The eagle flies the highest in the sky, and in a coast salish story people would seek guidance from the eagle to gain knowledge of faraway places. This representational eagle wing relief was created to bring the knowledge to students as they seek guidance in their studies. -- Marissa Nahanee

Contact Ashley Edwards, Indigenous Initiatives and Instruction Librarian, with any questions.

Indigenous pedagogy 

Indigenous pedagogy (or the method and practice of teaching) incorporates Indigenous worldviews into engagement with information. As Wendy Burton and Gwen Point (Stó:lō) write in their work on Indigenous adult education, “the rubric of Indigenous education [is]: look, listen, and learn” (2006, p. 37). They go on to say that education was context specific, with stories and ceremony being essential pedagogical tools (Burton & Point, 2006). 

The foundations of Indigenous pedagogy are respect, mutual learning between student and teacher, and positionality or recognizing that everyone has different experiences that brought them to this learning (Kamanski, 2008). 

Using narrative practice, or storywork as described by Q’um Q’um Xiiem (Dr. Jo-ann Archibald, Stó:lō), Indigenous pedagogies highlight the interconnectedness of all living things. Through oral traditions, stories, and land based teaching, education using Indigenous pedagogies supports a holistic learning environment, and teaches about the relationality of people, plants, animals, and environment (Kamanski, 2008).



Two-Eyed Seeing and other lessons learned within a co-learning journey of bringing together indigenous and mainstream knowledges and ways of knowing. Cheryl Bartlett, Murdena Marshall, & Albert Marshall, Journal of environmental studies and sciences, 2012, 2(4).

Culturally Responsive Pedagogy: Indigenizing Curriculum, Karen Ragoonaden & Lyle Mueller, The Canadian Journal of Higher Education, 2017, 47(2).

Indigenous Pedagogy as a Force for Change, Soenke Biermann, Marcelle Townsend-Cross, The Australian journal of indigenous education, 2008, 37 (S1).

Niinwi-Kiinwa-Kiinwi: Building Non-Indigenous Allies in Education through Indigenous Pedagogy, Lindsay Morcom, Kate Freeman, Canadian Journal of Education, 2018, 41 (3)

Indigenous research methods

For years Indigenous scholars have been seeking “methodological approaches to research that respect Indigenous cultural knowings” (Kovach (Nêhiýaw and Saulteaux), 2009, p. 24). Indigenous research methods are ways to “encompass tribal or Indigenous epistemologies” (Kovach, 2009, p. 21). These methods value learning through the lived experiences of the researcher or student (Younging (Cree), 2018), and Wilson (Cree; 2008) points out that “Traditional Indigenous research emphasizes learning by watching and doing” (p. 40).

Indigenous research methods have their foundations in relationality and accountability (Bourassa (Métis), 2018 ; Wilson,  2008). There is also a relationship between the researcher and the information gathered (Wilson, 2008). Integral to these relationships are the 4Rs as identified by Verna J. Kirkness (Cree) and Ray Barnhardt (2001): respect, relevance, responsibility, and reciprocity. In a research and university setting, this means recognizing the value and importance of other knowledge and ways of knowing.

For more, listen to this IPinCH conversation with Dr. Linda Tuhiwai Smith on decolonizing research.

For information on integrating IRM into your practice, see the Respectful research page.



Ancestral Knowledge Systems: A Conceptual Framework for Decolonizing Research in Social Science, R.M. Sandoval, AlterNative : An international journal of indigenous scholarship, 2016, 12(1).

Pushing the Academy: The Need for Decolonizing Research, Derek Antoine, Canadian Journal of Communication, 2017, 42(1).

What Is an Indigenous Research Methodology? Shawn Wilson, Canadian Journal of Native Education, 2001, 25(2).

I Am My Subject: Blending Indigenous Research Methodology and Autoethnography Through Integrity-based, Spirit-based Research, Onowa Mcivor, Canadian Journal of Native Education, 2010, 33(1).


On the colonial nature of systems of research and evaluation | SFUCOVNET 2020-11-18 [video presentation, 42 min] Kim Van Der Woerd, SFU Office of Community Engagement VPER, November 24, 2020

Indigenous ways of knowing

Indigenous ways of knowing (or Indigenous epistemology) are deeply linked to both Indigenous pedagogy and Indigenous research methods (Wilson (Cree), 2008). As Dr. Marie Battiste (Mi’kmaw) writes “Indigenous knowledges are diverse learning processes that come from living intimately with the land, working with resources surrounding that land base, and the relationships that it has fostered over time and place” (2013, p. 33). In his work on the relationality of knowledge to individuals, Wilson (2008) states that in an Indigeous paradigm “knowledge is seen as belonging to the cosmos of which we are a part and where researchers are only the interpreters of this knowledge” (p. 38). 

Wilson points out that as a result of this relationship, research and knowledge changes the learner (2008), something alluded to in Dr. Margaret Kovach’s (Nêhiýaw and Saulteaux) examination of Plains Cree ways of knowing being inward and outward (2009, p. 67-68). It is the combination of this inward and outward understanding that she identified as “mak[ing] mainstream academia uncomfortable” (p. 67) because Western academic traditions do not incorporate sacred or spiritual knowledge. In Indigenous epistemology, the “physical, social, and spiritual relationships” (Battiste, 2013, p. 33) are the foundations of ways of knowing. As Dr. Shawn Wilson wrote, “This is our epistemology. Thinking about the world around us as a web of connections and relationships. Nothing could be without being in a relationship, without its context” (p. 77).



Indigeneity, an alternative worldview: four R's (relationship, responsibility, reciprocity, redistribution) vs. two P's (power and profit). Sharing the journey towards conscious evolution. La Donna Harris & Jacqueline Wasilewski, Systems research and behavioral science, 2004, 21(5).

The Courage to Be Altered: Indigenist Decolonization for Teachers, Sae Hoon Stan Chung, New Directions for Teaching and Learning, 2019, 157.

Indigenous Ways of Knowing: Implications for Participatory Research and Community, Patricia A. L. Cochran, Catherine A. Marshall, Carmen Garcia-Downing, Elizabeth Kendall, Doris Cook, Laurie McCubbin, Reva Mariah S. Gover, American Journal of Public Health, 2008, 98(1).

Adapting Western research methods to Indigenous ways of knowing, Vanessa W. Simonds, Suzanne Christopher, American Journal of Public Health, 2013, 103(12).

Cultivating Spiritual Intelligence: Honoring Heart Wisdom and First Nations Indigenous Ways of Knowing, Nancy-Angel Doetzel, Interchange, 2018, 49(4).


Decolonizing Language Revitalization [video presentation, 1 hr 56 min] April Charlo & Khelsilem Rivers, Simon Fraser University, January 2, 2015

Intellectual property rights

Indigenous Intellectual Property Rights are complex, and have many different aspects. This is only a brief summary, followed by a selection of sources for more information.

Intellectual property rights are protected by Canadian copyright law, and apply to works created by an individual (i.e., book, piece of music, choreography, photograph, etc.). This protection applies for the length of the creator, plus a set number of years after their passing. For Indigenous Traditional Knowledge the Canadian Copyright Act does not provide sufficient protection, because the knowledge is often communally held rather than individually (Wemigwans (Ojibwe/Potawatomi), 2018 ; Younging (Cree), 2018). 

Gregory Younging (2018) provides an overview of Indigenous Customary Laws, and writes that they are “intimately intertwined and connected with TK and form what can be viewed as whole and complete, integrated, complex Indigenous knowledge systems throughout the world” (p. 116). (TK = Tradition Knowledge; for more on the topic see the SFU IPinCH Traditional Knowledge fact sheet). These systems existed for hundreds of years before colonization (Younging, 2018), and are different for each community (Wemigwans, 2018). Often referred to as Indigenous Protocols, these Customary Laws can be found within Oral Traditions and teachings (Younging, 2018). They are dynamic, changing in response to society and community needs (Younging, 2018). Currently there is a movement to document these Customary Laws or Protocols, so that they can be adapted to fit into current legal systems (Younging, 2018 ; see page 116 for examples). 

Indigenous Traditional Knowledge is often vulnerable because “Neither the common law or international treaties place Indigenous Customary Law on equal footing with other sources of law” (Younging, 2018, p. 117). For example, since knowledge is communally held it is not protected by the Candian Copyright Act and can be considered part of the public domain of knowledge (Younging, 2018). Another example is the Open Access movement, which has a lot of positive impacts on sharing scholarly works but when it comes to Indigenous Traditional Knowledge, protocols might mean only certain families should have access or stories/songs/dances only shared at certain times of the year (Loyer (Cree-Métis), 2019). Traditional Knowledge labels have been developed to help identity protocols, and teach non-community members about cultural heritage.



Protecting indigenous cultural property in the age of digital democracy: Institutional and communal responses to Canadian First Nations and Māori heritage concerns, Deidre Brown, George Nicholas, Amiria Salmond, Billie Lythberg, Journal of material culture, 2012, 17(3).

Does information really want to be free? Indigenous knowledge systems and the question of openness, Kimberly Christen, International journal of communication (Online), 2012. 

“Of Course, Data Can Never Fully Represent Reality”: Assessing the Relationship between “Indigenous Data” and “Indigenous Knowledge,” “Traditional Ecological Knowledge,” and “Traditional Knowledge”, Marisa Elena Duarte, Morgan Vigil-Hayes, Sandra Littletree, Miranda Belarde-Lewis, Human biology, 2019, 91 (3). 

Promoting or Protecting Traditional Knowledges? Tensions in the Resurgence of Indigenous Food Practices on Vancouver Island, Megan K. Muller, International Indigenous policy journal, 2018, 9(4).

Aboriginal traditional knowledge and intellectual property rights : discussion paper, Assembly of First Nations, 2011.


Archibald, J. (2008). Indigenous storywork: Educating the heart, mind, body, and spirit.

Battiste, M. (2013). Decolonizing education: Nourishing the learning spirit.

Bourassa, C. (2018). Knowledge, ceremony and an Indigenous approach to research. [podcast]

Burton, W., Point, G. (2006). Histories of Aboriginal adult education in Canada. In Contexts of adult education: Canadian perspectives.

Government of Alberta. (n.d.). Aboriginal pedagogy: An excerpt from Peoples and Cultural Change teacher resource.

Kamanski, J. (2008). Way of the tireless runner: An Aboriginal pedagogical guide. (listed as: Workshop Leader: First Nations Pedagogy on author's website).

Kirkness, V.J. & Barnhardt, R. (2001). First Nations and higher education : the four R's, respect, relevance, reciprocity, responsibility. In Knowledge across cultures : a contribution to dialogue among civilizations. 

Kovach, M. (2009). Indigenous methodologies: Characteristics, conversations, and contexts.

Loyer, J. (2019). Can we decolonize Open?

Wemigwans, J. (2018). A digital bundle: Protecting and promoting Indigenous Knowledge online.

Wilson, S. (2008). Research is ceremony: Indigenous research methods.

Younging, G. (2018). Elements of Indigenous style: A guide for writing by and about Indigenous Peoples.