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

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.

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.

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 in the 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) 

Indigenous Advisory Committee 2018

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
  • Thought leadership
  • Create opportunities for mutual learnings

Current Projects 

Heiltsuk Tiny Homes Project
Coastal First Nations – Memorandum of Understanding (MOU)

Emerging Projects

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

2019 Events

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

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: Suzanne Gessner, Research & Development Linguist at First Peoples' Cultural Council
May 14, 2019 (5:30 pm - Location TBD)
Suzanne will give a presentation entitled "Strengthening first voices: The future of language revitalization in BC" followed by a Q&A.
Register for this event here.

Ethics in Indigenous Research Workshop / Gathering 
June, 2019 (Specific Dates & Location TBD)

Past Events

Principles of Engagement Workshop 
Date: October 26th, 2018

Read the Summary Report

Blog & newsletter

IRSI's new blog features researchers doing great work with Indigenous communities.

VisiT The Blog

The IRSI newsletter goes out at the beginning of each month with updates on the blog, ongoing projects, upcoming events and more. You can sign up below.