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Research is Ceremony: Shawn Wilson.
Chapter 6: Relational accountability.

‘Research doesn’t have to be formal, it is ceremony for improving your relationship with an idea ‘

Relationality: Parts of the three R’s (Respect, Reciprocity, and Relationally), can be put into practice through ‘relational accountability’.

I read this chapter with interest, noting the many relationships I have within an Indigenous paradigm through the RAW mahi and the current project that I am advancing with incarcerated wāhine and Corrections.

Defining relational accountability as, methodology based in a community context (relational), demonstrating, respect, reciprocity and responsibility, therefore, making it accountable.

Relationships often start within respectful talking circles that are non-judgemental and non-interfering and involve continuous small talk as participants get to know each other.
The RAW way, where daily we meet to connect, participate and talk, builds on our relationship framework to reflect understanding and trust. Within RAW, an integrated approach to learning about each other is key to building a safe and trusted space. Therefore all our external mahi is from lived experience. We are not simply ‘intellectualising’ our framework of care and reporting.

Educating is key, the more knowledge and more awareness you have, the richer your own experience becomes and the more you can contextualise your own experiences.

Within the RAW mahi we have created a framework that is seen as safe and trusted and therefore, we have a sense of responsibility to protect this and ensure we uphold our relational accountability.
I reflect on my rangahau in respect of the four different ways accountability is framed in this chapter.

We are responsible for;
1. How we choose our topics.
2. The methods we choose to collect data or build our relationships.
3. How we analyse the learnings.
4. How we present the outcomes.

For rangahau to be positively focused, it will be harmonious and inclusive. Participants will help shape the policy based on their community needs. Therefore, they will have direct access to the decision making process. Researchers become deep listeners, make meaningful exchanges and become co-learners. Knowledge that is generated through these relationships is not owned, it simply belongs to the cosmos.
Traditionally, Indigenous research in Western paradigms has a negative focus, when it simply gathers data to strengthen Western perceptions of marginalised people, giving power to disharmony, advancing alienation and lack of relationships.
This chapter talks to the practice of naming people in your research. This is always the dilemma when working with marginalised people as we do in the RAW mahi. To not name, undermines the respect, credibility and authority this person has in regards of their shared knowledge. However, the sensitivity of the content may mean adding a name does more harm and therefore should be omitted.
Authenticity and credibility can only be maintained by continuous feedback with all the participants. Something I am so conscious of doing with my writing up of our RAW wāhine conversations, in that on completion they immediately go back to the participant to ensure they are comfortable with the contents and that they reflect the story in the way the wāhine wanted to share and tell it. All participants in the research need to part of analysing the rangahau contents, and must also ultimately benefit from its intended outcomes.

Having relationship with an idea means you must honour and respect the idea.

I reflect on the discussion that I was privileged to have with a RAW wahine on the possibility of changing her name. With an extensive criminal journey behind her, she is now fully located in a pathway of social science study centred in anthropology. She is also in a pro-social relationship and has experienced the challenge of her partner’s peers affecting a Google search on her name. Her Probation officer given her massive pro-social attainments, suggested a name change, to which I was opposed and interested to hear her opinion.
Her name offers the credibility to her struggle and enables her (now, ironically, in an accepted framework) to add value to the correctional change conversation (a huge goal of hers). Moving away from an individualistic gain that a name change affords (and is well used in her criminal world), she’s advocated that the intermediate pain she is experiencing now, is simply part of her accountability journey, is manageable, and will be short lived as she looks to re-claim her tino rangatiratanga. Her criminal journey will eventually be the empowerment of her channelled success.

Wilson, S. (2008). Research is Ceremony: Indigenous Research Methods. Black Point, Nova Scotia. Fernwood Publishing. Ch.6