Social Indicators Research

, 103:315 | Cite as

An Indigenous Knowledges Perspective on Valid Meaning Making: A Commentary on Research with the EDI and Aboriginal Communities

  • Michele A. Sam (Ktunaxa)Email author


Offering an Indigenous perspective, this commentary discusses collaborative research, shared meaning making, and knowledge building specific to child development, and reflects on social, cultural, and historical aspects that influence these processes. Drawing upon experiences of developing a collaborative research approach with which to engage Aboriginal communities to appreciate, understand, and potentially use the Early Development Instrument (EDI; Janus and Offord in Can J Behav Sci 39:1–22, 2007), a teacher-administered rating scale on kindergarten children’s development, the commentary focuses on five key questions relevant to research processes undertaken with Indigenous Peoples, and the importance of social, ethical, and cultural aspects of validity: How do Indigenous epistemologies and knowledges inform and influence research processes that utilize the EDI as a measurement tool? How can the EDI be used as a measurement tool within a research process that fosters the thriving of children and their families in Aboriginal communities while promoting Indigenous Peoples’ self-determination? In what ways do local, Indigenous cultural and ethical considerations inform aspects of validation research pertaining to the EDI? How can (Western mainstream) universities build research capacity that is informed by Indigenous knowledges and ways of being, doing, and knowing? What are the potential consequences of using normative research tools—such as the EDI—as a method to build knowledge on children’s development with Indigenous Peoples and Aboriginal communities? This commentary suggests that from an Indigenous perspective, research on child development is valid and meaningful knowledge if it is clearly linked to the children’s and families’ wellbeing according to local cultural norms and values.


Indigenous meaning making Ethical and consequential aspects of validity Aboriginal knowledges and research methods Early Development Instrument 



It is important to recognize, acknowledge and honour all of the peoples whose homelands I have been blessed to visit and work within. There are too many to name. I hold my hands up to them and to the membership of the HELP-Aboriginal Steering Committee, who guide and support opportunities for our collective work through activities of value. This commentary is one such opportunity and is provided to me through my role at HELP. I have been enabled me to work with Dr. Martin Guhn, whose support in writing this commentary has ensured that the ideas inherent to it, are communicated in useful ways. I wish to acknowledge my children whose sacrifices are many and enable me to work according to the dreams of our ancestors, for the ones we may never meet. I am thankful and honoured to be chosen as their living link.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Human Early Learning PartnershipUniversity of British ColumbiaVancouverCanada

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