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.

Wondering how to find Indigenous ideas and writing on your topic? Our Finding Indigenous Voices page includes some starting points and tips for finding Indigenous scholars, authors, and perspectives.

Copyright and Indigenous Knowledge

The prevailing understanding of intellectual property protection in Canada’s IP legislation does not recognize the rights of Indigenous communities to define and apply the terms that govern access to, and use of, Indigenous Knowledge. Consequently, in the past researchers have appropriated Indigenous Knowledge from the community and made claims to it under different IP legislation – copyright, patents or trademark. Alternatively, some researchers have claimed that Indigenous Knowledge is in the public domain (not protected by copyright, not patented, etc) and thus they treated Indigenous Knowledge just as they would treat an out of copyright book.

Indigenous protocols are different from the intellectual property regimes commonly utilized globally to protect the commercial value of works. Within Indigenous protocols there are different practices in who 'owns' knowledge. In many Indigenous communities, knowledge is held within a family. Some knowledge has additional protocols regarding who and when it can be shared. An initiative, Local Contexts, was founded to support Indigenous communities manage their intellectual property through the creation of Traditional Knowledge Labels. While not legally binding, these labels can be used alongside both copyright and Creative Commons licenses to add existing protocols related to use and access. 

The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) protects Indigenous Knowledge, however it is not a legally binding document. UNDRIP states that Indigenous People have the right "to maintain, protect, and develop the past, present and future manifestations of their cultures" (p. 11). It is up to the researcher to act in good faith when working with or in an Indigenous community.

While there are similarities between Indigenous Peoples regarding Indigenous Knowledge, when doing research with and/or in a community, it's imperative that you learn their protocols regarding knowledge sharing. Ask when unsure, and be open to being corrected as needed. There is a long history of knowledge extraction, and people may be hesitant to share without a respectful relationship in place.


Aboriginal Traditional Knowledge and Intellectual Property Rights [discussion paper] Assembly of First Nations

Intellectual Property Issues in Cultural Heritage (IPinCH) [project] (Note: This project is based out of SFU.)

Introduction to Intellectual Property Rights and the Protection of Indigenous Knowledge and Cultural Expressions in Canada [government guide] Government of Canada

Copyright at SFU [guide] Simon Fraser University

Sq'éwlets : A Stó:lō-Coast Salish community in the Fraser River Valley [virtual museum and archive] Stó:lō Research and Resource Management Centre / Stó:lō Nation (Note: This website uses Traditional Knowledge Labels.)

Think before you appropriate: Things to know and questions to ask in order to avoid misappropriating Indigenous cultures [guide] Intellectual Property Issues in Cultural Heritage (IPinCH)

Traditional Knowledge and Intellectual Property - Background Brief [brief] World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO)

TCPS 2 (2018) – Chapter 9: Research Involving the First Nations, Inuit and Métis Peoples of Canada [guide] Tri-Council Policy Statement, Government of Canada

Indigenous data sovereignty 

Related to copyright and Indigenous Knowledge is Indigenous data sovereignty. In her 2019 article, María Montenegro writes that "data sovereignty typically refers to the understanding that data is subject to the laws of the nation within which it is stored, while Indigenous data sovereignty understands data as subject to the laws of the nation from which is collected." Meaning, each Nation and community has the write to "govern the collection, ownership, and application of its own data" (International Indigenous Data Sovereignty Interest Group).

Data is thought of as either qualitative (narrative) or quantitative (numbers). So what is Indigenous data, and how is it different? According to Indigenous Innovation blog, by Animikii Inc., "regalia, songs, art, language, ceremonies, mentorships, perceptions of land, oral traditions, cultural teachings, and world creation stories are all examples of Indigenous Data usage" (post 3 of 6 on "Decolonizing Digital": Data's role in Indigenous data sovereignty). It is recommended to ask questions using the OCAP principles: who owns the data, who controls the data, who accesses the data, and who possesses the data (post 2 of 6: Empowering Indigeneity through data sovereignty). Access is doubly important since not all Indigenous data should be open data with some being culturally sensitive, and there's always the concern of misinterpretation or misuse (Animikii post 5 of 6, Our data is our right). 



Indigenous data, Indigenous methodologies and Indigenous data sovereignty, Maggie Walter and Michele Suina (2018), International journal of social research methodology, 22(3).

Indigenous data sovereignty: Retooling Indigenous resurgence for development, Chidi Oguamanam (2019). Centre for International Governance Innovation. 

Indigenous data sovereignty in higher education : Towards a decolonised data quality framework, Judith Wilks, Gillian Kennedy, Neil Drew, and Katie Wilson, (2018), The Australian universities' review, 60(2).

Subverting the universality of metadata standards: The TK labels as a tool to promote Indigenous data sovereignty, María Montenegro (2019). Journal of Documentation, 75(4). 

The CARE principles for Indigenous data governance, Stephanie Russo Carroll et al. (2020), Data science journal, 19(1).


Can We Decolonize Open? [multi-part video series, 2 hr 15 min total] Jessie Loyer, Kwantlen Polytechnic University, October 24, 2019

CARE principles for Indigenous Data Governance [guide] Global Indigenous Data Alliance (GIDA) 

Collaboration Works Two Ways: Data Sovereignty and Representation in Indigenous Digital Humanities [video presentation, 1 hr 12 min] Courteney Durand, David Gaertner, Gerry Lawson, Mark Turin, Maya Daurio, & Tricia Logan, UBC-V Public Humanities Hub, November 16, 2020

Data as Relation: Indigenous Data Sovereignty and Ethic of Care [video presentation, 1 hr 1 min] Kayla Lar-Son, iassistdata, February 2, 2021

Indigenous Data Sovereignty SFU Library Research Data Management guide

Indigenous Data Sovereignty [video presentation, 1 hr 2 min] Maggie Walter & Stephanie Carroll Rainie, School of Social Transformation (Arizona State University), December 5, 2018

Indigenous Knowledge Architecture and Metadata Workshops [multi-part video series, 3 hr total] Stacy Allison-Cassin, Vulnerable Media Lab, June 25, 2020

Season Two (Book Women Podcast) [podcast series] Book Women Podcast (Note: "Episode 6 - Data Sovereignty" is especially relevant.)

The First Nations Principles of OCAP [guide and course] First Nations Information Governance Centre

Indigenous information literacy

Critical information literacy encourages the reader to go beyond the words of a text, and consider the author/creator's motivation behind its creation, and the viewpoint being presented (McNicol, 2016). The idea behind critical information literacy is to interact with the work in order to “develop an understanding of the cultural, ideological and sociolinguistic contexts in which they are created and read." (McNicol, 2016, p. xi). This means understanding that the author brings their own biases to the text, as does a reader who makes meaning of the work through the lens of their lived experiences (McNichol, 2016). 

By engaging in critical information literacy, readers are encouraged to ask questions like where the power is in the text, whose viewpoint is present, and whose is missing (McNichol, 2016, p. 6). Indigenous information literacy (sometimes referred to as critical Indigenous literacy) encourages readers to consider identity and Indigenous representation along with the questions mentioned above. In a 2020 article, Sara Florence Davidson (Haida/settler) shares some questions she considered when evaluating Indigenous resources. The article was written to help teachers in public schools with regard to the new BC curriculum, they would be helpful in assessing non-fiction works used in research.

Davidson asks people to consider:

  • Who developed the resource?
  • How are Indigenous Peoples represented in the source?
  • Does the resource contain traditional Indigenous stories?
  • Does the resource contain Indigenous art?
  • Does the resource contain references to or depictions of ceremonial information?
  • Does the resource honour the diversity of Indigenous Peoples?
  • Does the resource portray Indigenous Peoples authentically and accurately?

In addition to the questions posed by Davidson, Gregory Younging's (Opaskwayak Cree Nation) book, Elements of Indigenous Style, is helpful in understanding the process that Traditional Knowledge was colonized that can assist when evaluating a resource to be used in either the classroom or research. His book includes 22 principles of Indigenous style, case studies, and a brief history of the portrayal of Indigenous Peoples in literature. 


Critical Indigenous literacies: Selecting and using children's books about Indigenous Peoples, Debbie Reese (2018). Language arts, 95(6).

The urgent need for anticolonial media literacy, Ashley Cordes, Leilani Sabzalian (2020), International journal of multicultural education, 22(2).


American Indians in Children's Literature (AICL) [blog] Debbie Reese

Bias Evaluation Instrument [assessment tool] Nova Scotia Department of Education and Early Childhood Development

Critical Indigenous Literacy [library guide] Xwi7xwa Library, University of British Columbia 

Indigenous Information Literacy - Background [video presentation, 55 min] Rachel Chong, Kwantlen Polytechnic University (KPU), January 22, 2021 (Note: This is a precursor to KPU's Indigenous Information Literacy series.)

Indigenous research methods

This section will provide information on how to integrate IRM into your work. For an introduction to IRM, see the Indigenous knowledge and pedagogy page.




Indigenous knowledge in post-secondary educators' practices: Nourishing the learning spirit, Jonathan Anuik, Carmen L. Gillies (2012). Canadian journal of higher education, 42(1).

Paradigm shifting: centering Indigenous research methodologies, an Anishinaabe perspective, Tricia D. McGuier-Adams (2020). Qualitative research in sport, exercise and health, 12(1).

Practical application of an Indigenous research framework and two qualitative Indigenous Research Methods: Sharing circles and Anishnaabe symbol-based reflection, Lynn Lavallée (2009). International journal of qualitative methods, 8(1).

When research is relational: Supporting the research practices of Indigenous Studies scholars (Ithaka S+R)

Writing and citing



Four Feathers Writing Guide [guide] Royal Roads University

Inclusive and antiracist writing overview [guide] Student Learning Commons, Simon Fraser University

Indigenous Research Methodologies: Writing Up [guide] Xwi7xwa Library, University of British Columbia 


Citation Practices challenge [project] Critical Ethnic Studies, University of Minnesota Press, April 2015 (Note: The descriptions and posts provide encouragement to critically examine your citation practices.)

Citing Indigenous Elders and Knowledge Keepers [guide] Citation & Style Guides, Simon Fraser University

Decolonizing Citations [video presentation, 1 hr 10 min] Centre for Teaching, Learning, and Technology, University of British Columbia, November 2, 2020

More than personal communication: Citation templates for Elders and Knowledge Keepers [video presentation, 29 min] Lorisia MacLeod, thealbertalibraryTAL, August 4, 2020

Indigenous Research Methodologies: Citing [guide] Xwi7xwa Library, University of British Columbia 

References and additional readings

Community Engaged Research Initiative. (2021). Community resources handbook: A guide to community-engaged research

Davidson, S.F. (2020). Evaluating Indigenous sources for classroom use. Teacher Magazine.

Intellectual Property Issues in Cultural Heritage Project (2015). Think before you appropriate. Things to know and questions to ask in order to avoid misappropriating Indigenous cultural heritage.

McNicol, S. (2016). Introduction. In Critical literacy for information professionals

McNicol, S. (2016). Renegotiating the place of fiction in libraries through critical literacy. In Critical literacy for information professionals.