In an academic context, the term "research" is commonly defined as the systematic investigation of a subject. While this definition captures the essence of the research process—curiosity, questioning, and learning—it often overlooks the fact that research culminates in an output, a publication that becomes the intellectual property of the researcher, safeguarded by intellectual property rights.
While researchers may hold these rights, the genesis of this knowledge seldom occurs in isolation. Despite crediting those who contributed to their understanding, the question arises: What about copyright or protections for the original holders of this knowledge?
Part 2 of the Canadian Mountain Podcast on Indigenous intellectual property, builds further upon the foundational concepts explored in Part 1. For a comprehensive understanding, it is recommended to revisit Part 1, covering definitions of intellectual property and traditional knowledge, and discussing the conflicts arising from different views on information and ownership.
Listen to the podcast here:
Continuing the conversation, Kyle Napier, a Dene/nêhiyaw Métis university instructor specializing in Indigenous language revitalization and intellectual property, shares insights from his ongoing Ph.D. studies in Educational Policy at the University of Alberta. He is joined by Saad Iqbal, a research assistant embarking on his Ph.D. in Human Geography at the University of Alberta, who further discusses their joint research project. This project investigates Canada's intellectual property laws, evaluating their efficacy in protecting Indigenous knowledge, also known as traditional knowledge.
One significant discovery is the vulnerability of Indigenous intellectual property, notably medicinal plants, which have been used and stewarded intergenerationally for centuries through Indigenous healing knowledge systems. Exploitation by pharmaceutical companies poses a threat, putting plants and environments at risk while lacking reciprocity to the land bears physical and spiritual consequences.
Drawing inspiration from New Zealand's Indigenous nation-led intellectual property initiatives and digital infrastructure solutions, Kyle advocates for implementing OCAP in Canada. OCAP, denoting ownership, control, access, and possession, stands as an information governance tool for First Nations data sovereignty.
The conversation extends to examining how Canada's current intellectual property laws intersect with environmental concerns. A specific case explored involves companies growing and harvesting Indigenous plants and foods, like chaga—a medicinal fungus sustainably harvested by Indigenous communities but now facing increased demand and harvesting across North America.
About the speakers
Kyle, a Dene/nêhiyaw Métis from Fort Smith Northwest Territories, brings a wealth of expertise as a university instructor specializing in Indigenous language revitalization, social policy and law, communications and technology, and IP. He is also a doctoral student at the University of Alberta in Educational Policy Studies and serves as one of the senior producers for the Canadian Mountain Podcast.
Saad, a master architect and international PhD student in Human Geography at the University of Alberta, collaborates with Kyle on research related to Indigenous IP and copyright. Additionally, he plays a vital role in the podcast team in a research capacity.