a serene forest with dappled sunlight.

Ethical Research Framework

During this stage we developed an inquiry focused on two aspects:  The selection of a Relational Leadership and governance model for the NCPR able to sustain and manage the Intercultural collaboration framework we envision; and the design of a Research and Ethics methodological framework that can support Indigenous methodologies inclusion in the NCPR research. 

The methodological framework used for this inquiry was Participatory Action Research (Vaughn & Jacquez, 2020). Participants who engaged in this stage came from various cultural backgrounds and contributed their unique insights and experiences, from a personal standpoint informed by their cultures, adding depth to the discussions and understanding of the issues at hand. We provided a safe environment in our virtual Zoom meetings by generating the discussion from an Appreciative Inquiry approach (Whitney et al., 2019).  Appreciative inquiry nurtured meaningful discussions, collaboration, and sharing of ideas without fear of judgment or marginalization. This environment was thoughtfully designed to respect and honor various cultural perspectives, ensuring that each participant's values, beliefs, and identities were acknowledged and embraced. We prioritized open communication, active listening, and empathy, fostering an atmosphere of trust and understanding. This allowed genuine interactions, where everyone's contributions were valued, and differences celebrated (Curtis et al., 2019).

Ethical Research Framework

The research methodologies and ethical framework that the NCPR adopts for intercultural research was developed through focus-groups where participants shared their recommendations. During 5 meetings, we discussed the qualities that the NCPR research methodology must have in order to sustain multiple cultural paradigms in collaborative research. We focused on identifying theory and methodologies adequate for psychedelic and ancestral medicines.  The group discussions touches on various aspects of establishing and operating the NCPR with a particular focus on respect to Indigenous communities and their cultural knowledge. The participants emphasized the need for a structured approach to maintain specific roles within the research center, highlighting the importance of cultural sensitivity and other ethical considerations. We also discussed the challenges related to funding, legal agreements, and the incorporation of indigenous methodologies into the research processes also considering the social, ethical, and legal implications of the use of psychedelic substances.

The sessions

The group discussed the need for a framework that respects and protects Indigenous knowledge while navigating the complexities of the current health system. The group also explored potential goals and priorities, such as contributing to literature, understanding federal and provincial contexts, and working towards either legalization or decriminalization of psychedelic substances. The group also acknowledged the necessity of understanding and incorporating Indigenous research ethics.

  • Indigenous Research Ethics: Need for a structure and board that can address research ethics in an indigenous context. This board would be responsible for reviewing and addressing relevant issues.

  • Advocacy for Psychedelics: Potential for the NCPR to advocate for changes to the current health system's approach to psychedelics. It was suggested that this could be a new way to reform parts of the structure.

  • Infrastructure: Possibility of setting up an Indigenous Research Ethics Board and a separate funding agency for psychedelic studies to provide an alternative to existing structures.


The group agreed that the center should aim to be a leader in setting standards for psychedelic research, particularly in terms of respecting and incorporating Indigenous knowledge and research ethics. There was also recognition of the challenges and complexities in navigating the current health system and a call for advocacy in reforming structures to suit the unique nature of psychedelic substances.

This call focused on incorporating Indigenous viewpoints into psychedelic research and therapy. Participants aimed to create a ‘Third Space’ emphasizing cultural safety, community involvement, and ethical aspects. The discussion highlighted the importance of respecting Indigenous methodologies, power dynamics, reciprocity, and relationship building.


Strategic Goals: The objective is to create a safe environment for integrating Indigenous perspectives into psychedelic research, avoiding colonial dynamics, and fostering a culturally sensitive approach.


Context Analysis: Attendees identified a gap in psychedelic research, which is mainly influenced by Western methods, and expressed the need for Indigenous inclusion. They recognized the need for patience and careful engagement due to the sensitive nature of the work.

Competitive Landscape: Although psychedelic research is expanding, Indigenous representation is lacking. The group aims to address this by creating a dialogue and collaboration space that values Indigenous knowledge.

Action Plan:

  • - Identify and review indigenous methodologies relevant to psychedelic research and therapy 

  • - Develop protocols for relationship building and reciprocal accountability - 

  • - Create strategies for respectful community engagement and inclusion of indigenous voices

  • - Continually reflect on and address power dynamics and potential inequities in the research process

Key Considerations

The team highlighted the significance of patience and engagement in fostering a culturally safe environment. They acknowledged the need for fair compensation for Indigenous participants, respect for diverse worldviews, and mutual responsibility in the research process.

A concept of "ancestral leadership" was discussed, focusing on creating long-term, generational benefits rather than immediate results. The team aims to continue exploring Indigenous methodologies for psychedelic research and therapy, and how to effectively communicate their work to wider academic and policy circles.

A strong interest was shown in understanding Indigenous methodologies, emphasizing a shift from a purely medical perspective to a more inclusive, Indigenous-informed approach. The team recognized possible challenges this could bring in terms of policy advocacy and alignment with established health research systems.

The team is committed to creating a respectful, inclusive space that respects Indigenous knowledge. They are mindful of potential colonial dynamics in the research process and are committed to respecting and valifying Indigenous perspectives and addressing the needs of their communities.



The call examined multiple research methodologies that can support the NCPR efforts for the incorporation of Indigenous methodologies into the NCPR research. 

The group dived into the idea of a "third space" as a secure environment for Indigenous knowledge growth. The discussion focused on aspects required for this space, the significance of spirituality and metaphysics in comprehending plant-based medicines, and the research work's impact on Indigenous communities.

  • Research framework goals: The research's primary aim is to establish a respectful and safe environment for the inclusion of Indigenous knowledge in the NCPR research process. The Third Space will be used to co-develop new models and methodologies derived from Indigenous traditions and knowledge. The research intends to ensure that Indigenous methodologies are at the heart of the research process.
  • Challenges and Concerns: The group discussed potential hurdles, including respecting unique methodologies of each culture, the risk of cultural appropriation, and the necessity of obtaining explicit permission to use specific cultural methodologies. Concerns were voiced about potential knowledge misuse and the need to ensure the research benefits are equitably distributed.

Additional Notes

The group discussed various resources and research methodologies that could guide the creation of the Third Space and the integration of Indigenous knowledge into the research process. Suggestions included community-based participatory research, post-structuralism, and other oral traditions and cosmologies. The group agreed to share and review these resources in future meetings.

Articles on third space and inclusion of ancestors and spirits into research:

Third space as we understand it in the NCPR. 

Third space theory and cultural ID. 

How do we include plants and ancestors in the research / article Ubuntu


This meeting was held to discuss the culmination of the process aimed at the design and development of a research methodology for the Nawt sa mawt Centre for Psychedelic Research, based on cultural paradigms and community values. After consulting the diverse resources shared in previous meetings Indigenous methodologies where selected and incorporated to a proposal presented in the following diagram: 

Figure 2

Ethical Research framework proposal

Recommendations to improve the framework

Ethics: The NCPR will create a Wisdom Council to take care of ethical aspects, and integrate it into the Leadership framework, composed of representatives from different cultures, that will provide oversight to ensure that the ethics and Indigenous Cultural Safety will be respected. The people who will be part of this council should be somehow related to the entheogenic or psychedelic field. Also should include people actively involved on intercultural collaboration frameworks.

Research MethodologyInvolves the creation of a "Third Space" inside which everything will happen.  This involves a team of listeners from the community who work in roles such as learner, seer, and includer, among others. These listeners are the guardians of the third space, where knowledge ceremonies occur. The methodology emphasizes the importance of change as part of the research process and draws on various theories such as intersectionality, relationality, and decolonization.

Feedback and Discussion: 

  • Participants appreciated the efforts invested in creating the framework and methodology, discussing its potential applications across various communities and cultures. 

  • They highlighted the need for adaptability of the framework to different cultural contexts. 

  • Questions arose regarding its application in communities without a cultural link to this type of healing work, suggesting the development of comprehensive, portable training modules with a designated liaison for each role. 

  • The developed framework and methodology are considered a foundation for many future activities. Participants were excited and grateful to be part of the process, acknowledging its community-centric, spirit-filled nature that unifies the group. The creation of this framework, a collective endeavor, has been grounded in respect for traditional knowledge and a dedication to ethical research practices.


During this meeting, we examined the final draft of the Research Framework. Our objective is to cultivate a respectful and cooperative research practice that aligns with the customs and values of the Indigenous communities with whom the NCPR will be partnering. Participants acknowledged that the center's funding and operations needs to incorporate these principles, stressing the need for clear legal contracts and lasting financial strategies.

Developing strong ties with local communities, acknowledging their cultural and spiritual traditions, and incorporating their viewpoints into the research structure is essential. Additionally, the participants emphasized the importance of educational programs, deep listening, and the principle of reciprocity when conducting research within Indigenous communities. Additionally, the group emphasized the importance of upholding ethical standards and ensuring community participation throughout the entire research process.

Recommendations and next steps

The framework success depends on the Listeners Community roles. These roles need to be further developed and individuals must be trained to fulfill them. There needs to be a structured approach for the formation of the Listeners Community. A specific team and funding must be gathered for this, that is clearly the next step to follow. Diverse aspects and recommendations where provided as a start point:

  • These roles should emphasize cultural sensitivity and Indigenous Cultural Safety (ICS) when engaging with communities, understanding and respecting cultural protocols and spirituality.

  • In order to facilitate knowledge transfer and maintain consistency across multiple research projects, these roles can be adapted accordingly to different research teams.

  • Building a relationship with the local nations, understanding their specific needs and methodologies, is fundamental. Research must be undertaken under a collaborative approach.

  • Healthy relationships are fundamental in providing quality service.

  • Partner organizations will need to map the existing system and adapt the model accordingly, underscoring the importance of resilience and flexibility. 

  • Elder Geraldine's teachings and the local community wisdom are to be considered in all collaborations. The group highlighted the importance of creating a training program that helps.

  • Focus on building relationships and ethical engagement with the community, rather than attempting to replicate their cultural knowledge. 

  • Formal initiation process to thoroughly understand and engage with the spiritual knowledge within the community's spiritual leaders.

  • To avoid cultural appropriation, use storytelling that comes from one’s individual intersection. When sharing cultural knowledge that belongs to a specific community,  approval from their authorities is recommended.

  • Input of community members is fundamental in all stages of research.

  • Involving the community in research initiatives and maintaining ethical practices, particularly when studying spiritual traditions.

  • Healthy relationships are fundamental in providing quality service.

  • Partner organizations will need to map the existing system and adapt the model accordingly, underscoring the importance of resilience and flexibility. 

  • Create a specific, community-focused training for researchers willing to engage with the NCPR and be part of the Listeners Community. This program will train people to observe, and understand the unique needs and values of each community, considering that there will be multiple research projects happening. Some considerations for the training:

    • Given the complexities of incorporating various ancestral traditions into one model, the training should be focused on facilitating methods for the direct participation of  members of the community such as Knowledge Keepers or Elders.

    • Relationship building protocols, and reciprocity should be included. 

    • Policy, ICS existing training learning journeys.

    • Create an experiential learning approach, similar to an apprenticeship program, to understand and engage with the community's spiritual leaders. 


Finances & Reciprocity:

  • Calculate center's operations cost, include potential funding sources and the possibility of becoming a nonprofit organization. 

  • Address the legal agreements and governing structures that are essential for the sustainability and legitimacy of the center's activities.

    • Consent and agreements to protect the data and research participants.

  • Financial and legal implications of their research initiatives. 

  • Funding for the center, these are the income pathways foreseen:

    • Grants for specific research projects are important. 

    • Corporate sponsorship per research, provided it aligns with the values and ethical standards of the NCPR.

NCPR Ethical Research Framework

NCPR research framework

Note: Please see the references to know more about the theories and scholars that support this framework. 

Multiple-eyed seeing approach

The diagram shows different circles. Each one of them represents an aspect that needs to be stewarded during the research process. The framework that supports the incorporation of multiple methodologies and perspectives is the Multiple-eyed seeing approach, inspired in Elder Albert Marshal’s Etuaptmumk approach (Bartlett et al., 2012)

Listeners Community

We also bridged the framework with the NCPR leadership structure through the outer circle, formed by the Listeners Community. The model incorporates indigenous principles of relationality, spirituality and guardianship (Cajete, 2020; Goodchild, 2022; Kimmerer, 2013; Kovach, 2021; Wilson, 2001). It is adaptable, with roles that can change based on the requirements of each research project.  These roles will be the guardians that hold the container for the Third Space that will frame the research process in what we have called the Knowledge Ceremony, in reference to Sean Wilson's book (2008) Research is Ceremony. The ceremonial approach is fundamental to what this framework wants to encourage in researchers.

Knowledge Ceremony

The  NCPR will deliver the Knowledge Ceremony to diverse research projects through the Listeners Community. It is based on the principles of Deep Listening and traditional guardianship roles such as learners, facilitators, acknowledgment keepers, storytellers, custodians, and messengers (Brearley, 2015). Those interested will learn to hold the Third Space for intercultural Collaboration and will understand these methodologies, deeply rooted in Indigenous models and Cultural Safety.

Participants in this workgroup agree that psychedelic research implies learning within diversity and multidimensionality bringing up healing, sharing, self actualization, the reason why it is considered a ceremony. The Knowledge Ceremony is an inquiry space that can bring benefits and growth at individual and collective levels. The community’s and research team's vision and intentions must be aligned towards the community's wellness. Flexibility and openness are fundamental in the process. 

Community Engagement

The most important goal is to ensure that the rights, values, spirituality, ethics, and traditions of the community are respected (Mashford-Pringle et al., 2023). Listeners Community will facilitate the participation of community methodologies in research by integrating community voices into the framework. Understanding spiritual and ancestral practices of the community and involving traditional knowledge keepers in research are fundamental elements of facilitating respectful and ethical practices.

Change Process

They will deliver methods and spaces where community members can design the change process that they want to experience. Defining aspects of individual and collective transformation that can be achieved through the diverse aspects of the research is fundamental. The processes can be designed, and methods such as storytelling or talking circles can be used to maintain communication channels open.  Change processes must be considered and followed up during all stages of the research, and community members must be engaged. 

Inclusive Methodologies 

Once these are agreed upon, the community can choose their preferred methodology to undertake the psychedelic research maintaining in that way the cultural fluidity required for this kind of work. Methods may include plant spirits or ancestors' voices in the inquiry. After this has been clarified, the Listeners Community will be able to bridge academic theories and methodologies from diverse origins that will help to frame, support and uphold whatever Indigenous methodologies are chosen at the core of the research, creating in this way a protective circle for the Indigenous methodologies to thrive while complying with the academic research requirements.


The proposed framework is a start-point to be tested in research. Prior to piloting it, the NCPR will open the Listeners Community development process where the roles will be further defined as well as the training program. Participatory action research is recommended. This is highlighted as the next step for which the collective will be formed and get organized to obtain funding and start the development. 

Participants are interested in potential applications and challenges that the framework may face given the diversity of communities and contexts, but trust that the guidelines for the Third Space will be sufficient. Questions were raised about how to apply the framework in communities that do not have a cultural connection to this kind of healing work. Suggestions included developing comprehensive and mobile training modules with a liaison for each role.


Bartlett, C., Marshall, M., & Marshall, A. (2012). Two-Eyed Seeing and other lessons learned within a co-learning journey of bringing together indigenous and mainstream knowledges and ways of knowing. Journal of Environmental Studies and Sciences, 2(4), 331–340.

Brearley, L. (2015). Deep Listening and Leadership: An Indigenous Model of Leadership and Community Development in Australia. In C. J. Voyageur & B. Calliou (Eds.), S (Second edition, pp. 92–127). Banff Centre Press.

Cajete, G. (Director). (2020, February 24). Native Science: The Indigenous Mind Rising. In UNE Center for Global Humanities.

Goodchild, M. (2021). Relational Systems Thinking: That’s How Change is Going to Come, From Our Earth Mother. Journal of Awareness-Based Systems Change, 1(1), 75–103.

Kimmerer, R. W. (2013). Braiding sweetgrass: Indigenous wisdom, scientific knowledge and the teachings of plants (First paperback edition). Milkweed Editions.

Kovach, M. (2021). Indigenous methodologies: Characteristics, conversations, and contexts (Second edition). University of Toronto Press.

Mashford-Pringle, A., Hiscock, C., Rice, E. J., & Scott, B. (2023). Weaving First Nations, Inuit, and Métis principles and values into health research processes. Journal of Clinical Epidemiology, 160, 54–60.

Wilson, S. (2001). What is an Indigenous Research Methodology? Panel  Presentation: Coming to an Understanding. Canadian Journal of Native Education, 25(2), 175–179.

Wilson, S. (2008). Research is Ceremony: Indigenous Research Methods. Fernwood Pub.


Organizations involved

  • Island Health
  • British Columbia Network Environment for Indigenous Health Research (BC NEIHR).  
  • Roots to Thrive
  • Vancouver Island University / Psychedelic Assisted Therapy Graduate Certificate
  • Royal Roads University - School of Leadership Studies
  • The University of British Columbia

Leadership PAR group and Knowledge Keepers

Erin Ryding, Wendy Young, Brian Rush, Uta Sbotofrankenstein, David Lyon, Gordon O'connor, Monika Bar, Erin Ryding, Vivian Tsang, Zacary Walsh, Cody Teichroeb, Kyle Greenway, Jordyn Cates, Alycia Fridkin, Lakoda Tomas, Jessica Barudin, and P. I. Jimena Garcia (Chalchi).