Ethical Research involving Indigenous Peoples
So… what is this resource?
This collection of documents and contact information act as a resource that can be used by members of the university community (researchers/students/professors/etc.) when conducting research involving Indigenous communities – either directly or indirectly. It is important to know exactly who is impacted by your research to know exactly how to proceed when applying for ethics approval from the relevant Research Ethics Board (REB). This is by no means an exhausting listing of documents relating to ethical approaches of research involving Indigenous peoples, but it can certainly act as a starting point for researchers who may be in the field for the first time.
But… why is this any different than doing research with any human population?
To quote Thomas King, an Indigenous writer who published the critically acclaimed novel "The Inconvenient Indian: A Curious Account of Native People in North America" in 2012, "most of us think history is the past. It's not. History is the stories we tell about the past. That's all it is. Stories." The significance of this quote is embedded in the perspective of the stories that tell the tale of history. For example, King (2012) recounts the historic account of a massacre that Native Americans allegedly committed in Idaho in 1861; believed as true insofar as being immortalized by a plaque in the location. However, King (2012) cautions the reader to dig deeper into the "facts," and eventually reveals that if one examines the story from different perspectives, it is more likely that the massacre is fiction disguised as truth and simply accepted as such.
I use this small anecdote to introduce research ethics in an Indigenous context because as King (2012) argues, a researcher who is conducting a study involving human participants to better understand a phenomenon or concept is essentially collecting a variety of stories and subsequently making sense of these stories. Research ethics, in this regard, act as the regulating body of guidelines that researchers can use to gain a deeper understanding of the perspectives present in their research. While not fool proof, undergoing a rigorous ethics approval process can vet a research project for possible oversights that exist inherently in academia – a world founded on colonial principles that have historically perpetuated the marginalization and disenfranchisement of Indigenous peoples.
Ok… so I can't just submit my application to the Grenfell Campus Research Ethics Board (GC-REB) without doing extra work?
If your research involves Indigenous peoples either directly or indirectly, it is important that thorough reflection accords with chapter 9 in the TCPS 2. This resource can point researchers in the right direction when beginning to organize an application for ethics approval. It is also important for researchers to investigate relevant research ethic's boards outside of the GC-REB. For example, many Indigenous communities both in the province of Newfoundland and Labrador and across Canada have specific guidelines for research conducted within their communities. A researcher has a duty to consult these guidelines for ethical research and may even be required to apply for ethics approval in the relevant community separate to an application for ethics approval from the GC-REB.
This resource has been produced in partnership with the Indigenous Resource Centre at Grenfell Campus, Memorial University. A list of references can be found at the end for all the documents that are available in the following sections and any further questions should either be directed to the Indigenous Resource Centre, your supervisor (for students), or the GC-REB.
- Chapter 9 of the TCPS 2 (Research Involving the First Nations, Inuit and Métis Peoples of Canada)
- United National Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP)
- NL Health Research Ethics Board
- NunatuKavut Community Council Research Advisory Committee – Guidelines for Community Engagement with NunatuKavut
- Nain Research Centre (Kaujisapvinga) – Nunatsiavut Government Research Application Guide and Checklist
- The Aurora Research Institute (Inuvik, NWT) – Doing Research in the Northwest Territories
- Government of Yukon – Guidebook on Scientific Research in the Yukon
- Assembly of First Nations (AFN) Guide on Research and Aboriginal Traditional Knowledge
- Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami: Negotiation Research Relationships with Inuit Communities: A Guide for Researchers
- Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami: Negotiating Research Relationship: A Guide for Communities
- Métis Centre at the National Aboriginal Health Organization – Principles of Ethical Métis Research
Important Contact Information for Indigenous communities and groups in Newfoundland and Labrador
Nunatsiavut Research Advisory Committee
Inuit Research Advisor for Nunatsiavut
17 Sandbanks Road, P.O. Box 70
Nain, NL A0P 1L0
Main line: (709) 922-2380 Fax: (709) 922-2931
NunatuKavut Research Advisory Committee
370 Hamilton River Road
P.O. Box 460, Stn. C
Happy Valley-Goose Bay
NL, Canada A0P 1C0
Attention: Darlene Wall E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Innu – Natuashish community or Innu leadership approval
Mushuau Innu Band Council
PO Box 107
Canada, A0P 1A0
Innu –Sheshatshiu community or Innu leadership approval
Sheshatshiu Band Council
PO Box 160
North West River, Labrador
NL, Canada, A0P 1M0
Conne River Health and Social Services, Miawpukek First Nation
Miawpukek Mi'kamawey Mawi'omi
P.O. Box 10
Conne River, NL
Toll Free: 1-866-882-2470
Department of Heath and Social Services
Ph: (709) 882-5102
Fax: (709) 882-2836
Qalipu Mi'kmaq First Nation
Qalipu Mi'kmaq First Nation Band
3 Church Street
Corner Brook, NL
Phone: (709) 634-0996
Fax: (709) 639-3997
Assembly of First Nations, Environmental Stewardship Unit. (2009). Ethics in First
Nations Research. Retrieved from Assembly of First Nations website:
Assembly of First Nations. (n.d.). First Nations Ethics Guide on Research and Aboriginal
Traditional Knowledge. Retrieved from Assembly of First Nations website:
Brunger, F. (2013). Guidelines for research involving Aboriginal communities in
Newfoundland and Labrador. Retrieved from the Health Research Ethics
Authority website: https://achh.ca/wp-content/uploads/2018/07/Guide_Ethics_NFLD-and-Labrador.pdf
Cultural Services Branch, Department of Tourism and Culture, Government of Yukon.
(2008). Guidebook on Scientific Research in the Yukon. Retrieved from the
Government of Yukon website:
Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami. (n.d.). Negotiating Research Relationships: A Guide for
Communities. Retrieved from Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami website:
Nain Research Centre. (n.d.). Nunatsiavut Government Research Application Guide and
Checklist. Retrieved from Nain Research Centre website:
National Aboriginal Health Organization. (2010). Principles of Ethical Métis Research.
Retrieved from National Aboriginal Health Organization website:
Nickels, S., Shirley, J., Laidler, G. (2006). Negotiating Research Relationships with Inuit
Communities: A Guide for Researchers. Retrieved from Nunavut Research
NunatuKavut Community Council Research Advisory Committee. (2013). Guidelines for
Community Engagement with NunatuKavut. Retrieved from NunatuKavut
The Aurora Research Institute. (1996). Doing Research in the Northwest Territories: A
Guide for Researchers Applying for a Scientific Research License. Retrieved from
the Aurora Research Institute website:
UNGA, United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, UNDRIP, 61st
Sess, 107th Plen Mtg, UN Doc A/61/L.67 (13 September 2007)