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In Canada, community-based participatory research (CBPR) has developed as a responsive and responsible research method in tandem with the growth of Aboriginal political autonomy at the community, national, and international levels (Brant Castellano 1993). As Aboriginal people have exercised increasing authority over events in their own communities the role of research and researchers in perpetuating historical injustices and in maintaining the inadequate status quo has been questioned. In general these assessments point to the historical role of research in generating the difficult conditions within many Aboriginal communities and in helping shape the political structure of internal colonialism that characterizes the relationship of Aboriginal people with the state.
It also reflects the critical reading that science and social science writing has been given by Aboriginal peoples as they master the languages of these disciplines. A characteristic of the so-called postmodern condition is a skepticism about the encompassing discourses of the past; nationalism, race, political ideologies, and techno-scientific progress among them. This is reflected in the shift in value accorded to non-scientific knowledge and is characterized by a renewed effort to catalogue, incorporate, and understand biological (and other) information that is presented in non-scientific jargon.
In work with Aboriginal communities in Canada this work has often focused on Traditional Ecological Knowledge or “TEK” research and involves collecting accounts from people about the cultural body of knowledge of, and first hand experience with, the lived environment. Of course, it is not only ecological knowledge which is “traditional.” A great deal of culturally informed knowledge, including that of health, has been framed in this manner.
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