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Applying community-based and Indigenous research methodologies: lessons learned from the Nuxalk Sputc Project

Rachelle Beveridge, University of Victoria, Victoria, British Columbia, Canada; University of British Columbia, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
Megan F. Moody, Nuxalk fisheries biologist, Victoria, British Columbia., Canada
Bernie Pauly, Canadian Institute for Substance Use Research, School of Nursing, University of Victoria, Victoria, British Columbia, Canada.
Grant Murray, Duke University Marine Lab, Duke University, Durham, North Carolina, USA.
Chris T. Darimont, Department of Geography, University of Victoria, Victoria, British Columbia, Canada; Raincoast Conservation Foundation, Bella Bella, British Columbia, Canada


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In the face of ecological depletion on a global scale, Indigenous knowledges, priorities, and perspectives are increasingly applied in community and academic research intended to inform social-ecological decision making. Many academic researchers and decision makers have learned to solicit Indigenous knowledges using community-based research methods and participatory processes. However, Indigenous scholars and leaders are increasingly moving beyond these standard practices to apply Indigenous methodologies, engaging local epistemologies, and culturally relevant methods to produce respectful research outcomes in support of local priorities. We share experiences and learning from the Nuxalk Sputc (eulachon) Project to illustrate how an Indigenous research process was developed and applied by the Nuxalk Nation’s Stewardship Office in Bella Coola, British Columbia (Nuxalk territory). This project documented, interpreted, articulated, and represented Nuxalk knowledge about eulachon (Thaleichthys pacificus) using an iterative, community-driven process informed by Nuxalk protocols and knowledge systems. We begin by detailing the project process, including project initiation, decision making, and community engagement processes, and methods of knowledge documentation, interpretation, articulation, representation, and sharing. Demonstrating that the Sputc Project’s distinctly Nuxalk approach was key to its success, we discuss how engaging Nuxalk knowledges influenced our process from conception to completion, resulting in an emergent methodology that prioritized relational accountability, locally grounded methods of knowledge documentation and interpretation, respectful representation, and reflexivity. Based on our experience with the Sputc Project, we distinguish between Indigenous and community-based methodologies, both in terms of their epistemological foundations and their orientation to the goals of decolonization and resurgence. We suggest that by considering and valuing Indigenous methodologies, researchers and decision makers can move toward authentically and respectfully engaging Indigenous knowledge and priorities, and ultimately, toward supporting Indigenous production, interpretation, articulation, and representation of knowledge in a contemporary context.

Key words

community-based participatory research (CBPR); environmental management; eulachon; Indigenous methodologies; Nuxalk; research methods; social-ecological systems

Copyright © 2021 by the author(s). Published here under license by The Resilience Alliance. This article is under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. You may share and adapt the work provided the original author and source are credited, you indicate whether any changes were made, and you include a link to the license.

Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087