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Teresa D. LaFromboise

Different Communities, Different Timelines

Posted on July 19, 2006

Teresa D. LaFromboise (bio) reminds researchers to be patient when working with tribal communities.


Q: I've begun a research project with a Native American community, and we are coming up on a deadline for data collection, but I'm not getting a response from them, even though I have emailed and left several messages. Are they just on a different timeframe, or are they perhaps just not interested in the project anymore?
A: Well, I think the timeline varies and it's pretty much dictated by the community. I've experienced a variety of timeframes. In one of my suicide prevention projects it took two years from the initial meetings until the actual beginning of the research, but then only 1 year to develop, pilot, evaluate, and revise the intervention. So it took about three years and 15 trips total, which I think was relatively quick. There was a sense of urgency then because there had been five deaths that year. But I'm working right now on a two-reservation study and although both sites said they were ready to start, one site said in the fall that they weren't. They wanted more planning time, so what was to be two studies running in parallel is now changed, but we are just adapting, and going on with it.

In another project, I tried for over 1 year to get a callback from a site, and was feeling fairly pessimistic about whether it was really going to happen, and in the meantime decided to go on to other communities because I needed the second site, and then lo and behold they called back and said and they were ready to go. I remember calling someone at one of the tribal colleges whom I knew, and expressing some of my frustration about it and he said, "Well, you haven't worked with this community before have you? They will be ready when they're ready. It has nothing to do with you." And so I think patience is a major message. Especially with Indian communities because of all the past exploitation, there's a real sensitivity to it. The people have to know that you're really sincere. One of the tests of that is whether or not you persevere despite all of the roadblocks.



Based on interview with researcher in March 2006.


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