Research Policies for Indigenous Cultural Heritage

When people from outside an Indigenous community come into the territory to conduct research related to ICH, it’s important that they understand that the information they collect remains the cultural and intellectual property of the community and should be respected as such. Having a policy in place to define and establish positions and protocols around cultural heritage research is a good way to help protect it.

When creating a policy on ICH research, ICH teams can consider including the components outlined below:

Policy Statement

A policy statement articulates the position of the community or Nation regarding research, intellectual property rights and the cultural protocols for collecting and using Indigenous knowledge.

Research Protocols

A research protocols section includes instructions and specific protocols that researchers or anyone else collecting information must follow. For example:

  • How and who to ask permission to conduct research
  • How the community will benefit from research conducted on their territory
  • How the knowledge may be used, and by whom
  • Responsibilities of the researcher to the community/Nation
  • Requirements to credit Knowledge Keepers
  • The community’s right to review research before it is published
  • Where and how the research and related materials will be stored and for how long
  • Requirements to ensure community members have access to the information, including copies

Click here for an example of a First Nation’s Research Policy.

Principles of OCAP®

When thinking about what to include in a research policy, it may be helpful to refer to The First Nations Information Governance Centre’s “Principles of OCAP®” (ownership, control, access and possession.) OCAP® is useful as a framework and a tool for communicating respectful ways of interacting with First Nations and their ICH. First Nations can encourage interested outside parties to use the Principles of OCAP® when interacting with their intellectual property.

Ownership: First Nations people individually and collectively own their community and cultural knowledge in the same ways that an individual owns their personal information, such as their personal stories, experiences and family tree.

Control: Control over First Nations knowledge ensures that there is accurate representation and that culture does not get taken out of context. First Nations communities have the right to control their own cultural heritage, which extends to research, information management and development.

Access: First Nations have the right to access their cultural knowledge, information and data that relates to them. Managing and making decisions regarding First Nations knowledge is an important part of sovereignty.

Possession: This value describes the importance of First Nations knowledge and information remaining in the hands of First Nations people. This can also be described as stewardship or the physical management of First Nations cultural heritage.