The Tŝilhqot’in Nation and UBC have signed agreements on August 11 to support Indigenous knowledge making in academic research.
The memorandum of understanding (MOU) and Indigenous Knowledge Protocol Agreement (IK Protocol) have been in development since 2016 as part of a collaborative effort between UBC and the Tŝilhqot’in. Both projects are products of the partnership of Tŝilhqot’in Chief Russel Myers-Ross and J.P. Laplante, Tŝilhqot’in Nen senior advisor.
Lerato Chondoma, associate director of the UBC Indigenous Research Support Initiative, said these projects have been “years in the making” and that the MOU will act as a foundation in building a long-term partnership.
“It’s a desire to work together collaboratively. It’s the desire to be equal partners. It’s the desire to fully understand what each of us brings to the table. And it’s the desire to make sure that we have processes and mechanisms that safeguard each other’s intellectual property and knowledge,” said Chondoma.
One concern that the IK Protocol addressed was the ownership of data.
Chondoma said that data has traditionally been owned by the researcher and institution, “so to have a document that actually outlines and specifies that ownership of Indigenous knowledge and data rests with the Tŝilhqot’in government” is a landmark for the university.
Chief Myers-Ross reiterated the importance of “cultural safety” which is a key feature in both agreements.
“Often research has been an extractive industry for Indigenous people, and it’s often been one way,” Myers-Ross said. “And I think at least the way we set up is that it’s more mutual this way: we’re getting what we want, and the university is getting what they want in terms of the type of research.”
Both Myers-Ross and Chondoma said that the MOU and IK Protocol are just one project focusing on knowledge and that they are working towards having an overarching agreement between UBC and the nation.
“The next step, really, is to get this overarching agreement between the Tŝilhqot’in National Government … to govern all research that will happen between UBC and the nation over the long term,” said Chondoma.