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Elevating the Uses of Storytelling Methods Within Indigenous Health Research: A Critical, Participatory Scoping Review

Kendra L. Rieger, Mabel Horton, Sherry Copenace, Marlyn Bennett, Mandy Buss, Anna M. Chudyk, Lillian Cook, Bobbie Hornan, Tara Horrill, Janice Linton, Kim McPherson, Jennifer Moore Rattray, Kealy Murray, Wanda Phillips-Beck, Rebecca Sinclair, Olga Slavutskiy, Rebecca Stewart, Annette S.H.Schultz

2023 Australia


There is a profoundly troubling history of research being done on Indigenous peoples without regard for their priorities and accompanying calls to decolonize health research. Storytelling methods can privilege Indigenous voices in research. Indigenous people’s knowledge systems have existed for millennium, where knowledge is produced and shared through stories. Our collaborative team of Indigenous and non-Indigenous researchers, and Indigenous Elders, patients, healthcare providers, and administrators, conducted a participatory, scoping review to examine how storytelling has been used as a method in Indigenous health research on Turtle Island (North America), Australia, and Aotearoa (New Zealand). We searched key databases and online sources for qualitative and mixed-methods studies that involved Indigenous participants and used storytelling as a method in health research. Reviewers screened abstracts/full texts to confirm eligibility. Narrative data were extracted and synthesized. An intensive collaboration was woven throughout and included gatherings incorporating Indigenous protocol, Elders’ teachings on storytelling, and sharing circles. We included 178 articles and found a diverse array of storytelling approaches and ad- aptations, along with exemplary practices and problematic omissions. Researchers honoured Indigenous ways of knowing, being, and doing through careful preparation and community engagement to do storywork, inclusion of Indigenous languages and protocols, and Indigenous initiation and governance. Storytelling centered Indigenous voices, was a culturally relevant and respectful method, involved a healing process, and reclaimed Indigenous stories. But it could result in several challenges when researchers did not meaningfully engage with Indigenous peoples. These findings can guide respectful storytelling research that bridges divergent Indigenous and Western knowledge systems, to decolonize health research.