media release

Intellectual property project lands govt. award

October 15, 2013

George Nicholas (Burnaby resident), 778.782.5709,
Kristen Dobbin, IPinCH communications, 778.782.9682,
Yoan St-Onge, 613.614.3861, (best access to Nicholas in Montreal Oct. 15)
Susan Thorpe, +64 3 3050457, (email best contact)
Carol Thorbes, PAMR, 778.782.3035,


Simon Fraser University archaeologist George Nicholas, who is in the Faculty of Environment, is surprised to hear that a federal research-funding agency has awarded a global group that he leads $50,000. Its large-scale use of a methodology that puts indigenous community partners in the drivers’ seat of the research process is unprecedented.

The funding accompanies the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada’s (SSHRC’s) Partnership Award, which the Intellectual Property Issues in Cultural Heritage (IPinCH) Project, led by Nicholas, has garnered over two other finalists.

The new money allows the group to expand its work on intellectual property (IP) issues in cultural heritage.

IPinCH is the SSHRC Partnership Award’s first recipient. The award is one of five categories of the funding agency’s new Impact Awards.

Through 15 global community-based initiatives, case studies and special projects, IPinCH’s 52 scholars and 26 partnering universities and organizations are addressing a variety of IP-related concerns about cultural heritage. An initial $2.5 million SSHRC grant launched the global project in 2008.

Its efforts are reflected in 47 journal articles, 17 book chapters, nine books and a long legacy of tangible and practical outcomes that address community needs when it comes to IP and cultural heritage matters. IPinCH has also provided fellowships and employment to 64 graduate students, recognizing that this new generation of scholars will further advance this work.

IPinCH has supported indigenous communities from the Canadian Arctic to the Australian outback and the steppes of Kyrgyzstan by reuniting them with their cultural artifacts, staving off linguistic extinction, developing cultural tourism and accomplishing much more.

Nicholas sees the Partnership Award as SSHRC’s validation of IPinCH’s unparalleled work in supporting indigenous communities across the globe in protecting their cultural heritage and IP.

He also sees the award as reflecting SSHRC’s and academics’ growing recognition of community-based participatory research’s validity and value as a primary methodology in working with indigenous communities.

“To obtain SSHRC’s original grant, it took us several attempts to convince the adjudication committee that giving considerable control of the research process to the partnering communities—in essence allowing them to lead the research—is the way to go,” explains Nicholas.

IPinCH’s support of indigenous communities in their cultural heritage’s reclamation is winning those communities’ praise. During a recent meeting of IPinCH team members, Anishinable Elder Sydney Martin, from the United States, remarked: “IPinCH is a living thing; it has a spirit.”

Archeologist Susan Thorpe, who works on an IPinCH project in which New Zealand’s Moriori have created a database to preserve traditional knowledge of their cultural landscape, has witnessed the project’s positive outcomes firsthand.

“We have found that engaging in research with IPinCH members as collaborative partners has enhanced our control over our intellectual property,” says Thorpe. “We’ve created a multi-layer database that ties together research on Moriori identity, heritage protection, land use and resource management in culturally sensitive ways.”

Nicholas, a 25-year veteran of teaching about and working with indigenous communities, says IPinCH has a shopping list of projects to be financed by the SSHRC Partnership Award. At the top of the list are: a community-based research workshop and public symposium, an IPinCH national research ethics policy forum and a public speaker series on intangible cultural heritage.

Simon Fraser University is Canada's top-ranked comprehensive university and one of the top 50 universities in the world under 50 years old. With campuses in Vancouver, Burnaby and Surrey, B.C., SFU engages actively with the community in its research and teaching, delivers almost 150 programs to more than 30,000 students, and has more than 120,000 alumni in 130 countries.


Simon Fraser University: Engaging Students. Engaging Research. Engaging Communities.

Backgrounder: IPinCH lands major federal award

IPinCH projects to be funded by SSHRC Partnership Award

  • Community-based research workshop and public symposium that will bring together team members involved in case studies to share their findings with one another and to work towards making their studies more accessible to broader audiences.
  • IPinCH national research ethics policy forum that will engage researchers, government, policy makers, funding agencies and representatives from indigenous organizations and communities in improving existing and developing new effective ethics policies. This event will include speakers and participants from across Canada and abroad, and draw on IPinCH’s development of innovative approaches as case examples.
  • Public speaker series on intangible cultural heritage as a way to share study findings and highlight the project’s innovative approach to research.

Highlights of IPinCH projects/achievements include:

  • A Case of Access: Inuvialuit Engagement with the Smithsonian’s MacFarlane Collection (Northwest Territories, Canada) brought together community members and filmmakers to the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. to reunite them with artifacts and clothing collected 150 years ago. In addition to providing access to knowledge about tools and other artifacts, the project fostered the reintroduction of traditional clothing styles in the collection back into the community.
  • Cultural Tourism in Nunavik (Quebec, Canada) involved a research team from the Avataq Cultural Institute meeting with community members to identify heritage values and to seek ways to protect the Inuit language and heritage in the context of cultural tourism that is part of the provincial government’s Plan Nord.
  • Grassroots Heritage Resource Preservation and Management in Kyrgyzstan (Krygystan) has focused on developing sustainable, culturally-appropriate, and community-embedded projects, including a focus on cultural tourism, that address the preservation and educational use of intellectual property and cultural heritage. The project has developed school materials, museum exhibits, and radio programs. One of the team members has recently become the first Minister of Cultural Heritage and preservation in Kyrgyzstan.
  • Hokotehi Moriori Trust: Heritage Landscape Data Base (Rehoku, New Zealand) has produced a unique database of traditional knowledge of cultural landscape that brings together elders and youth in the process of recording and preserving their heritage.
  • Treaty Relations as a Method of Resolving IP Issues (British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba, Canada) studied the political relationship established between First Nations and Canada through 19th century treaties. The results may provide a framework for helping to resolve outstanding intellectual property and heritage issues today.
  • Yukon First Nations Heritage Values and Heritage Resource Management (Yukon, Canada) involves researchers from the Champagne & Aishihik First Nations Heritage, Carcross-Tagish First Nation Heritage, and Ta’an Kwäch’än Council. They worked together to identify local conceptions of heritage values and best practices to manage their heritage resources on self-governed settlement lands.
  • Other projects are underway with these groups:
    • Sto:lo First Nation, British Columbia
    • Secwepemc Territorial Authority, British Columbia
    • Inuit Heritage Trust, Nunavut
    • Saginaw-Chippewa Tribe, Michigan, USA
    • Penobscot Tribe, Maine, USA
    • Hopi Tribe, Arizona, USA


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