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Reality Based Research

Reality-Based Research

The standard research paradigm traditionally used by academicians is based on measurable or quantitative data. This approach, while useful in many ways, does not effectively serve the grassroots American Indians. This is primarily because such a research approach is not culturally sensitive and makes certain assumptions which are largely irrelavent and inapropriate for most American Indians today.

Throughout the twentieth century American Indians have been dealt with as though still living in the nineteenth century, as if American Indian societies are resistant to the change and evolution within communities all over the world. Now as we near the twenty-first century there is a growing awareness that almost an entire century of knowledge about American Indian people has been ignored and/or wrongly fabricated. This country can no longer tolerate such ignorance about its aboriginal people.

Results from the activities of AIPC serve to alleviate this ignorance through improved knowledge about American Indians, knowledge which not only benefits Indian Nations but the wider community as well. Over the past year, the research projects undertaken by AIPC have contributed to this increased knowledge among the general public about American Indians. These projects also demonstrate AIPC's method of research, a method that is inclusive and reflective of American Indian world views.

The research method of AIPC is participatory and is called "reality-based research." Reality-Based Research reflects the reality of American Indians and tells their stories, from an Indian point of view and from an Indian oral history standpoint. This reverence for oral history is particularly important because American Indian societies are based on oral tradition. Oral tradition preserves history, language and culture for American Indian communities. Using a method of research which respects and incorporates such basic tenets of a people's culture makes our research more meaningful to Indian communities. In the past, Indians had a high distrust for researchers. Translating social research into useful terms understood by American Indians has proven to be one of AIPC's greatest assets. This ability to communicate with Indian communities and their leaders adds a critical component toward capacity building and self empowerment of American Indian communities.

A research institute for Indian people must address the true needs and concerns of American Indians. While utilizing methods which are deemed trustworthy by Indian people, the research institute must also have sufficient academic credibility so that its work will be understood by the mainstream community as well. Thus, the American Indian Research and Policy Institute devotes its research program to encouraging grassroots involvement of Indian people and organizations in research by and for themselves, while abiding by the notions of legitimate research as defined by the academy.

The participatory research model has been incorporated into the research projects of AIPC. Methods of research include involving Indian people in a process of interviews and roundtable discussions, and involving the subjects of research in framing survey instrument modes and focus group content. The objective of a research project is to reclaim and utilize knowledge about the situation of American Indian communities.

Reclaiming Indian definitions and identity is a major and daunting task for American Indians. Reality-based research generates a "new truth". This "new truth" empowers American Indians. Indians can assert themselves and disassociate with definitions commonly developed by those outside the American Indian communities. The American Indian Policy Center commits itself to retrieving and reclaiming knowledge about American Indians from the wider community where it has for too long been misused and ill-defined.

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Last updated: Tuesday November 1, 2005