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Indigenous Placekeeping Framework (IPKF)

Use-inspired curriculum in higher education is on the rise, yet research methods that enable positive social transformation and bring measurable change to complex societal issues is lacking (Yamamura and Koth, 2018: 3). While decades of research have been undertaken in Indigenous communities, there is a scarcity of design research methods that aim to contribute to the process of nation building underway in tribal communities. The IPKF methodology was introduced in a recent chapter, “Teaching Indigeneity in Architecture: Indigenous Placekeeping Framework” by Dalla Costa, in Our Voices: Indigeneity and Architecture (2018). The chapter was investigative, aimed at initiating a dialogue on indigenous design pedagogy, particularly defining an approach for use-inspired work in an institutional setting. The IPKF is intended to be a living framework, to be altered and edited by scholars, practitioners, knowledge brokers and citizen experts.

Part One: Community-Led (or Tribally-led)

Recognizing the colonial impact in the built environment and the predominance of non-Indigenous professionals translating indigenous voice and defining priorities, the Placekeeping framework envisions design professionals playing a supporting role to community members who articulate problem definition, research priorities, data collection, research design and dissemination of findings. In community-led design work, the center of knowledge production shifts from the professional firm or the university as the center of knowledge production, to a multimodal knowledge system that emerges from the local people, their understanding of place and its associations.

Part Two: Reciprocal Alignment

Research viewed as a mutual exchange, requires considerable investigation to align professional or institutional and community priorities. While community based research aims to be action-ori­ented, with researchers committed to supporting the community in improving conditions in some way, one of the main challenges of Indigenous research is understanding what ‘useful’ means. According to Kovach, this requires a relationship with the community, in order that the community can identify what is relevant (Kovach, 2009: 82). Understanding typical tribal priorities – Sovereignty/Governance, Health & Human Services, Education, Natural Resources or Economic Development and Cultural & Artistic Heritage Preservation – is helpful for adding impact to the work.

Part Three: Process-based

Indigenous architecture is heavily process-based. Understanding local catalysts of design, working through contextual understandings and devising a co-design process which honors the local community, takes time. Indigenous methodologies are prioritized and include: watchful listening, open-ended conversations, decentralized knowledge production, “comfort in unknowing,” indirect communication, periphery knowledge production, responsive methodologies, boundaries of cultural knowledge and recognition of historical research trauma (Battiste, 2002; Ball, 2014; Tanaka, 2007; Williams, Tanaka, Leik, and Eiecken, 2014; Davidson & Hunt, 2007; Underhill-Sem & Lewis, 2008; Kumashiro, 2008). In addition to the above, local protocols are followed: offering/blessing a meal; ensuring data sovereignty is honored; reporting back to community members regularly; increasing accessibility of results; and providing honorariums to cultural knowledge brokers and citizen experts.

Part Four: Place-based

Place is a cultural construct. It is an embodied location of meaning, developed in response to local cultural histories and moralities (Johnson, 2012, p. 833). Indigenous knowledge originates from, and still lives within, these places. Compounding this affinity, there is a kinship relationship that Indigenous people have with nature, referred to as the relational worldview. This depth of understanding must be accounted for during the process of design. Two important factors assist in place-based design. The first is the integration of Knowledge Brokers into the design process. Brokers act as bridges between formal and informal institutions and networks. The second requirement is that professional learning must be done in place, with the people of the place, allowing storied landscapes and the repository of narratives associated with landscapes to emerge.

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