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Indigenous Research and Ethics

a guide to reading, researching, and studying topics related to Indigenous Peoples and Communities

Indigenous Research and Ethics Resource Guide


This guide is intended for both non-Indigenous and Indigenous students who are interested in reading, researching, and studying topics related to Indigenous Peoples and Communities. This guide can also be used by faculty who wish to learn more about Indigenous research methodologies and publishers.

Key Principles for Indigenous Research

Indigenous researchers have identified some of the key principles that research by, or with, Indigenous peoples should incorporate. That is, such research should:

  • empower Indigenous peoples
  • aim to decolonize and reframe research
  • be critical and liberationist recognizing social, political and historical contexts
  • have political integrity
  • privilege Indigenous voices
  • recognize and represent the diversity of cultures, voices and experiences
  • allow Indigenous peoples to set the agenda
  • focus on matters of importance to Indigenous peoples
  • use core structures of [Indigenous] world-views
  • integrate cultural protocols, social mores and behaviors into methodology
  • integrate Indigenous ways of knowledge creation.

Russell-Mundine, G. (2012). Reflexivity in indigenous research: Reframing and decolonising research? Journal of Hospitality and Tourism Management19(1), 85–90.

Key Questions for the Indigenous Researcher

  1. What research do we want done?
  2. Whom is it for?
  3. What difference will it make?
  4. Who will carry it out?
  5. How do we want the research done?
  6. How will we know it is worthwhile?
  7. Who will own the research?
  8. Who will benefit?

Tuhiwai Smith, L., "Kaupapa Maori Research" In Battiste, M. (Ed.). (2000). Reclaiming indigenous voice and vision. UBC Press.

A Note on Terminology

When using the singular form of Indigenous--i.e. Indigenous Scholarship, Indigenous Literature, etc.--it is important to use it carefully and not fall into common colonial thinking, that all Indigenous cultures are the same (Younging, 2018, p. 13). While we use pan-Indigenous terminology in this guide in order to serve a broad student audience, we acknowledge that Indigenous cultures in North America and beyond are unique and diverse. When writing, keep in mind that what may be acceptable terminology in one instance may not be acceptable in another. For example, while "Native" is still used widely in the US when writing about Indigenous Peoples, in Canada, this term has largely been phased out in favor of others descriptors, like First Nations, Métis, and Inuit Peoples, or, Indigenous. As a rule, when writing, take direction and guidance from the Indigenous Peoples at the center of your work. Show respect on the page and explain the justification for your choices (p. 50). 

For more information, please see:

Land or Territory Acknowledgement

While our CityU library team works remotely, we are spread across two main areas, Seattle, WA and South Vancouver Island, BC. 

Our Seattle community acknowledges the Coast Salish peoples of this land, the land which touches the shared waters of all tribes within the Duwamish, Puyallup, Suquamish, Tulalip, and Muckleshoot nations. 

Our community in South Vancouver Island acknowledges that we live and work on the unceded and traditional territory of the Coast Salish Nations of the Lək̓ʷəŋən People (Esquimalt and Songhees Nations).

As a library, we support these communities by highlighting access to Indigenous voices both within and outside the academic system. We aim to continue and expand our support for our Indigenous students.

We invite you to take this moment to reflect on the colonial context of the Indigenous territory/territories in which you are located, and consider recognizing Indigenous peoples' continued presence on those lands. We ask you also to consider ways in which you can support these Indigenous communities through personal or professional action.

What is a Land or Territory Acknowledgement?

A land or territory acknowledgement, like the one above, is considered a respectful statement that acknowledges the colonial context of the Indigenous territory/territories where a gathering is taking place. It recognizes relationships between land and people, and in particular Indigenous Peoples' continued presence on the lands being acknowledged. Land acknowledgement is the term generally used in the US, whereas territory acknowledgement is often used in Canada, specifically to recognize and pay respect to First Nations, Inuit, and Métis people and their traditional and/or current geographical territories. Over the past decade, land and territory acknowledgements have become a common protocol. This is due to a growing awareness of the history of Indigenous Peoples through truth and reconciliation. 

Broadly speaking, land and territory acknowledgements are formal statements often given at the beginning of a gathering (usually by the host) to bring attention to the Indigenous Peoples who have been, and continue to be, stewards of the land. When giving an acknowledgement, some individuals may also situate themselves in relation to the land by mentioning their ancestry or the nation or community they belong to. Lastly, acknowledgements may make a statement about a personal or professional obligation or call to action in support of the Indigenous community/communities in which they are recognizing.

Land and treaty acknowledgements are given verbally and visually in many different ways. Some common spaces where acknowledgements are performed include:

  • meetings
  • presentations
  • schools and classrooms
  • lectures
  • on an institution's or organization's website
  • on an institution's or organization's email signature
  • cultural events
  • press conferences
  • through signage
  • any type of gathering

Virtual Acknowledgement

At CityU, we serve a large online community, with students, faculty, and staff living and learning in a variety of locations across the globe. When writing or delivering a land acknowledgement for a virtual space, give recognition to the territory/territories that you, individually, are on and acknowledge that many others may be on different territory.

Additional Information

To learn about the land and territories of Indigenous Peoples, please see:


The land and territory acknowledgement information in this guide was adapted from X̱wi7x̱wa Library at the University of British Columbia. You can find more resources on their page here:

Some content adapted with permission from Mudrock, T. (n.d.). Indigenous studies: indigenous research methods

Special Thanks

This guide was made in collaboration with the CityU Librarians, Jalissa Schmidt, City University in Canada's Indigenous Campus Advocate, and with content adapted from additional colleges and universities in the United States and Canada. We gratefully acknowledge and appreciate their contributions, expertise, and thoughtful collaboration.