Academic journal article The Qualitative Report

Trust Development in Research with Indigenous Communities in the United States

Academic journal article The Qualitative Report

Trust Development in Research with Indigenous Communities in the United States

Article excerpt

A historical backdrop of harm and exploitation has set the stage for distrust in research relationships with many indigenous communities worldwide (Burnette, Sanders, Butcher, & Salois, 2011). Smith (1999) stated, "Research is inextricably linked to European imperialism and colonialism" (p. 1). Smith explained how colonial settlers collected information on indigenous communities, which was used to manipulate and control them. More presently, scholars reported that researchers have been opportunistic and have used research with indigenous communities to further their academic careers, while offering no tangible benefit to the indigenous communities being studied (Smith, 1999; Sobeck, Chapleski, & Fisher, 2003; Weaver, 1997).

The resultant, and understandable, mistrust of outsiders and research is widely documented, yet the terrain of research is changing as evidenced by the rise in community-based and culturally-sensitive research methodologies (Burnette et al., 2011; Christopher, Watts, McCormick, & Young, 2008; Holkup et al., 2009; Holkup, TrippReimer, Salois, & Weinert, 2004; Letiecq & Bailey, 2004; Norton & Manson, 1996; J. Poupart, Baker, & Horse, 2009; L. Poupart, 2003; Salois & Holkup, 2006). According to Burnette, Sanders, Butcher, and Rand (2014, p. 2), culturally sensitive research "incorporates into its design and implementation the historical context, and cultural experiences, norms, values, beliefs, and behaviors of a distinct ethnic or cultural group."

Despite distrust posing a barrier to conducting research with indigenous communities, it also provides a distinct opportunity to examine factors related to trust development. Trust development is the process of learning about the trustworthiness of others (Williams, 2001); it is based on prior interactions and experiences (Zhang & Han, 2007). Research on trust development with indigenous communities is needed, not only to extend knowledge development about trust, but also by the ethical mandate to conduct culturally sensitive research that is not harmful to its participants. A failure to understand the intricacies of trust and research with historically subjugated populations is a failure to account for power dynamics that may perpetuate oppression. Kincheloe and McLaren (1994) reported that the reproduction of the status quo of race, gender, and class is perpetuated by mainstream research practices.

In reviewing current research, no other qualitative descriptive studies investigating the factors related to trust development in research with indigenous communities were found. Because of the historical context of harm and exploitation and the resultant distrust (Burnette et al., 2011), understanding trust development in research relationships is integral in the formation of collaborative partnerships with indigenous communities. Despite some research examining the complexities of research with indigenous communities (Holkup et al., 2004; Salois & Holkup, 2006), there is an absence of research that incorporates theory to explain reasons for these complexities. Although theoretical research on trust is growing (Cook, Yamagishi, Cheshire, Cooper, Matsuda, & Masshima, 2005; Kollock, 1994), it hasn't been applied to the context of research with indigenous communities, an area where this trust (or its absence) is quite salient (Christopher et al., 2008). Therefore, the purpose of this article is to understand the factors that relate to trust development in research relationships with indigenous communities in the United States. This information can be used by researchers and research institutions to develop trust-building strategies to provide culturally sensitive and beneficial research for indigenous communities.

Literature Review

Multiple concepts are salient for trust development with indigenous communities, including historical oppression, trust, risk and reputation, power asymmetry, reciprocity and benevolence, and social distance. …

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