President's Dream Colloquium on Protecting Indigenous Cultural Heritage, Spring 2015

One of Canada’s greatest challenges, both today and for the future, concerns the protection of tangible and intangible heritage. A society’s identity, sense of place, and wellbeing are intrinsically tied to its heritage. In multicultural and settler states like Canada, the challenges associated with the recognition, respect, and protection of cultural heritage can be particularly acute and, as is evident today, are often a source of conflict, with substantial social, political, and economic consequences.

While heritage is important to all peoples, and everyone has a cultural legacy worthy of respect and protection, Indigenous peoples have historically had the least control over their heritage, including little say in decisions made over sites and places of great importance to them. Indigenous peoples have also received the least benefit from research conducted on their heritage. Indeed, all too often Indigenous peoples’ stories, lifeways, traditional knowledge, and cultural sites are viewed as part of the public domain, free for the taking and enjoyment of others.

In recent years there has been a substantial commitment in such disciplines as Archaeology and Anthropology to address these concerns, with researchers seeking more meaningful inclusion of, and collaborations with, Indigenous peoples in projects related to their cultural heritage. However, there are still tremendous challenges in moving into establishing more respectful, ethical, and effective policies to protect Indigenous cultural heritage, and in putting these into practice, especially when fundamental differences exist between Western and Indigenous societies over how heritage is perceived or defined.

Fully recognizing, respecting, and protecting Indigenous cultural heritage is more than an issue of academic interest as it is bound up with challenging questions about sovereignty and jurisdiction, about social justice and human rights, and about how Indigenous peoples can most effectively control access to, and benefits from, their heritage. Indigenous peoples throughout Canada and beyond, long affected by disenfranchisement, loss of language and culture, and fragmentation of their societies, continue to seek meaningful engagement with those controlling their heritage. Thus, professional organizations, government agencies, and international organization such as the United Nations and World Intellectual Property Organization are increasingly joining with universities and Indigenous organizations to develop solutions to these challenges.

These questions and concerns provide the background for our proposed colloquium, which seeks to engage directly with these topics not by rehashing now-familiar issues and examples, but by exploring new approaches to collaborative research and policy development, with a particular focus on those that foreground the interests and concerns of Indigenous communities.

The series of free public lectures will create an interdisciplinary forum for dialogue between faculty members, students and diverse community groups.

  • January 8, 3:30 pm: Catherine Bell, Faculty of Law, University of Alberta
    Indigenous Cultural Heritage: Issues of  Canadian Law, Policy and Reform. See recording of lecture.
  • January 22, 3:30 pm: Ian Lilley, University of Queensland, Australia
    Who Owns Native Culture? Intellectual Property Issues Associated with Indigenous Cultural Heritage Protection. See recording of lecture.
  • February 5, 3:30 pm: Larry Zimmerman, Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, USA
    Protecting Indigenous Cultural Heritage: Ethics, Policy, and Practice. Reserve online.
  • February 26, 3:30 pm: Rosita Worl, Sealaska Heritage Institute, USA
    Heritage and Community Values, Benefits, and Sustainability. Reserve online.
  • March 12, 3:30 pm: Grand Chief Edward John (Akile Ch'oh), Tl’azt’en Nation; United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues
    Heritage and Politics: Sovereignty, Jurisdiction, and the Protection of Indigenous Culture. Reserve online.
  • March 25, 7 pm / The Munro Lecture: Linda Tuhiwai Smith, University of Waikato, New Zealand
    Heritage and Knowledge: Decolonizing the Research Process
    This lecture takes place at SFU Vancouver. Reserve online.
    (Update October 14, 2014: We've had to change the date of this lecture from March 26 to March 25, 2015. An email will be sent to everyone who has reserved so far.)

Note: Titles listed above are seminar topics, not speakers’ presentation titles.

These free public lectures are open to everyone. All lectures will take place on the Burnaby campus in West Mall Centre 3260 (see locations page for directions), with the exception of the March 26 lecture by Linda Tuhiwai Smith, which will be at the Morris J Wosk Centre for Dialogue, SFU Vancouver.

Graduate and undergraduate students are also invited to register in the graduate course that accompanies these public lectures. See course page for information.


The President's Dream Colloquium on Protecting Indigenous Cultural Heritage: Emergent Policy and Practice is generously funded by:


* Grad-PDC-Application-2015.pdf
Graduate students course application
* Undergrad-PDC-App-2015.pdf
Undergrad students course application
Protecting Indigenous Cultural Heritage
* Poster Protecting Indigenous Cultural Heritage-email.pdf
Poster in lower resolution (smaller file size)
* Poster Protecting Indigenous Cultural Heritage.pdf
Poster in higher resolution (larger file size)


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