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
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
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.
Julie Gordon, Communications Specialist
Originally from Toronto, Julie Gordon has made the Pacific Northwest region her home since 1993 and currently resides in the traditional territory of the Musqueam people. A storyteller and communications specialist with almost three decades of professional experience, Julie’s work focuses on projects that align with her personal values of social, environmental and cultural sustainability.
Since 2004, she has worked extensively with Indigenous people and organizations. Julie joined the IRSI team in October 2018 to provide strategic communications support to its mandate of facilitating respectful and equal Indigenous research collaborations. Julie holds Bachelors of Arts degrees in English and Environmental Studies from Guelph University and recently completed The Writers’ Studio at Simon Fraser University.
Amanda Grey, Communications Coordinator (Work Learn)
Amanda Grey was born and raised in Burnaby, which is on unceded Musqueam and Tseil-Wautuh territory, and spent half her life living on unceded Sylix/Okanagan territory in the Kootenay-Boundary region of BC. Amanda believes in the power and value of community, and has been involved in local community groups with interests ranging from musical theatre to baseball. Amanda recently finished a Bachelor of Arts in English with a minor in Counseling and a certificate in Non-Profit studies. She is currently studying at UBC’s iSchool (SLAIS) to become a librarian, and her current interests lie in digital libraries, metadata, and cataloguing. While she does not have experience working with Indigenous communities, Amanda is eager to learn and engage as Communications Coordinator.
Jade LaFontaine, Digital Media Coordinator
Jade LaFontaine is from Spuzzum, BC on her father’s side, where he is currently the elected chief. On her mother's side she is Algonquin from Maniwaki, Quebec. Jade is completing her undergraduate degree here at UBC, majoring in First Nations and Indigenous Studies with a minor in First Nations and Endangered Languages. In Spuzzum, the Indigenous language that is spoken has no remaining fluent speakers within the community. Jade is working with her father to help create more visibility of their language. She is also working towards a Masters in second language education from McGill University.
Emily LeBaron, Manager, Administration & Special Initiatives
Emily LeBaron was raised on the unceded traditional territories of Musqueam, Tsleil-Waututh, and Squamish nations. Emily joined IRSI in February 2019, bringing with her years of experience in UBC's Vice-President Research & Innovation Office, where she supported strategic initiatives such as the Grants for Catalyzing Research Clusters program. Most recently, she has returned to UBC after working as a Policy Advisor for research at Simon Fraser University. Her background also includes a Master of Arts in Geography (SFU 2015), where she studied community-led initiatives working to combat stigmatization and criminalization in a police-occupied favela in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
Samantha Nock, Information Management Officer
Samantha Nock is Cree-Metis, born and raised on Treaty 8 Territory in the Peace Region of Northeastern British Columbia. Her family originally comes from the community of Ile-a-la-Crosse (Sakitawak), Saskatchewan.
Samantha completed a BA in First Nations and Indigenous Studies from the University of British Columbia in 2014, and has recently successfully completed the fulltime Web Development immersion program at Lighthouse Labs. Previous to her work at the IRSI, Samantha was the Education and Programs Coordinator at the Bill Reid Gallery of Northwest Coast Art, where she created and implemented programming for learners of all ages that was based in community centered Indigenous ways of knowing and being. She works to combine her background in Indigenous studies, arts education, and technology in a way that uplifts her own kin and her Indigenous relations. Samantha is a writer with works published in various literary magazines and anthologies. She has been nominated for a 2019 National Magazine Award in the Personal Journalism category, and was a runner-up recipient of Prims International’s 2019 Pacific Poetry Award.
Through her lived experiences, education, and work experience, Samantha strives to work within a framework that upholds and centers traditional Indigenous protocols and creates an environment that is founded on reciprocal and consent based relationships.
Jody Olsson, Community Outreach
Jody Olsson is Anishinaabe from the Rainy River First Nation in Northern Ontario. She comes to us with over 25 years of working with non-profit organizations, including United Way, Vancouver Coastal Health and the First Nations Health Council. During this time she worked with and in Aboriginal and First Nation communities both on and off reserve. Jody has been hired as Community Outreach for IRSI and is very excited to help support and continue to build internal relationships within UBC and external relationships across BC and beyond.
Brit Schottelius, Administrative Support (Temporary)
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.
Fran Hunt-Jinnouchi (Kwakiutl and Quatsino)
Leona Sparrow (Musqueam First Nation)
Edna Terbasket (Ki-Low-Na Friendship Society)
Adina Williams (Sḵwx̱wú7mesh, fourth-year student, UBC)
TYPES OF SUPPORT PROVIDED BY IRSI
- 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
The Teslin Tlingit Council (TTC) is a First Nation with approximately 800 members based in Teslin in Southern Yukon Territory. Teslin Tlingit people have shared ancestry with the coastal Tlingit people of Southeast Alaska and the Inland Tlingit people of Taku River First Nation and Carcross-Tagish First Nation.
Like other First Nation communities, many TTC members are struggling with the lasting impacts of the residential school system. In order support healing and restoration for residential school survivors and their families, in November 2017, the TTC initiated a program to. Called Łdakat kha_̂wu’sh îxhdashi (everybody heals). The premise of the program is to explore ways that the community’s cultural relationship to the environment can support healing from the legacy of residential schools and build overall capacity for the Nation.
The project has five main goals:
- To support the resurgence of Teslin Tlingit culture
- To rebuild capacity for traditional harvesting activities
- To support the relearning of the Teslin Tlingit language
- To support a general understanding of the cultural relationship to the environment, and
- To build capacity for leadership and life skills in the community
In July 2018, IRSI and the UBC School of Nursing came on board as project partners, signing a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the TTC. This project is the first arising out of that MOU.
Community partner(s): Teslin Tlingit Council (Gaye Hanson, Health and Social Services)
UBC partner(s): Indigenous Research Support Network (Lerato Chondoma, Associate Director)
Research Team: Ralph Smarch (TTC), Chief Richard Sidney (TTC), Clifford Hanuse (Wuikinuxv), Meghan Hajask (TTC), Dr. Helen Brown (UBC Nursing), Kelsey Timler (UBC Nursing), Alanaise Goodwill (SFU Education)
Past members: Dr. Jehannine Austin (UBC Centre for Brain Health)
Teslin Tlingit Council: $112,000
Yukon Government: $112,000
Government of Canada: $112,000
UBC Community-University Engagement Support Fund: $15,000
Canadian Institutes of Health Research: $73,712
Timeline: 2018 to 2021
The Quesnel Dãkelh Education and Employment Society (QDEES) is a not-for-profit partnership of the three Southern Dãkelh First Nations (Lhoosk’uz Dené Nation, Lhtako Dené Nation and Nazko First Nations). The three communities have a combined population of approximately 855 band members, approximately half of whom are under age 30.
QDEES has a mandate of creating an economy consistent with local values and works to advance employment, education and training opportunities for the three Nations’ community members. The society also strives to break down barriers to growth by addressing the deeper issues that affect the wellbeing of the three Nations.
With a new gold mine being developed in the region, the three Nations’ Chiefs approached UBC to assist in exploring ways QDEES could benefit from the potential employment and other economic opportunities that will be created, and at the same time address the inevitable challenges that the economic growth will bring to more vulnerable members of the three communities. The project’s primary objective is to provide education and employment industry training, as well as related social supports and services, for all members
In addition, the communities wanted to provide adequate support for the 85 youth between the ages of 14 years and 19 that fall under Jordan’s Principle, a principle used in Canada to ensure that First Nations children have equitable access to all government funded services. These youth have been the target of bullying at school and many are the victims of physical and sexual abuse and / or suffer from fetal alcohol syndrome and its effects. As a subset to this project, therefore QDEES is working to correct injustices and provide equal opportunity support for high school aged members.
In March 2018, IRSI signed an MOU with QDEES and RES’EAU-WaterNET, a research institution based at UBC Vancouver, to partner together on education and industry training partnerships to increase their engagement within the mainstream economy as skilled workers and business partners. This project has an estimated two-year timeline and a total budget of $1.404 million.
Community partner(s): Quesnel Dãkelh Education and Employment Society (includes Lhoosk’uz Dené Nation, Lhtako Dené Nation and Nazko First Nations)
UBC partner(s): Indigenous Research Support Network (Lerato Chondoma, Associate Director)
Project funding:$1.404 million
IRSI has identified the governance of research data, along with research ethics and principles and practices of engagement, as one of three elements that underpin a collaborative engagement framework for research with Indigenous communities.
To this end, IRSI is working in partnership with the BC First Nations Data Governance Initiative (BCFNDGI) and UBC Advanced Research Computing (ARC) to establish a BC First Nations Information Governance Centre and to locate, repatriate and share data sets that are of interest to BC First Nations. This model acknowledges the need for specific practices and protocols when working with First Nations, Metis and Inuit data.
The project is currently in its first phase. Phase one will be a pilot of the initiative, whereby the partners are working with seven First Nations in BC. The expected outcomes of the pilot are:
- An “interim” data warehouse at UBC for the date, information and records of the participating seven Nations
- A plan for the first set of First Nations data assets for the interim data warehouse
- Governance and management processes for First Nations data assets based on OCAP™ principles
- Best practices and protocols for managing and stewarding Indigenous research data at UBC, including
- Ethical engagement guidelines,
- Cultural data sovereignty training
- Plan for knowledge and capacity transfer
Phase two is expected to establish:
- Mechanisms and protocols to locate, repatriate and share data sets that are of interest to BC First Nations
- A BC FNIGC model to serve as the regional organization for data collection, storage, sharing, usage and reporting standards for the BC region
Overarching project goals are to ensure data sovereignty and governance, based on the OCAP™ principles that respect Indigenous, control access and possession of data. Further, it is expected that outcomes of the project will promote self-governance and self-determination for First Nations by protecting their needs, rights and jurisdiction over their information and research data.
Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC)
In collaboration, IRSI and the UBC Residential School History and Dialogue Centre (RSHDC) are hosting a series of Dialogues on Indigenous Data, Information and Records. The Dialogues bring together Indigenous representatives, researchers, archivists, librarians and scholars, with the objective of co-developing an Indigenous-led model for engagement around Indigenous data, information, and records housed at UBC and the RSHDC.
Three Dialogues have been held in 2018 and 19 to date in Vancouver, Kelowna and Prince George respectively. At each, participants discussed issues related to Privacy, Access, & Security; Ethics & Reciprocity; Infrastructure, Resourcing, & Capacity; Ownership & Control; Data Governance & Sovereignty; Rights & Repatriation. Feedback was then gathered in world-café round table discussions. A final dialogue will be held in Victoria in September and the cumulative feedback will be shared widely at that time.
A National Dialogue on Indigenous Research will be hosted by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) in Ottawa on March 12 & 13, 2019.
Community partner(s): BC First Nations Data Governance Initiative
UBC partner(s): Indigenous Research Support Network (Lerato Chondoma, Associate Director), Residential School History and Dialogue Centre (Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond, Director)
Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC)
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
The Southern Dãkelh Nation Alliance is comprised of four First Nations that share a common history and language, shared territory and many common goals. The four member Nations are: the Lhoosk’us Dené First Nation, the Lhtako Dené Nation, the Nazko First Nation and the Ulkatcho First Nation.
Recognizing the importance of language to cultural identity, the SDNA has approached IRSI to collaborate on a research project intended to bring together the SDNA communities with academic participants from a variety of disciplines—social sciences and humanities, natural sciences, engineering and health and wellness—to discuss the role of Indigenous languages, how language is currently being used, and best/inspired language practices achieved in their respective fields and disciplines.
The project will provide an opportunity to discuss in ways that the four communities wish to engage in language promotion, reclamation, revitalization and retention. In turn, this conversation will contribute to a language strategy for the participants.
The first workshop was held in Quesnel in November 2018 and involved a discussion on the expansion of language learning and teaching opportunities to homes, schools, workplaces, businesses and / or communities. The perspectives from this workshop will be published in a concept paper on the importance of language to community-based research. The paper will be shared at a National Dialogue scheduled for March 2019 in Ottawa. In April 2019, a second workshop will be held at UBC Vancouver to share the position paper with the university community and its stakeholders.
In February 2019, the Tsilhqot'in Nation Government approached IRSI with several research ideas that it felt would be of benefit to members. The three top research priorities listed by the TNG were:
- Developing of a land-based education centre, similar to Dechinta University, that would enable youth coming out of high school to be grounded and rooted in their culture before heading off to pursue post-secondary studies
- Producing a film “Tsilhqot’in War” by Tsilhqot’in filmmaker Helen Haig-Brown. Ms. Brown has been awarded a grant to do research on the Chilcotin War, with the mindset of developing a story about the events 1862-1865
- Developing a fisheries vision and work plan that would address gaps including: inventory of resident fish species in creeks, rivers and lakes; inventory on the landscape level; thresholds of watersheds; and areas in which water management and cumulative effects interplay
In addition to the above priorities, the TNG is working on a number of other areas of interest to the community, including:
- Language revitalizaiton
- Water quality studies
- Climate change and its impact on wildfire
- Keystone species and habitat protection
- Health and healing work
The Teslin Tlingit Council (TTC) has approached IRSI for support in developing an integrated health care centre that provides culturally appropriate care for Elders, with all services available under one roof. This project idea responds to the current lack of access to culturally sensitive health care within the community, which forces seniors to travel to urban centres for treatment, putting them at risk and creating a financial and emotional burden for families.
The objective of the project is to support community Elders with culturally appropriate support and services and enable them to avoid travel to urban centres for those services, which are unavailable in their community.
With a goal of keeping Elders in the community safely as long as possible, the centre would be grounded in an ethos that respects and honours Elder members of the community and teaches community health providers to take a holistic approach to the seniors’ needs. It would offer wellbeing activities that are connected to land, such as gardening, tree planting and canning, dependent on the interests of the elders.
Dialogue Series on Indigenous Data, Information and Records
In collaboration with the Residential School History and Dialogue Centre
Upcoming sessions will be:
Kelowna - April 3, 2019 at the Delta Grand Hotel Kelowna
Prince George - May 6, 2019 at University of Northern British Columbia campus
Victoria - September 2019 (date TBD)
*Read the Summary Report from the first Dialogue in the series, held at UBC Vancouver in January 2019.
IRSI Speaker Series: Deanna Nyce, President and CEO of the Wilp Wilxo’oskwhl Nisga’a Institute
June 28, 2019 (12 - 1:30 with catered lunch)
Location: BC Hydro Theatre, CIRS Building, 2260 West Mall
Dr. Nyce will share the Nisga’a Nation’s story in successfully bringing Nisga’a education and research home, grounded in ancestral laws, teachings and wisdom.
Register for this event here.
Indigenous Cultural Safety and Ethics Workshop
June 26, 2019 (10 am - 2 pm)
For more information, please e-mail email@example.com
IRSI Speaker Series: "Strengthening first voices: The future of language revitalization in BC"
Suzanne Gessner, Research & Development Linguist at First Peoples' Cultural Council
May 14, 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
Date: October 26th, 2018
IRSI's new blog features researchers doing great work with Indigenous communities.
The IRSI newsletter goes out at the beginning of each month with updates on the blog, ongoing projects, upcoming events and more.