Using Institutional Ethnography As a Method of Inquiry for Indigenous Research

Monday, 16 July 2018: 18:10
Oral Presentation
Elizabeth BRULE, York University, Canada
In May of 2015, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada’s released its report calling upon post-secondary institutions to play a major role in redressing the educational needs of Indigenous peoples. Emphasizing the need for Indigenous autonomy, self-determination, and community participation in all curriculum and program developments, the report urges “post-secondary institutions to educate teachers on how to integrate indigenous knowledge and teaching methods into the classroom” (7). Since this time, universities across Canada have responded, instituting culturally appropriate policy initiatives including mandatory courses for all students, language classes, and Indigenous strategic plans. While many of these initiatives are exemplary, involving the extensive participation of Indigenous communities, there is no consensus as to what indigenization means or how it is to be achieved. In 2017/18, I carried out research to examine the challenges and successes that Indigenous faculty, students and staff have encountered in their attempts to indigenize the curriculum. An essential principle of Indigenous ways of knowing is to ensure that any academic research undertaken represents and serves Indigenous peoples. As such, my research began with Indigenous communities that are involved in implementing various initiatives to indigenize the curriculum. A research method that is in line with Indigenous methodologies is Institutional Ethnography. Developed by feminist sociologist, Dorothy E. Smith, IE is both a theory and a method that allows us to examine how large scale institutional practices and processes come to shape and organize the work activities of people’s everyday lives. This presentation will discuss my use of institutional ethnography in examining the ways in which post-secondary institutional efforts to indigenize the curriculum have influenced the social organization of Indigenous philosophical educational practices and knowledges. I will also discuss how IE provides a means to work with Indigenous communities in identifying how institutional practices are being taken-up and instituted.