media release

SFU cultural heritage project up for major award

September 18, 2013

George Nicholas (Burnaby resident), 778.782.5709,
Kristen Dobbin, IPinCH communications, 778.782.9682,
Carol Thorbes, PAMR, 778.782.3035,


A Simon Fraser University-based project, known for its unprecedented and growing impact on global understanding of intellectual property issues in cultural heritage, is up for a major federal government-funded award.

The Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC), a federal research-funding agency, has nominated the Intellectual Property Issues in Cultural Heritage (IPinCH) project for a Partnership Award.

The SFU-based collective involving 52 scholars and 26 partnering universities and organizations internationally is one of three Canadian university-based projects shortlisted for the award.

SSHRC will announce the award recipient at the World Social Science Forum, in Montreal, on Oct. 15.

Worth $50,000 in funding, the Partnership Award is one of three annual SSHRC-funded honours known as Impact Awards. The Partnership Award goes to a SSHRC funded Canadian-university-scholar-led partnership that is having an impact within and/or beyond the social sciences and humanities research community.

Nominees must demonstrate outstanding achievement in advancing research, research training or knowledge mobilization, or in developing a new partnership approach to research and/or related activities.

SFU archaeologist George Nicholas leads IPinCH, established in 2008 with the support of a seven-year, $2.5 million SSHRC grant.

Archaeologists, lawyers, anthropologists, museum specialists, ethicists, policymakers and indigenous organizations from eight countries make up the collective. They are investigating how and why concerns about tangible and intangible cultural heritage emerge in indigenous communities threatened by commercialization, appropriation and other forces.

Through 15 global community-based initiatives, case studies and special projects IPinCH has already achieved milestones in developing ethically sound practices to revitalize and protect cultural heritage. These achievements are documented in 47 journal articles, 17 book chapters and nine books produced so far by IPinCH collaborators.

They address challenges such as the need for the following: sustainable cultural tourism; protocols for research involving ancestral human remains; repatriation of information from museum collections; developing databases for traditional knowledge and assisting with policy development for self-governing First Nations.

Through its creation of 64 graduate fellowships and research assistant positions, IPinCH is also helping to train the next generation of scholars on cultural heritage.

Nicholas notes that IPinCH’s nomination for this award is timely given that its work epitomizes the national consciousness the federal government wants to raise around reconciliation with First Nations people over residential schools.

“Collective projects such as IPinCH offer one means of redressing long-standing dissatisfaction of descendent communities because it helps to restore their control over their heritage,” says Nicholas. “This new type of research approach should be seen to enrich, not constrain, research by outsiders.”

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: Examples of IPinCH milestone projects

From the ground level up, IPinCH has enabled indigenous communities — from the Canadian Arctic to the Australian Outback to the steppes of Kyrgyzstan — to start to gain greater control over their heritage. Here are some examples of IPinCH community-based/engaged success stories that benefit indigenous people as well as outside researchers:

  • 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 access to knowledge about tools and other artifacts, traditional clothing styles in the collection have now been reintroduced 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 protection of 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 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 with:

  • 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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