Three-partner dancing: placing participatory action research into practice within and indigenous, racialised & academic space




Chow, Winnie

Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title



Historically, most research on Indigenous peoples has been framed by Western empirical positivism which fundamentally conflicts with Indigenous circular ways of knowing. Current research governing bodies, scholars, and Indigenous communities have generated new theories and guidelines for research structures that support respectful and meaningful practices with Indigenous peoples. Participatory action research (PAR) attempts to address the unequal power structures inherent in research relationships: participants set the agenda for the research and are co-researchers in the project. In this study, I placed PAR theory into action to problematize research practices and to generate new discourses for research within an Indigenous context. The Lil’wat Nation and I collaborated on a PAR project in 2006-2007 that led to the formation of the Lil’wat Girls’ and Women’s Affirmation Group. Through the process of reflection-in-action we identified several opportunities for growth as we examined PAR theory in practice. Using decolonizing research methods and a metaphor of the Lil’wat s7istken (pit house), the model of practice wove between three distinct worlds with divergent protocols and pedagogies: the worlds of the Lil’wat, academia, and the researcher’s racialized lived experiences. This model of practice aimed to disrupt the essentialized dichotomies of Indigenous and non-Indigenous relationships and to problematize research practices for the academic and research communities to consider for their practice. The findings exposed several lessons at sites of praxis pertaining to the intersection of PAR theory and practice: definition of the community; ethics in the community; racialized researcher space; and PAR incongruence. The model was intended not as a “how to” manual, but as an entry point for discussions to advance respectful decolonizing research practices.



Participatory Action Research, Indigenous Research, Decolonization of Research Methodologies, Research Ethics, Researcher Hybridity, Cross-Cultural Relationships, Community-University Collaboration, Transformative Engagement, Racialisation