The intellectual property of individuals and communities is an integral part of their identity, worldview, and heritage. One of Canada’s greatest challenges is to develop strategies to safeguard the cultural heritage of Indigenous peoples, from material artifacts such as art objects and garments, to ephemeral ideas embedded in music and oral histories. Whether intentional or not, the inappropriate use of cultural heritage by those who do not fully understand and appreciate its cultural, economic, and spiritual value is detrimental to the health and wellbeing of the heritage holders.
Since 2008, an international team led by SFU archaeology professor George Nicholas has worked to address these underexplored issues. The Intellectual Property Issues in Cultural Heritage (IPinCH) Project comprises a team of over 50 socially committed experts in anthropology, archaeology, law, ethics, heritage and museum studies, and more. Together, they are tackling the far-reaching theoretical, ethical, and practical implications of borrowing and adopting elements from other cultures.
The IPinCH website provides several resources, including a ‘Think Before You Appropriate’ guide which discusses ways to avoid misappropriating Indigenous cultures when engaging in research.