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The Gaataa’aabing Visual Research Method: A Culturally Safe Anishinaabek Transformation of Photovoice

Beaudin Bennett, Marion Maar, Darrel Manitowabi, Taima Moeke-Pickering, Doreen Trudeau-Peltier, Sheila Trudeau

2019 Canada

Photovoice is a community-based participatory visual research method often described as accessible to vulnerable or marginalized groups and culturally appropriate for research with Indigenous peoples. Academic researchers report adapting the photovoice method to the sociocultural context of Indigenous participants and communities with whom they are working. However, detailed descriptions on cultural frameworks for transforming photovoice in order for it to better reflect Indigenous methodologies are lacking, and descriptions of outcomes that occur as a result of photovoice are rare. We address the paucity of published methodological details on the participant-directed Indigenization of photovoice. We conducted 13 visual research group sessions with participants from three First Nations communities in Northern Ontario, Canada. Our intent was to privilege the voice of participants in a mindful exploration aimed at cocreating a transformation of the photovoice method, in order to meet participants’ cultural values. Gaataa’aabing is the Indigenized, culturally safe visual research method created through this process. Gaataa’aabing represents an Indigenous approach to visual research methods and a renewed commitment to engage Indigenous participants in meaningful and productive ways, from the design of research questions and the Indigenization of research methods, to knowledge translation and relevant policy change. Although Gaataa’aabing was developed in collaboration with Anishinaabek people in Ontario, Canada, its principles will, we hope, resonate with many Indigenous groups due to the method’s focus on (1) integration of cultural values of the respective Indigenous community(ies) with whom researchers are collaborating and (2) placing focus on concrete community outcomes as a requirement of the research process.

photovoice, community-based research, ethnography, social justice, arts-based methods