“Well-Healthy Relationships”: Using Indigenous Approaches to Support Relationship Formation for Persons with Disabilities

  • Sarah Knudson
  • Kelley Bird-Naytowhow
  • Tamara Baldhead Pearl
Keywords: Indigenous knowledge and ways of knowing; interpretive approaches; community-focused research; relationships; disabilities.


There is limited knowledge about the experiences of intimate relationship formation for those with disabilities, particularly amongst Indigenous populations in urban areas. In order to address this research gap, our project uses an Indigenous approach—talking circles facilitated by a Knowledge Keeper—to engage local community members in discussions about their challenges and journeys of relationship formation, and considerations of community-level efforts at improving socialization and safe meeting spaces for disabled Indigenous persons.  Through a central aim of “story-catching” through semi-structured biographical narratives in talking circles, we demonstrate how Indigenous methods can be appropriately and effectively employed to generate rich qualitative data.  Our research also underscores how qualitative Indigenous approaches work to foster an ethical space (Ermine, 2007) between researchers, participants, and their communities, and how this in turn encourages individual and community empowerment.