Indigenous Research Support Initiative


The Indigenous Research Support Initiative (IRSI) was formally established in 2017 because of an articulated need for better resources and support for Indigenous community-based research at UBC.

IRSI recognizes that community-led research is developed and conducted in collaboration with Indigenous communities, and can contribute to community autonomy, strength and resiliency.

The Indigenous Research Support Initiative (IRSI) has been established to enable collaborative research with Indigenous communities, university researchers and other partners. Our vision is to provide professional research support and services to Indigenous communities and university researchers to undertake collaborative projects based on community-led interests and grounded in principles of reciprocal accountability.

IRSI serves as an interface for communities that approach UBC with research needs and undertakes to transform UBC culture to build, maintain and strengthen long-term research relationships with Indigenous communities.

IRSI commits to: 

Enabling Collaborative Relationships:

Identify and support collaborative research with Indigenous communities and to create safe spaces for dialogue

Better Practices of Engagement:

Build university and community capacity to undertake collaborative projects and co-create principles and effective practices of engagement

Supporting Research Excellence:

Support the development of emerging projects and research clusters between indigenous communities, university researchers and other partners


Strategic FrameworkOur Team  | Indigenous Advisory Committee  |  Types of Support
Current Projects |  Emerging Projects  |  Events | Blog & Newsletter


Strategic Framework

To ensure that the work of the IRSI is reflective of the needs and processes of Indigenous communities, it will take direction from Advisory Committees on each campus comprised of individuals from BC and/or local Indigenous communities and faculty and staff from both UBCO and UBCV. This will allow the local and regional context at each campus to be honored. The set of initial strategies noted will undoubtedly develop and change over time with experience and the assessment and advice of researchers, partners, and the Advisory Committees

Read the Strategic Framework


Lerato Chondoma, Associate Director
Marliese Dawson, Research Manager
Julie Gordon, Communications Specialist
Emma Graves, Administrative Support
Alison Krahn, Education and Training
Emily LeBaron, Manager, Administration & Special Initiatives
Samantha Nock, Information Management Officer
Adina Williams, Community Liaison
Alina Yalmanian, Communications Coordinator (Work Learn)

Indigenous Advisory Committee

The Indigenous Advisory Committee is a formal advisory body to the Indigenous Research Support Initiative and is comprised of individuals from Indigenous communities as well as faculty, staff and students from UBC. Its purpose is to provide culturally-relevant advice, leadership and guidance to the staff and leadership team of the Indigenous Research Support Initiative on matters relating to but not limited to: strategic direction of the network, research and ethics protocols, community outreach, governance, procedures and processes of the network.

Current Members

Community Members

Caleb Behn (Eh-Cho Dene and Dunne-Za)

Fran Hunt-Jinnouchi (Kwakiutl and Quatsino)

Leslie Bonshor (Tzeachten First Nation, Stolo) 

Leona Sparrow (Musqueam First Nation)

Salia Joseph (Sḵwx̱wú7mesh)

Edna Terbasket (Ki-Low-Na Friendship Society)


UBC Members

Helen Brown (Associate Professor, School of Nursing, UBC)

Adina Williams (Sḵwx̱wú7mesh, fourth-year student, UBC) 

Laurel Evans (Director of Ethics, UBC)
Sheryl Lightfoot (Associate Professor, Special Advisor to the President, UBC)


  • Point of contact for Indigenous communities and researchers
  • Coordination and co-development of collaborative research projects
  • Assist in finding resources to support the development of partnerships (research enabling grants)
  • Development of collaborative MOU’s, research agreements and engagement protocols
  • Ethics considerations
  • Information sharing
  • Relationship management and conflict resolution
  • Create opportunities for mutual learnings

Current Projects 

Heiltsuk Tiny Homes Project
Coastal First Nations – Memorandum of Understanding (MOU)
Łdakat kha_̂wu’sh îxhdashi (everybody heals) - Teslin Tlingit Council
Building Economic Capacity & Supporting Youth - Quesnel Dakelh Education and Employment Society
Data Governance Initiative - IRSI, BC First Nations Data Governance Initiative and UBC Advanced Research Computing
Dialogues on Data, Information and Records - IRSI and the Residential School History and Dialogue Centre

Emerging Projects

IRSI is currently engaged in the co-development of a number of community-led, collaborative research projects with Indigenous communities and Indigenous community-based organizations. These projects include the following research topics:

  • Cultural models for community well-being
  • Water Infrastructure
  • Social impacts of federal programming on community wellbeing
  • Culturally appropriate housing
  • Models for Indigenous-led environmental assessment
Examples of Emerging Projects
Promoting, (Re)claiming, (Re)vitalizing and Retaining BC First Nations Languages in Our Homes, Communities and Schools - Southern Dãkelh Nation Alliance
Various Research Interests - Tsilhqot'in Nation Government
Community Health Services Centre - Teslin Tlingit Council

Upcoming Events

IRSI Speaker Series
The IRSI speaker series brings distinguished speakers from a variety of backgrounds to the University of British Columbia to discuss a broad range of topics related to Indigenous, community-based research. Creating a safe and inclusive space for an open dialogue, participants to have will have the opportunity to discuss ways that the research culture, both at UBC and within Indigenous communities, can be transformed to better respect and represent Indigenous voices, while striving for continued excellence in research. The series is open to the public and is of particular interest to those involved in, or simply curious about, Indigenous research collaborations.

Upcoming talks: To be announced.

Past Events

Indigenous Research Framework Gathering
November 26–27, 2019
Musqueam Cultural Centre

Indigenous Research Day 
October 3, 2019 
UBC Vancouver Campus

IRSI Speaker Series

November 18, 2019
"Brighter Days Ahead: Indigenous Street Gangs and the Impact of Settler Colonialism"
Robert Henry, Assistant Professor, University of Saskatchewan 

October 25, 2019
"Free, Prior, Informed Consent: Concept, Practice, Promise, and Perils" 
Merle Alexander, Lawyer at Miller Titerle and Probono negotiator/diplomat for the United Nations 

September 17, 2019
"Weaving Our History: Education Through a Musqueam Lens" 
Debra Sparrow, Musqueam weaver and artist

June 28, 2019 
"Bringing Higher Education Home"
Deanna Nyce, President and CEO of the Wilp Wilxo’oskwhl Nisga’a Institute

May 14, 2019
"Strengthening first voices: The future of language revitalization in BC" 
Suzanne Gessner, Research & Development Linguist at First Peoples' Cultural Council

Indigenous Cultural Safety and Ethics Workshop 
June 26, 2019
Dialogue Series on Indigenous Data, Information and Records
In collaboration with the Residential School History and Dialogue Centre 
Vancouver: January 21, 2019 at UBC Vancouver
Kelowna: April 3, 2019 at the Delta Grand Hotel Kelowna
Prince George: May 6, 2019 at University of Northern British Columbia campus

*Read the Summary Report from the first Dialogue in the series, held at UBC Vancouver in January 2019. 

National Dialogue on Indigenous Research hosted by Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council  
In collaboration with the Residential School History and Dialogue Centre and the BC First Nations Data Governance Initiative
March 11–12, 2019

Principles of Engagement Workshop 
October 26, 2018

Read the Summary Report

Blog & newsletter

IRSI’s Blog showcases profiles of Indigenous researchers and community collaborations and provides insight into the issues and trends in Indigenous research.

VisiT The Blog

The IRSI newsletter goes out quarterly and includes latest news, events and announcements, project updates and more.

Sign up Now


Suite 4156
Centre for Interactive Research on Sustainability
2260 West Mall
V6T 1Z4