Research inspired by indigenous ideologies

Washington State University’s Society of Indian Psychologists (SIP) held their first Indigenous Research Convention on Saturday in the Native American Center.

The convention was a collaborative effort between SIP, the Plateau Center for Native American Programs and the Center for Mestizo and Indigenous Studies.

More than 30 researchers from three WSU campuses and three different universities presented studies focusing on education, health and the social sciences.

Topics covered indigenous culture throughout the Americas, in places like Hawaii, Peru and Cuba, in addition to U.S. tribes.

WSU’s SIP President Greg Urquhart spearheaded the event as conference chair.

“Our main goals were to share knowledge about indigenous cultures and come together from various disciplines to talk about the salient concerns of our communities,” Urquhart said.

Barbara Aston, director of the Plateau Center, said the convention was invaluable in creating connections between researchers at WSU and other universities.

“The coming together of researchers helps them be in dialogue about how they’re doing the research,” Aston said. “It helps strengthen the researcher.”

Josiah and D’Lisa Pinkham were the keynote speakers for the event. Josiah is an ethnographer for the Nez Perce and D’Lisa is a teacher at Lapwai Elementary School in Idaho.

D’Lisa’s presentation defined the gap between traditional styles of research, and research that is conducted both by and for indigenous peoples.

“One of the biggest differences between Western styles of research and indigenous research is the way in which the research respects the participant,” D’Lisa said. “For so long, our stories have been told through Western ideologies.”

Josiah spoke about the importance of helping the tribe with one’s research.

“We are all contributing to something greater than ourselves,” Josiah said. “For outsiders, it’s really important to say, ‘here is my skill set. How can I help?’”

Urquhart said one misconception of indigenous conventions is that non-Native people think they can’t get involved.

“We’ve gone out of our way as a chapter, and with this event as well, to let people know it’s a chance to learn about these issues. It’s open to everyone,” Urquhart said.

Presenters were selected via three panelists with advanced degrees and ties to indigenous communities. Their abstracts were screened for cultural sensitivity and appropriateness.

“The panelists were our safeguards to make sure that the information was done in a culturally respectful and representative manner,” Urquhart said. “Occasionally, you’ll find stuff that either inadvertently or sadly, very purposefully, is not appropriate for this conference.”

Josiah said the potential benefits of indigenous research are based on one trait: selflessness.

“The impact of that research really depends on how selfless you can be,” Josiah said. “It’s all about giving back.”