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On this page, we have used the term Indigenous Cultural Heritage to mean all components of Indigenous cultures, including but not limited to: dances, artwork, designs, stories, (oral) histories, traditions, protocols, legal systems and knowledges.
There are many essential considerations and protections in different Indigenous cultures that must be respected when you are working with Indigenous cultural heritage. These protections for Indigenous cultural heritage have not been incorporated into Canadian copyright law, and so much Indigenous cultural heritage is not considered protected under current copyright laws. (Brigitte Vézina and Alexis Muscat, Sharing Indigenous Cultural Heritage Online: An Overview of GLAM Policies, Creative Commons, August 8, 2020)
This problem was raised by Indigenous artists during the 2018 review of the Canadian Copyright Act, held by the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology (INDU). The following recommendation was included in the INDU Committee’s final report on the 2018 Copyright Act review:
- That the Government of Canada consult with Indigenous groups, experts, and other stakeholders on the protection of traditional arts and cultural expressions in the context of Reconciliation, and that this consultation address the following matters, among others: The recognition and effective protection of traditional arts and cultural expressions in Canadian law, within and beyond copyright legislation;
- The participation of Indigenous groups in the development of national and international intellectual property law;
- The development of institutional, regulatory, and technological means to protect traditional arts and cultural expressions..."
Respect for Indigenous cultural heritage is also supported by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action. For example, call #45 (subsection four) is to “[r]econcile Aboriginal and Crown constitutional and legal orders to ensure that Aboriginal peoples are full partners in Confederation, including the recognition and integration of Indigenous laws and legal traditions in negotiation and implementation processes involving Treaties, land claims, and other constructive agreements.”
In early December of 2020, the Liberal Government introduced a bill to "begin the process of bringing Canadian law into alignment with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People (UNDRIP)." (Ryan Patrick Jones, Liberals Introduce Bill to Implement UN Indigenous Rights Declaration, Canadian Broadcast Corporation (CBC) News, December 3, 2020).
More stories related to UNDRIP and Canada's involvement:
- UN Declaration to Help First Nations Achieve Self-Determination: Bellegarde, The Canadian Press, February 10, 2021, 65 CKOM;
- Six Provinces Urged Ottawa to Delay Tabling UNDRIP Legislation, But Were Rebuffed by Justice Minister by Kirsty Kirup and James Keller, December 4, 2020, updated February 2, 2021, The Globe and Mail;
- Implementing the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in Canada, Department of Justice Canada, Government of Canada.
Why is this important?
Indigenous cultural heritage has been copied, claimed, misused and misappropriated countless times. An example of Indigenous Knowledges and misappropriation can be found in the use of a sacred emblem and belonging to the Zia people of New Mexico, USA. More information about the emblem and its use can be found at the following:
- Favorite Sun by Kate Nelson, January 2019, New Mexico Magazine;
- Indigenous Knowledge Misappropriation: The Case Of the Zia Sun Symbol Explained at WIPO by Catherine Saez, December 11, 2018, Intellectual Property Watch (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0).
In Canada, the Maliseet First Nation lost many of their oral stories to Laszlo Szabo in the 1970's, when he obtained the copyright for making tape recordings of the stories. The community was able to reclaim and publish their own stories over forty years later. More information and details about this can be found at the following:
- Copyright Act Review an Opportunity to Press Feds on Aboriginal Issues by the Canadian Association for University Teachers (CAUT), October 2016, CAUT Bulletin;
- Rethinking Copyright for Indigenous Creative Works by Chidi Oquamanam, June 28, 2017, Policy Options;
- Who Owns Indigenous Cultural and Intellectual Property? by Andrea Bear Nicholas, June 27, 2017, Policy Options.
Our goal in creating this web page is to acknowledge that existing Canadian copyright law is not enough, progress is needed and we have much to learn. We must follow the laws, protocols and processes (i.e., as determined by Indigenous Elders) in order to respect the circumstances under which Indigenous cultural heritage may and may not be shared.
Research and Data
When conducting Indigenous research, there are many important considerations to ensure that the research is done in a respectful and good way. Memorial University has compiled a helpful, living web page of frequently asked questions about Indigenous research:
A few examples of questions included on the web page are:
- I want to work with Indigenous groups. Where do I start?
- Are there existing principles or best practices for doing research with Indigenous groups respectfully?
- How does intellectual property work with Indigenous peoples?
Research and Data - Books / Journal Articles
- Bannerman, S. (2016). International Copyright and Access to Knowledge, Cambridge University Press EBA;
- Callison, C., Roy, L., and LeCheminant, GA. (eds). (2016). Indigenous Notions of Ownership and Libraries, Archives and Museums, De Gruyter Saur;
- Littletree, S., Belarde-Lewis, M., and Duarte, M. (2020). Centering Relationality : A Conceptual Model to Advance Indigenous Knowledge Organization Practices, Knowledge Organization, 47, No. 05, 410-426;
- Mills, A. (2017). Learning to Listen: Archival Sound Recordings and Indigenous Cultural and Intellectual Property, Archivaria 83, 109-124;
- Seelye, M. (2017). The Protection of Indigenous Intellectual Property Rights, FIMS Presentations, 47;
- Tuhiwai Smith, L. (2012). Decolonizing Methodologies : Research and Indigenous Peoples, Zed Books;
- Walter, M., Kujutai, T., Carrol, S., and Rodriguez-Lonebear, D. (eds). (2020). Indigenous Data Sovereignty and Policy, Routledge (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0).
Research and Data - Online Resources
- AfricArXiv, The Pan-African Open Scholarly Repository;
- CARE Principles for Indigenous Data Governance;
- Collaboratory for Indigenous Data Governance, Research, Policy, and Practice for Indigenous Data Sovereignty;
- Data Conversations – Indigenous Data and Its Discontents by Deborah Lee, Kevin Read, Sarah Rutley, and Catherine Boden, October 20, 2020, Brain-Work: The C-EBLIP Blog, University Library, University of Saskatchewan;
- Decolonizing Digital Series, Indigenous Innovation:
- Decolonizing Digital: Contextualizing Indigenous Data Sovereignty
- Decolonizing Digital: Empowering Indigeneity through Data Sovereignty
- Decolonizing Digital: Data's Role in Indigenous Data Sovereignty
- Decolonizing Digital: The Future is Indigenous
- Decolonizing Digital: Our Data is our Right
- Decolonizing Digital: Developing Indigenous Digital Innovation;
- Global Indigenous Data Alliance (GIDA);
- Indigenous Research Methodologies, University of British Columbia;
- Introduction to Intellectual Property Rights and the Protection of Indigenous Knowledge and Cultural Expressions in Canada, Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada, Government of Canada;
- Indigenous Studies, Research Guide, University of Saskatchewan;
- IPinCH (Intellectual Property Issues in Cultural Heritage: Theory, Practice, Policy, Ethics), Simon Fraser University;
- Intellectual Property and Genetic Resources, Traditional Knowledge and Traditional Cultural Expressions, World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) (CC BY 3.0 IGO);
- Open Dialogues: Daniel Heath Justice on Decolonizing Open by Will Engle and Valeria De La Vega, August 19, 2020 (CC BY-NC 4.0);
- Open Science Beyond Open Access: For and with communities. A step towards the decolonization of knowledge by Chan, L., Hall, B., Piron, F., Tandon, R., and Williams, L., July 2020, Canadian Commission for UNESCO’s IdeaLab, Ottawa, Canada (CC BY-NC 4.0);
- Perspectives on Openness: Honouring Indigenous Ways of Knowing, YorkSpace, York University, October 20, 2020 (CC BY-NC 4.0);
- Research Data Management: Indigenous Data Sovereignty, Research Guide, University of Saskatchewan;
- Rez Dogs and Open Access by Jessie Loyer, Can we Decolonize Open? An Open Access Week Event at KPU Richmond, October 22, 2019, Kwantlen Poltechnic University;
- The First Nations Principles of OCAP®, First Nations Information Governance Centre (FNIGC);
- United States Indigenous Data Sovereignty Network.
Resources in Curriculum
- Aboriginal Research Resources, University Library, University of Saskatchewan;
- First Nations, Métis, and Inuit Content & Perspectives Across the Curriculum (FNMI, First Nations, Métis, Inuit, Aboriginal, Aboriginal ways of knowing, Aboriginal perspectives, K-12 curriculum) Research Guide, University of Saskatchewan;
- Indigenizing Academia by Stryker Calvez, Gwenna Moss Centre for Teaching and Learning, University of Saskatchewan;
- Indigenous Films, Research Guide, University of Saskatchewan;
- Indigenous Inclusion, The Learning Portal, College Libraries Ontario, (CC BY-NC 4.0);
- Indigenous Saskatchewan Encyclopedia, University of Saskatchewan;
- iPortal (Indigenous studies portal research tool), University of Saskatchewan;
- ReconciliAction Resources, Research Guide, University of Saskatchewan.
- Younging, G. (2018). Elements of Indigenous style : A guide for Writing By and About Indigenous Peoples, Brush Education;
- Editing and Reviewing Indigenous Research & Writing by Geoffrey Boyd and Vanessa Welz (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0) – Based on G. Younging book, Elements of Indigenous style : A guide for writing by and about Indigenous Peoples.
- APA page;
- MLA page;
- in-text citation page of the APA Citation Style guide; and
- Indigenous Elders and Knowledge Keepers on the APA Citation Style guide.
These templates were first developed by Lorisia MacLeod, a librarian at NorQuest College in Edmonton, in consultation with Elders and other librarians. We appreciate and acknowledge the time and effort it took to develop these guidelines. (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0) (NorQuest Details and Exceptions)
- NorQuest College Library: Referencing Indigenous Elders and Knowledge Keepers.
Sui Generis Projects
Sui generis is a Latin phrase that means "Of its own kind or class; i.e., the only one of its own kind; peculiar." (The Law Dictionary, featuring Black's Law Dictionary Free Online Legal Dictionary 2nd Ed.)."In the context of the Traditional Knowledge discourse, the term is commonly used to describe new laws and legislation developed exclusively to protect Traditional Knowledge." (Greg Young-ing, Intellectual Property Rights, Legislated Protection, Sui Generis Models and Ethical Access in the Transformation of Indigenous Traditional Knowledge, Thesis, October 2006)
There are ongoing projects from countries and regional organizations which help to protect Indigenous cultural heritages. It is the goal of these projects to offer ways of protecting Indigenous heritage that are not included in colonial copyright laws.
- Compilation of Information on National and Regional Sui Generis Regimes for the Intellectual Property Protection of Traditional Knowledge and Traditional Cultural Expressions, dated May 7, 2020. World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO);
- Local Contexts (Traditional Knowledge (TK) Labels and Licenses) (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0)
- "...an initiative to support Native, First Nations, Aboriginal, and Indigenous communities in the management of their intellectual property and cultural heritage specifically within the digital environment.";
- Mukurtu (MOOK-oo-too) Content Management System (CMS)
- "The free, mobile, and open source platform built with Indigenous communities to manage and share digital cultural heritage."
What examples come to mind when you think about cultural appropriation? If you do an online search of Native American Halloween costumes, results will include an abundance of images of non-Indigenous people of all ages wearing "inspired" costumes with headdresses, weapons and are then posed in a stereotypical fashion. Or, Pharrell donning a headdress for a magazine cover. Is this cultural appropriation? What about Grey Owl? An Englishman assuming the identity of an Indigenous person and their heritage. Imagine you attend a gallery exhibit of art "inspired" by Indigenous art, but created by a non-Indigenous person. Does that art still have the same meaning and value behind the style, shapes, lines, patterns, form, beings, and colours represented in it? Consider the following articles:
- 'Headdress' is a doc you need to watch — especially on #NationalAboriginalDay by CBC Life, Updated June 21, 2017, Canadian Broadcast Corporation (CBC) News;
- Toronto Gallery Cancels Show After Concerns Artist 'Bastardizes' Indigenous Art by Shanifa Nasser, Updated May 10, 2017, Canadian Broadcast Corporation (CBC) News;
- Fake Art Hurts Indigenous Artists as Appropriators Profit by Francesca Fionda, November 30, 2018, the Discourse;
- Cultural Appropriation Keeps Happening Because Clear Laws Simply Don’t Exist by Brigitte Vézina, December 22, 2019, Toronto Star.
These examples of cultural appropriation, as well as additional readings listed in the Book / Journals and Online subsections below, demonstrate the importance of respecting and protecting the traditions, stories, spirituality and culture present in much Indigenous art. There are inherent issues in non-Indigenous peoples capitalizing on Indigenous work without acknowledgement or permission. For so many years, the cultures of Indigenous groups and Indigenous people of Canada have been stripped from them because of the Indian Act enacted in 1876, residential schools (1880's to late the 1990's) and the Sixties Scoop. In its own way, cultural appropriation is a continuation of this mistreatment.
But, what if I want to wear something that was designed and sewn by an Indigenous artist like moccasins, purchase handmade items at the Graduation Powwow, or wear a ribbon skirt to a smudging ceremony at the Gordon Oakes Red Bear Student Centre? Yes, yes and YES!
Author and radio host Rosanna Deerchild states that cultural appreciation, "truly honours our nations’ arts and cultures. You take the time to learn and interact, to gain understanding of a culture, or cultures, different from your own. It is a cultural exchange based on mutual respect and the key is consent and participation. If it is about us, it must include us.” (Cultural Appropriation vs. Appreciation, June 1, 2017, Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) News)
- Cultural Appreciation of Contemporary Indigenous Music in Canada, UBC Wiki, University of British Columbia;
- Cultural Appropriation of Indigenous Cultures In North America by Natasha Byrne, January 11, 2021, U Multicultural Channel;
- Cultural Appropriation vs. Appreciation, Elementary Teachers' Federation of Ontario (ETFO);
- How to Culturally Appreciate and Not Culturally Appropriate by Donia Tazi, December 9, 2015, Dazed;
- Racially Conscious Guide, Canadian Cultural Mosaic Foundation.
Cultural Appropriation - Books / Journal Articles
- Berman, Tressa. (ed). (2012). No deal! Indigenous Arts and the Politics of Possession, School for Advanced Research Press;
- Fennn, Stewart, Grey Owl in the White Settler Wilderness: “Imaginary Indians” in Canadian Culture and the Humanities, Feb 2018, Vol.14(1), pp. 161-181;
- Udy, Vanessa, The Appropriation of Aboriginal Cultural Heritage: Examining the Uses and Pitfalls of the Canadian Intellectual Property Regime, December 10, 2014, Robic;
- Young, James O. (2008). Cultural Appropriation and the Arts, Blackwell Publishing;
- Young, James O. and Brunk, Conrad G. (eds). (2009). The Ethics of Cultural Appropriation, Wiley Blackwell;
- Ziff, Bruce and Roa, Pratima V. (eds). (1997). Borrowed Power : Essays on Cultural Appropriation, Rutgers University Press.
Cultural Appropriation - Online Resources
- Curbing Cultural Appropriation in the Fashion Industry by Brigitte Vézina, CIGI Papers No. 213, April 3, 2019, (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0);
- Cultural appropriation vs. artistic licence: How far have we really come? by Zuelkha Nathoo, updated May 14, 2017, Canadian Broadcast Corporation (CBC) News;
- Cultural Appropriation in Fashion: Is Copyright the Answer? by Brigitte Vézina, ABC Copyright Conference 2019 presentation (CC BY-NC-SA 2.5 CA), HARVEST;
- Ensuring Respect for Indigenous Cultures: A Moral Rights Approach by Brigitte Vézina, CIGI Papers No. 243 — May 29, 2020, (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0);
- From ‘Appropriation Prize’ Controversy, A New Indigenous Writing Award is Born by Marsha Lederman, October 19, 2017, The Globe and Mail;
- Guide to Intellectual Property and Copyright, Shared Spaces, University of Saskatchewan Art Galleries & Collection;
- Native/American Fashion: Inspiration, Appropriation, and Cultural Identity symposium (April 22, 2017 - YouTube, PDF Guide), National Museum of the American Indian;
- On Cultural Appropriation, Canadians Are Hypocrites by Robert Jago, updated Nov. 11, 2019, The Walrus;
- Introducing B.C.'s Hairy Giants by J. W. Burns, April 1, 1929, Maclean's;
- Protect and Promote Your Culture - A Practical Guide to Intellectual Property for Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities, 2017, World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) (CC BY 3.0 IGO);
- Why Cultural Appropriation is Disrespectful, October 04, 2020, Indigenous Corporate Training Inc..
- Battiste, Marie and Youngblood Henderson, James [Sa'ke'j]. (2000). Protecting Indigenous Knowledge and Heritage : A Global Challenge, Purich;
- Gray, Lynda. (2011). First Nations 101, Adaawx Publishing;
- Vowel, Chelsea. (2016). Indigenous Writes : A Guide to First Nations, Métis, and Inuit Issues in Canada, HighWater Press.
- Ay, There’s the Rub: When You Cannot (or Should Not) Copy Something Despite its Lack of Copyright Protection by Hugh Stephens, January 18, 2021, Hugh Stephens Blog, Insights on International Copyright Issues;
- Can Copyright Law Protect Indigenous Culture? If Not, What is the Answer? by Hugh Stephens, October 8, 2019, Hugh Stephens Blog, Insights on International Copyright Issues;
- ē-micimināyakik - Museums, Cultural Centres, Archives, Interpretive Centres & Libraries Gathering on May 2-3, 2019; hosted by Saskatchewan Indigenous Cultural Centre (SICC);
- Highlights from the Report of the Royal Commission on Aboriginal People, based on the five volumes, October 1996 Report of the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples, Government of Canada;
- Intergovernmental Committee on Intellectual Property and Genetic Resources, Traditional Knowledge and Folklore (IGC), World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO);
- Office of the Treaty Commissioner;
- On-Screen Protocols & Pathways: A Media Production Guide to Working with First Nations, Métis and Inuit Communities, Cultures, Concepts and Stories by Marcia Nickerson;
- United Nations Declaration on the Right of Indigenous People, Government of Canada, Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada;
- United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, article 11, sections 1 and 2, United Nations, Department of Economic and Social Affairs Indigenous Peoples.
"As we gather here today, we acknowledge we are on Treaty 6 Territory and the Homeland of the Métis. We pay our respect to the First Nations and Métis ancestors of this place and reaffirm our relationship with one another." University Council
As Treaty people, we recognize that treaties are “mutually beneficial arrangements that guarantee a co-existence between the treaty parties. Newcomers and their descendants benefit from the wealth generated from the land and the foundational rights provided in the treaties. They built their society in this new land where some were looking for political and religious freedoms. Today, there are misconceptions that only First Nations people are part of the treaties, but in reality, both parties are part of treaty. All people in Saskatchewan are treaty people.” (Office of the Treaty Commissioner, Treaty Essential Learnings: We Are All Treaty People, August 2008, page 16)
If you are interested in writing your own land acknowledgement for your class, presentation, personal or reconciliation reasons, find below some resources to help guide you.
- Indigenous Voices Program, Gwenna Moss Centre for Teaching and Learning, University of Saskatchewan;
- Keeptwo, Suzanne. (2020). We All Go Back to the Land : The Who, Why, and How of Land Acknowledgments, Brush Education Inc;
- Land Acknowledgements, Gwenna Moss Centre for Teaching and Learning, University of Saskatchewan.