Indigenous research methodology, decolonization, Yakama Reservation, university-community partnerships


In our paper, we examine the process, possibilities, and tensions of building a new community-based research center at a small liberal arts college on the Yakama Reservation. We view our work with the Center for Native Health & Culture as an example of human rights-based educational transformation, as our work is about honoring indigenous land, community, and values. This mission stands at odds with Western educational approaches, which typically view indigenous peoples, cultures, and well-being as a side note to frequently marginalized campus diversity initiatives. Our work to establish the new research center takes up the challenge of placing indigenous peoples’ health and culture at the center of the academic enterprise. We, as academics engaging in this work on traditional Yakama homeland, are uniquely situated to analyze and articulate this form of academic decolonization work. We draw from the interwoven liberation model proposed by Falcón and Jacob to critically examine our center’s work process and product to articulate our indigenous methodology in practice. Our indigenous methodology is guided by three principles: (a) understanding the importance of partnerships; (b) viewing our work in terms of building on existing strengths within campus and local tribal communities; (c) engaging in work that promotes a vision of academic excellence that has a “good spirit” and inspires all parties involved. We conclude by discussing some of the challenges faced in doing decolonizing work, and affirm the urgent need to further indigenize the academy.