Academic journal article International Journal of Education

Ethical Perspectives on Sámi School Research

Academic journal article International Journal of Education

Ethical Perspectives on Sámi School Research

Article excerpt


What is topical in indigenous research is to view ethical guidelines and principles from their own premises and discuss the control over research activities and research findings when it comes to various disciplines and methods. The article is based on an ethnographic study that was focused on the Sámi classroom culture in Norway. The purpose of this article is to discuss those common, special ethical viewpoints that a researcher has to take into consideration when conducting Sámi educational and schooling research. The focus is on the following questions: how to secure the Sámi's position and voices in the research of Sámi pedagogy and education in a way that is just, valuable, and good-producing and does not harm members of indigenous peoples or have a malign influence on the phenomenon studied. This study encourages implementing child research and helps researchers to notice ethical challenges in the various phases of indigenous education research.

Keywords: Ethics; Research with indigenous people; Sámi pedagogy; Sámi children; Sámi research; Sámi School; Ethnography

1. Introduction

When the purpose is to rethink schooling from the perspective of indigenous peoples' own needs, it is worth asking how research, educational practices, and curriculum have to change to recognize and incorporate local forms of knowledge and ways of knowing. Along research, the importance of indigenous knowledge is being realized (Murillo, 2009)-even to the extent where methods of collecting, analyzing, and presenting data characterize the western academic tradition as well as indigenous ways of knowing, communicating and sharing knowledge (Webster & John, 2010).

Sámi research is expected to be committed to benefit Sámi communities. Before, the lappological tradition affected Sámi research. However, the lappological research was conducted by outsiders of the Sámi community in order to build their cultural identities simultaneously creating a picture of the Sámi as the opposite and other without any possibilities to survive in the modern world. During the past decades, Sámi research has moved toward intercultural approach: the intent has been to replace the term lappology with a new appellation multidisciplinary Sámi research representing research in which the Sámi are proactive (Carpelan et al., 2004).

The research contexts of indigenous peoples and Sámi education are versatile. The diversity of the Sámi School originates in the tradition of colonization and the decolonization process that follows it. The Sámi's political awakening, sámi lihkadus, and cooperation with indigenous peoples in international political field embodies this awakening. Sámi communities are relatively wide and scattered because of the geographical reach of their settlement. Inner, cultural, and livelihood-related differences are also great. In addition, the diversity manifests itself as multilingualism. Local multiculturalism consists not only of the Sámi, Finns, Norwegians, and Kvens, but also other ethnic minorities: all these languages increase the language-sociological richness in the everyday life at the Sámi School. Moreover, the political situation including legislation and human rights has to be taken into consideration.

Recently, more attention has been paid on how the western education has affected individuals, and local cultures and knowledge (see e.g., Barnhardt & Kawagley, 2005). In the school context, ecological and cultural factors affect students' cognitive, affective, and social development (Seitamo, 1991). Linguistic and cultural diversity provides that teaching arrangements are student-sensitive. This refers, for example, to such activities where the teacher notices students as individuals and encourages them to develop their thinking (Zahorik, 1975). This kind of collaboration turns into a communal and individual construction process of skills and knowledge enabling cultural participation.

School, teaching, and learning have been studied abundantly through ethnography. …

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