Indigenous Knowledge (sometimes used interchangeably with the term Traditional Knowledge) refers to the understandings, philosophies, tangible/intangible skills, and practices unique to Indigenous cultures.
Examples: oral traditions, histories, songs, dances, processes of creating art and crafts, and spiritual and ceremonial practices.
Intellectual property (IP) is usually thought of as individual or corporate ownership of creative works or technological advances. IP is maintained and protected by copyright, trademarks, or patents. But protections for intellectual property also extend to the cultural sovereignty of Indigenous communities.
The intellectual property rights of Indigenous peoples have been reaffirmed internationally under the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP). Article 31 states,
"Indigenous peoples...have the right to maintain, control, protect and develop their intellectual property over such cultural heritage, traditional knowledge, and traditional cultural expressions. In conjunction with indigenous peoples, States shall take effective measures to recognize and protect the exercise of these rights" (2007).
Data sovereignty is concept that data is subject to the laws, governance, and regulation of the nation or community where it is collected.
Indigenous data sovereignty is the right of Indigenous peoples to govern the collection, ownership, and application of data about Indigenous communities, peoples, lands, resources, etc.
By maintaining authority over data and information, Indigenous communities are in a position of power within colonial society, which has sought to exploit cultural expressions, Traditional Knowledge, and other information for profit or other purposes. In researching or conducting research with/about Indigenous communities, it's vital to recognize the sovereignty and rights of communities to allow or withhold access to information as deemed appropriate by the communities themselves.
Communities may have strict internal rules that limit how, when, or to whom information can be shared. It may be the case that cultural knowledge (such as spiritual practices, traditional stories, histories, etc.) may only be shared with members of the community, at certain times of year, or only with people of certain genders.
A community's protocols around information sharing are to be respected regardless of the researchers' perceived need for information. In general, Elders, Knowledge Keepers, Cultural Advisors, and other community members should not be prodded to share information with outsiders beyond that which is offered.
Appropriate respect should be paid toward Elders, Knowledge Keepers, and Cultural Advisors when consulting with communities or inviting individuals to participate in events, meetings, or classes. Several documents outline general Protocols for interacting with Elders (linked below).
Be aware that Protocols and expectations differ based on the community, the individual, and the specific nature of the request. If you are unsure of how to proceed, it is generally polite to ask.