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


Our Team  |  Interim Advisory Group  |  Types of Support  |  Current Projects 
  Emerging Projects  |  Upcoming Events | Blog & Newsletter



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.

Interim Advisory Group

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.

Current Members
Sophie Pierre - Ktunaxa Nation

Russell Myers Ross - Yunesit’in Government

Michele Sam - ʔaq'am

Jeannette Armstrong - University of British Columbia Okanagan

Linc Kesler - First Nations House of Learning, University of British Columbia

Leona Sparrow - Musqueam First Nation

Helen Burt - Associate Vice-President, Research and Innovation, University of British Columbia

Sheryl Lightfoot - First Nations and Indigenous Studies, 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

IRSI Indigenous Advisory Committee

IRSI is now requesting expressions of interest in becoming a member of the Indigenous Advisory Committee.

Closing Date: June 15, 2018.


Call for Expression of Interest
Terms of Reference


Call for Expression of Interest (PDF) | Terms of ReferencE (PDF)


  • 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

Upcoming Events

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.

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.