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:
Identify and support collaborative research with Indigenous communities and to create safe spaces for dialogue
Build university and community capacity to undertake collaborative projects and co-create principles and effective practices of engagement
Support the development of emerging projects and research clusters between indigenous communities, university researchers and other partners
Lerato Chondoma, Associate Director
Lerato Chondoma hails from the Batuang Clan of ba ha Moletsane from Lesotho in Southern Africa. Lerato is a visitor in Musqueam Territory and has lived here for the last 9 years.
Lerato is the Associate Director for the Indigenous Research Support Initiative and plays a strategic role in providing support to Indigenous communities, researchers and other partners working on Indigenous research collaborations. She has several years’ experience in community-based research, community development and relationship management. She has worked across a wide range of specializations including law, business and economic development, natural resources, community wellbeing, and government relations.
Prior to moving to Vancouver, Lerato practiced as a candidate attorney and legal consultant in South Africa, specializing in Labour Law and Employment Equity. Lerato has a B. Com and an LL.B from Rhodes University in Grahamstown, South Africa and an MBA from the Beedie School of Business at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, Canada. She is interested in mechanisms and models of community-based research that support the global reclamation of Indigenous self-rule and increased self-determination.
’Qátuw̓as Brown, Community Liaison
’Qátuw̓as (pronounced Gah-tu-wos) knows the importance of being grounded in both Indigenous ways of knowing and Western thought while taking on an institutional position to build relationships between Indigenous communities and academic researchers. She was raised with father’s people in the Heiltsuk community of Bella Bella, but is also rooted in her Nuu-chah-nulth culture through her mother who was born and raised in Ahousaht. She has recently relocated to Musqueam Territory after spending the last 8 years both attending and working on the University of Victoria campus. For the past few years of her career she has spent time building relationships with coastal Indigenous communities on topics of ocean observing systems, climate change, and the changing ocean. Her name, ’Qátuw̓as, means people gathering together and she is working to bring Indigenous communities and UBC researchers together for collaborative research projects.
Alexis Okabe, Initative Coordinator
Alexis Okabe is a member of Kitsumkalum, just one of the communities that make up the Ts’msyen Nation, and her family’s clan is Ganhada, a house that is very dear to her heart. Alexis has been on Musqueam territory for the past six years and had worked in various areas of UBC for the past three years. After graduating with a B.A, Alexis had the opportunity to hold positions in both admissions programs and administration. In 2016, Alexis was hired as the Communications Intern for the Aboriginal Natural Resources Centre position then later moved to be the Initiative Coordinator for the newly formed Indigenous Research Support Initiative.
Jaimie Harris, Communications
Born and raised in the Heiltsuk Nation, Jaimie Harris is a self-motivated professional with a passion for creating positive change in her community. After completing a Bachelor of Business Administration with an advanced diploma in marketing, Jaimie had relocated back to Bella Bella. Since then Jaimie has been elected into the Heiltsuk Tribal Council as one of councilors. Within the Heiltsuk Tribal Council Jaimie has taken on many projects within her two portfolios of Education and Youth.
The Interim Advisory Group is an interim advisory body to the Indigenous Research Support Initiative and is comprised of individuals from Indigenous communities as well as faculty and staff from UBC.
The Interim Advisory Group provided guidance on the planning and overall strategy for an inaugural community gathering that was held in June 2017. The outcomes of the community gathering have informed the overall strategy of the new initiative. The IRSI is currently engaging in an Expression of Interest process to recruit a formal advisory committee to the Indigenous Research Support Initiative. The committee 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 the strategic direction of the initiative, research and ethics protocols, community outreach, governance, procedures and processes of the initiative.
Russell Myers Ross - Yunesit’in Government
Michele Sam - ʔaq'am
Jeannette Armstrong - University of British Columbia Okanagan
Leona Sparrow - Musqueam First Nation
Helen Burt - Associate Vice-President, Research and Innovation, University of British Columbia
Patricia Spittal - School of Population and Public Health, University of British Columbia
Gordon Christie - Allard School of Law, University of British Columbia
- 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
- Thought leadership
- Create opportunities for mutual learnings
Nestled on the central coast of British Columbia, Bella Bella is a First Nations community on Campbell Island and the home for the Heiltsuk Nation. With over 2,400 members, the Heiltsuk population has grown steadily over the past 20 years, but the population of Bella Bella has remained relatively constant, due to the lack of available housing. The Heiltsuk First Nation has the same problems as many remote communities- too little housing for a growing population and a building stock that falls into premature disrepair. When new construction does take place, it happens with labour and materials that come primarily from outside the community. This is a lost opportunity given the need for more employment in the community. Many of the Heiltsuk people who live outside the community are interested in returning to the village as the local economy continues to grow, but in order to meet housing demand over the next 10 years, the community will need 150 mold remediation, 160 home renovations, 100 new homes, and 120 new lots.
To address the urgent housing shortage issue, the Heiltsuk Tribal Council reached out to the Indigenous Research Support Initiative (IRSI) to facilitate a research collaboration with UBC and for support to find implementation partners for the design and building needs for the Nation.
The Heiltsuk Nation has partnered with the School of Architecture and Landscape Architecture and the Faculty of Forestry at the University of British Columbia (UBC), FPInnovations, and Mitacs. The research team at UBC was guided by Dr. Stefania Pizzirani, a Post Doctoral Fellow in the Faculty of Forestry. The design process was led by a UBC graduate student Ryder Thalheimer, from the School of Architecture and Landscape Architecture, who engaged the community in a participatory research process to develop culturally relevant housing designs. The main objective was to have Heiltsuk community members provide their input about what they held valuable for their living spaces and to incorporate their ideas into the housing designs. Community ideas were collected through; housing open houses, surveys, multiple community dialogue sessions, one-on-one interviews and continuous feedback on each phase of the design.
The community selected one type of housing solution to proceed with: a ‘tiny’ home that is culturally and environmentally-suitable and approximately <500sq feet. This Heiltsuk-designed solution meets a need in the community by providing an independent living style to individuals, couples, and even young families. The Heiltsuk Nation, with the support of the IRSI, has created further partnerships with implementation partners: BC Architect Scott Kemp and Builders Without Borders. This has led to eight Heiltsuk ‘tiny’ homes scheduled to be built in May 2018. Future phases of this project will address home designs for larger families using the established community engagement process and intend to partner with external networks.
The Heiltsuk Nation is currently in reconciliation agreement negotiations with the Federal and Provincial Government. Given the government’s increased attention to housing as a priority, this project represents important opportunity for the Heiltsuk Nation to demonstrate their ability to design, construct, and maintain culturally and environmentally appropriate housing.
Faculty of Forestry at the University of British Columbia: http://www.forestry.ubc.ca/
School of Architecture and Landscape Architecture: https://sala.ubc.ca/
Heiltsuk Nation: https://www.heiltsuknation.ca/
Coastal First Nations (CFN) and the Indigenous Research Support Initiative signed an MOU in November of 2017 and are partnering together to explore opportunities for collaboration in two areas:
- Community-based research that includes opportunities for mentorship and mutual learnings. Specific research projects potentially include projects in Oceans and Fisheries, Business and Commerce (with emphasis on entrepreneurship), Infrastructure, Clean Energy, Alternative Energy Systems, Language and Culture. To date CFN and UBC have jointly completed 2 research projects comprising of 7 internship units funded through Mitacs.
Additionally, between 2010 and 2013, UBC and the member First Nations of CFN jointly completed 8 projects comprising of 38 internship units funded through Mitacs.
- Education and training opportunities that includes opportunities for mentorship as well as capacity and leadership development. The specific research projects potentially include components of technical training, implementation facilitation and technology solutions.
The IRSI wishes to partner with CFN in an effort to establish and define a collaborative relationship to achieve research as well as education and training outcomes that are mutually beneficial to the Parties, and to support the co-development of relevant and effective research for the member First Nations of the Coastal First Nations.
A summary of the individual projects and internship units funded through Mitacs for each participating member nation of CFN:
- Gitga’at Nation 1 project (6 internship units) 2010
- Haida Nation (Skidegate) 1 project (4 internship units) 2010
Haida Enterprise Corporation 2 projects (9 internship units) 2013
- Heiltsuk Economic Development Corporation 1 project (6 internships units) 2013
- Metlakatla Development Corporation 2 projects (4 internship units) 2012
- Nuxalk Nation 1 project (9 internship units) 2013
IRSI is currently engaged in the co-development of six community-led, collaborative research projects with Indigenous communities and Indigenous community-based organizations. The six projects include the following research topics:
- Cultural models for community well-being
- Indigenous data governance
- Water Infrastructure
- Social impacts of federal programming on community wellbeing
- Culturally appropriate housing
- Models for Indigenous-led environmental assessment
Indigenous Research Support Initiative: Research Day
Date: Thursday April 19th 2018
IRSI is excited to host UBC researchers working on Indigenous research on the Vancouver UBC campus. This event is to gather input from (all parties invited, check which groups are invited) on our direction and strategic framework. This gathering is an opportunity to strengthen networks, share experiences, learning opportunities and to influence the direction of the Indigenous community based research at UBC.