “outsider” research. We identify barriers and strategies toward finding harmony across indigenous and mainstream research paradigms and contexts.

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Strengthening Indigenous Social Work in the Academy

Taima Moeke-Pickering & Sheila Cote-Meek

This paper provides an account of the development of an Indigenous Social Work program in Sudbury, Ontario and how it was conceived, developed and implemented. It describes the transformational approaches that Aboriginal faculty, communities and academic allies engaged in to create a rightful space for Indigenous social work in mainstream academia. In its 25th year, this program has provided many transformational opportunities for students, faculty and Aboriginal communities. Incorporating resistance and proactive momentum, the program has become pivotal in expanding the visibility and legitimacy for Indigenous social work in practice, theory, research and pedagogies. This program is an example of how community-faculty collaborations can sustain a robust Indigenous social work program.

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Decolonizing Social Work “Best Practices” through a Philosophy of Impermanence

Alexandra Crampton

In the book, Decolonizing Social Work, a common theme is how decolonization requires more than surface level change. In social work, changing theories and intervention practices will not bring true transformation without attending to underlying western beliefs that perpetuate problems. This essay uses Shawn Wilson’s metaphor of an island to identify one such belief, explain how it is damaging to social work practice, and propose an alternative (Wilson, 2013). I first explain this alternative through a story of successful decolonization of sacred practices by the Zuni people. I then apply lessons learned from this story to the social work concepts of best practices and evidence-based practice. My overall argument is that these concepts can have destructive effects when informed by a belief in permanence, and that these concepts are better realized through an underlying philosophy of impermanence.

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The Modernization of Dao Mau: The Impact of Political Ideology and Commercialism on the Worship of the Mother Goddess in Vietnam

Vu Thị Tu Anh

The worship of the Mother Goddess was an important part of the culture of the indigenous people of Vietnam. It originated with the worship of the spirits of nature and ancestors by the early inhabitants of the area, and it evolved to become a ceremonial ritual honoring the maternal spirit in its abstract form and connecting ordinary people to the spirit world. Observance of these rituals has persisted to the present day, and it is still an important part of the everyday life of the Vietnamese people. The worship of the Mother Goddess thus remains a cornerstone of the popular culture. This article focuses on how this traditional belief system transformed itself over time to survive political ideology and technological change,and remain an important part of the life of ordinary people in Vietnam.

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Threading, stitching, and storytelling: Using CBPR and Blackfoot knowledge and cultural practices to improve domestic violence services for Indigenous women

Emily Lindsay Jackson, Julie Coleman, Gayle Strikes with A Gun, & Doris Sweet Grass

This article discusses a community-based participatory research (CBPR) project at two women’s emergency shelters in rural southwestern Alberta. The CBPR project aimed to improve shelter services on and off reserve in our area by engaging the voices of Indigenous women who had experienced domestic violence. The project’s methods were participatory appraisal and arts-based work re-imagined through Blackfoot cultural practices of storytelling and shawl making. The project created a rare safe space where thirteen Blackfoot women emphasised DV services should provide opportunities to connect with family and community and role model Blackfoot knowledge. Role modelling traditional knowledges aids developing life and parenting skills, opening up pathways for Indigenous women to more positive, secure futures. These women’s recommendations impelled this article to challenge the individualized case management model and discourses of cultural competence dominating Canadian DV services, which isolate and marginalize Indigenous women when they seek help. We highlight resources existing in Blackfoot communities to manage and prevent violence by protecting and facilitating Indigenous women’s connections to their communities and cultures, and offer ways to utilize these more effectively in service settings.

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Hawaiian Grandparents: Exploring Benefits and Challenges in the Caregiving Experience

Noreen Mokuau, Colette V. Browne, Lana S. Ka‘opua, Paula Higuchi, Kathleen M. Sweet, & Kathryn L. Braun

Background: Increasingly, U.S. grandparents are raising their grandchildren. In Hawai‘i, 12% of Native Hawaiian grandparents live with grandchildren, compared to 7% of grandparents in all races combined in the state, and to 3.6% of grandparents in the total U.S. Although strong family-centric cultural values may provide Native Hawaiian grandparents with caregiving benefits, a generally poor health profile suggests they may also face challenges in this role. In this study, we talked to Native Hawaiian grandparents raising grandchildren (GRG) about the benefits and challenges of their caregiving experiences. Method: Three focus groups were conducted with Native Hawaiian grandparents (n=33) in Hawai‘i who were 55 years of age or older and caregivers to their grandchildren. Findings: The most prevalent themes voiced by grandparents spoke of the benefits of being a grandparent caregiver (the greatest being the experience of mutual, unconditional love) and the enjoyment of passing on “life lessons” to their grandchildren. Grandparents identified concrete examples of what they provided to grandchildren and also spoke of their role in transmission of Native Hawaiian cultural values, practices, and stories to their grandchildren. A number of challenges pertaining to grandparent caregiving were identified along with needed services—respite care, financial assistance, children’s programs, and information on grandparent legal rights. Despite these challenges, grandparents preferred to seek help from extended family rather than from formal supports. Our results support previous research on a number of universal GRG needs and services (i.e., legal rights of GRG) but also suggest potential directions to meeting the needs of Native Hawaiian GRG that are responsive to indigenous cultural values and preferences. Given the number of unmet needs expressed, further research is needed to design interventions for this population of grandparents raising grandchildren.

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Recognizing Our Past and Moving Toward Our Future: Decolonizing Attitudes About Skin Color and Native Americans

Hilary N. Weaver

The label Native American covers a broad range of peoples including more that 560 federally recognized tribes within the boundaries of the United States (US Department of the Interior, Indian Affairs, 2014). While Native Americans remain a small fraction of the population, their numbers are growing. According to the 2010 Census, there are 5.2 million Native Americans accounting for 1.7% of the US population (Norris, Vines, & Hoeffel, 2012).

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