Developing an Indigenous Cultural Heritage Policy

An ICH policy describes a community’s ICH and provides instructions on how to engage with ICH respectfully. The table below provides an overview of the steps involved in developing an ICH policy.

Engage the communityCommunity engagement is a key first step to to determine what is needed and desired in a policy. ICH team leaders can ask the community questions about what should be included in the policy, including broad landscapes, specific sites, ancestral burial grounds, objects, stories, and anything else important to the community or Nation. See the section Engaging communities in an Indigenous Cultural Heritage Initiatives in this toolkit for information about how to do this.
Gather informationBegin to gather information relevant to the policy, such as:
• Which places, objects and other belongings will fall under the policy?
• How should cultural heritage be protected?
• How can people outside the community or Nation engage with ICH?
Develop the policyFollowing community engagement and information gathering, it is time to draft an ICH policy. It is ideal to have someone dedicated to the job of writing the policy. See the Example Policy Outline below for suggestions about content.
Review the policyPresent the draft policy to community members and create a space to discuss anything that is missing or could be improved. Honour community feedback and integrate their suggestions into the policy.
Finalize the policyIncorporate the community’s edits and suggestions into the policy and remember to be flexible. Remember that the policy is a living document and should be updated as needed to address new concerns or new types of heritage or important sites.
Promote awareness of the policyCirculate the cultural heritage policy within the community so that they are aware of it and can endorse and enforce it. Take time to celebrate and spread the word about its rollout.
To share it externally, consider adding it to the community or Nation’s website. It may also be shared with heritage professionals, development proponents, government officials, museum staff and any other stakeholders who work with the community or in the territory.

Tips on making an ICH policy effective

  • Share your community or Nation’s story: Why does ICH matter to you?
  • Define your ICH: What are some of the aspects of your culture that define you?
  • Articulate important protocols: What are ways that people working within your territory can be respectful of ICH?
  • Consider how an ICH policy can be effective both on and off reserve, in rural and urban contexts.
  • Build relationships with other organizations, museums and communities to learn from one another and mobilize support.