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Book Review: Wilson’s “Research is Ceremony” – by Chaya Ocampo Go

March 16, 2015 in Indigenous Education by Mary Hernandez

Research As Ceremony

– a book review by Chaya Ocampo Go of Shawn Wilson’s “Research Is Ceremony: Indigenous Research Methods”, Fernwood Publishing, Halifax, 2008

The author of this book review is a Filipina graduate scholar at the UBC Institute for Gender, Race, Sexuality & Social Justice. She writes this review after having respectfully listened to Shawns storytelling in the course of 3 months, and now upholds the relational accountability to synthesize (rather than deconstruct) what she has learnt from him.


Wilson - Research is Ceremony - Picture

 The book Research Is Ceremony by Shawn Wilson, an Opaskwayak Cree father of three boys, scholar, son, uncle, storyteller and teacher, expounds on the elements of an Indigenous research paradigm. It aims to present shared aspects of ontology, epistemology, axiology, and methodology in the research conducted by Indigenous scholars in Australia and Canada, but also extends a larger invitation for Indigenous peoples to engage in and practice their own research projects. By sharing his life story, alternating between addressing the reader and his sons, and including the many voices of his Elders, family members and other Indigenous scholars, Shawn invites us into an ‘extra-intellectual’ journey of learning with him. Throughout the book, relationships are repeatedly proposed to lie at the heart of an Indigenous paradigm. Knowledge is sacred. Research is ceremony as it is profoundly located in relationality: “The purpose of any ceremony is to build stronger relationships or bridge the distance between aspects of our cosmos and ourselves. The research that we do as Indigenous people is a ceremony that allows us a raised level of consciousness and insight into our world” (p.11, 137)

By consistently contrasting an Indigenous paradigm from the dominant Eurocentric worldview, Research Is Ceremony straddles two worlds, and in great conscious effort chooses not to vacate one for the other. Its strength lies not only in an individual scholar’s persistence to articulate an Indigenous reality, but its strength also draws from a larger body of decolonizing scholarship to resist academic imperialism in the modern university while insisting on the truthful validity of Indigenous knowledges. Shawn references the pioneering work of Maori scholar Linda Tuhiwai-Smith’s Decolonizing Methodologies (1999) as a precedent in this endeavour. Such work carries political implications: Shawn’s manner of writing that is multivocal, styled in alternating fonts, carried through a circular (rather than a linear) logic, and which unapologetically blurs the personal and the academic, may be disconcerting for the Western reader, if not an easy target for ridicule!  The discomfort is, however, necessary in research projects which ‘talk back to empire’.  In addition to learning about the theoretical foundations of an Indigenous research paradigm, Shawn’s student-reader begs to learn of other specific research projects which illustrate in more concrete ways the practical applications of such principles.

Along these lines, I find Shawn addressing me directly as a Filipina whose scholarship-activism is also founded on a profoundly intimate understanding of relational accountability to my community, ancestral lands, cosmos, and own self.  I take inspiration in the work of Filipina scholar-artist, Grace Nono, which was similarly created in response to Tuhiwai-Smith’s call for a resurgence of Indigenous-led projects.  Nono echoes the thoughts of pioneering Filipina scholar, Teresita Obusan (1994), when she writes of her positionality as an Indigenous researcher: the Filipino/a mananaliksik (researcher) is not an objective bystander gathering data who sees kapwa (the self in the other) as a mere subject, but as a kapwa-Filipino/a who carries Indigenous knowledge in that relationship (2013, 39).  While Shawn proposes talking circles, storytelling, and a lifetime of participant observation as Indigenous research methods, Sikolohiyang Pilipino (Indigenous Philippine psychology) similarly proposes pakikiramdam (sensing and feeling what is happening), pakikisama (frequent interaction to be with research participants), pakikipagkuwentuhan (story-telling and conversing), and pagninilay-nilay (introspection or reflection), among other ways of being and relating as Indigenous research methods (Church and Katigbak 2002, 136).

Babaylan books - picture

Kung ang pananaliksik ay ang paglalakbay tungo sa kaalaman, ang ating ugnayan sa kapwa tao, hayop, lupa, diwata, mga ninuno, anak, at sa ating mga sarili ay ang tanging pag-uugatan ng ating pagbubuo ng kaalaman.  If research is a journey towards knowing, then our relations—with fellow human beings, animals, lands, spirits, ancestors, children, and our own selves—will be the only ceremonial ground for research to take root in while making whole our knowledge.   

Meeting and learning from Shawn through his book as a Filipina scholar-activist living on unceded Coast Salish Territories, I remember my kapwa mananaliksik across Turtle Island, especially those gathered around the Centre for Babaylan Studies. I imagine Indigenous Filipino/a scholars advancing feminist and decolonizing scholarship to be in more direct conversations with Aboriginal feminists, such as those in Making Space for Indigenous Feminisms (Green 2007), in powerful transnational gatherings for Indigenous resurgence both in academic and activist fields.


Church, A.T. and Katigbak, M.S. (2002). Indigenization of Psychology in the Philippines. In International Journal of Psychology 37(3), 129-148.

Green, J. (Ed.) (2007). Making Space for Indigenous Feminism. Winnipeg: Fernwood Publishing.

Mendoza-Strobel, L. (Ed.) (2010). Babaylan: Filipinos and the Call of the Indigenous. Quezon City: Ateneo de Manila University Press.

Nono, G. (2013). Song of the Babaylan: Living Voices, Medicines, Spiritualities of Philippine Ritualist-Oralist-Healers. Quezon City: Institute of Spirituality in Asia.

Obusan, T. (Ed.) (1994). Pamamaraan: Indigenous Knowledge and Evolving Research Paradigms. Quezon City: University of the Philippines Asian Centre.

Tuhiwai-Smith, L. (1999). Decolonizing Methodologies: Research and Indigenous Peoples. Dunedin, NZ: University of Otago Press.

“Science and Spirituality go hand-in-hand among Mountain Tribes”

February 24, 2015 in Babaylan and Community Healing, Indigenous Education by Mary Hernandez

“Based on her 30 years of study on indigenous health and practices of the Igorots, a professor from the University of the Philippines Baguio is invoking the power of spiritual healing over diseases covered by the indigenous and spiritual practices in the Cordillera region.
Science and Spirituality Go Hand-in Hand Among Mountain Tribes


UP Baguio professor Erlinda Palaganas authored the study, which focused on the traditional practices of various tribes in the region and that mainly contributed to the health and welfare in their communities. It presented health related researches by various health practitioners in the Cordillera from 1980 to 2010.

“Unfortunately, indigenous knowledge has always been perceived as backward, negative and with no positive effect, but what the people don’t look into is its principles and it being a way of life. If it helps in the health of the person, then it has a basis,” Palaganas said.

Palaganas also highlighted the herbal medicines endemic in the communities. While these are being used, spiritual beliefs influence the users’ knowledge of the potency of the medicines.”


(An article by Desiree Caluza, as published in

For the full article, read more here

The Road Ahead for the Indigenous Peoples

November 26, 2014 in Babaylan and Community Healing, Decolonization and Filipino Identity, Events and Conference, In the News, Indigenous Education, Modern Practices, Organization Updates, Reflections and Commentaries by Jen Maramba

by Celeste Ann Castillo Llaneta in UP Forum

For countless years, indigenous peoples (IPs) have lived on the fringes of society, barely mentioned even in the footnotes of history texts. The IPs, if given any attention at all, are often viewed as collateral damage in the march to economic development, as members of a somewhat lesser race of humans, and at best, icons of a romanticized past regularly trotted out and paraded during cultural celebrations. This is the case for many of the 370 million indigenous peoples in some 90 countries around the world.

“[IPs around the world] share common problems—the non-recognition of their rights to their territories and human rights violations—but in different degrees,” said Marissa Cabato of the Philippine Program for the Indigenous People’s Empowerment and Sustainable Development under the Baguio City-based indigenous peoples organization Tebtebba (Indigenous Peoples’ International Centre for Policy Research and Education).

Tebtebba ( was one of the participants in the Rio+20 International Conference of Indigenous Peoples on Self-Determination and Sustainable Development held on June 19, 2012 at Rio De Janeiro, participated in by IP organizations, traditional and spirituals leaders and indigenous peoples from seven regions of the world. “During those partner-meetings, representatives from different countries came together and discussed their situations, so we saw that the issues [the IPs] are confronting are not all that different from one another.”

Progress has been made in all areas of development with regard to the world’s indigenous peoples since the UN Working Group on Indigenous Populations was designated in 1982 to promote and protect the human rights and basic freedoms of indigenous peoples. This led to the drafting of the UN Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) in 1995 and its eventual approval on September 13, 2007. However, Cabato acknowledges that the issue of the non-recognition of indigenous peoples’ rights remains as pressing as ever, even into the second decade of the 21st century.

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by admin

Schools of Indigenous Knowledge and Traditions

February 13, 2005 in Indigenous Education by admin

Check out the beautiful ACPC Sikat site, webweaved by Geejay Arriola. The art at left is by Boy Dominguez, whose work also graces the site. In 1984, an assembly of Asian youth was launched by the Christian Conference of Asia. It was held in India and gave birth to Asian Council for Peoples Culture (ACPC).

The network developed with the participation of cultural workers and community educators from 16 Asia-Pacific countries. Progress founded on culture is the basic premise of this coming together.

Community education and training are the key activities of ACPC. Its training pedagogy draws on local lifeways and learning systems. Culture and indigenous wisdom are core areas of study opening pathways for people’s empowerment and action.

SIKAT or Schools of Indigenous Knowledge and Traditions is a national network of indigenous schools and community educators.

The SIKAT vision began to take shape during a gathering of a core group of trainors and educators in 1997 at the foot of Mt. Banahaw in Tayabas, Quezon. The group studied ways of harnessing the empowering elements of people’s culture.

In 1999, an inter-tribal council of elders met in Tabuk, Kalinga and launched the movement for the promotion of indigenous education. The Kalinga declaration, thus envisions:

“Indigenous education founded on the lifeways, traditions, worldview, culture and spirituality of the native community is a basic right of all indigenous people. It is a pathway of education that recognizes wisdom embedded in indigenous knowledge.”

The SIKAT network presently comprises more than twenty partner communities and continues to grow