The 6 R’s of Indigenous OER

Open Education and Ethical Considerations for Indigenous Knowledge

For authors of open educational resources, it is important to know how to incorporate Indigenous knowledges into our OER while respecting community protocols and access to information.

Indigenous Knowledge

Indigenous Knowledge, also known as Traditional Knowledge, can be defined as “know-how, skills and practices that are developed, sustained and passed on from generation to generation within a community, often forming part of its cultural or spiritual identity” (WIPO, 2021). Indigenous Knowledges also includes Indigenous cultural expression, such as dances, regalia, and songs. So often within the Canadian context, Indigenous cultural expressions are easier to cover under Canadian copyright law because they’re a tangible object. Every community is different in their protocols and in the way that knowledge is shared. In many communities, knowledge is earned. For example, in some communities, some knowledges may only be shared when a person reaches a certain age, or people of a certain gender, or during different seasons or at times of the year.

Indigenous Research Methodologies

Indigenous research is often community driven and draws on Indigenous world-views, laws, and protocols. Research is not done unless community gives informed consent. Indigenous data sovereignty is the concept that Indigenous nations have the right to ownership and governance over data about themselves, as well as the right to govern their own data in a way that aligns with their community protocols and laws. It’s important to  think more widely about copyright law in Canada and how it affects Indigenous data sovereignty and how it may be in tension with Indigenous protocols. Traditional knowledge may also be owned collectively by the group for cultural claims and so  often expressions of traditional knowledge cannot qualify for protection under Canadian copyright law because they are considered in the public domain or the author of the material is often not identifiable. For these reasons, open licenses, such as Creative Commons licenses, may not be appropriate for sharing Indigenous knowledges.

The 6 R’s of Indigenous OER

At the 2021 Indigenous Knowledges and Open Education symposium at the University of British Columbia Okanagan, Kayla Lar-Son shared the 6 R’s of Indigenous OER to provide a framework for authors incorporating Indigenous knowledges into their openly-licensed teaching and learning materials. The R’s are influenced by the FAIR Guiding Principles for scientific data management and stewardship and CARE Principles for Indigenous Data Sovereignty, as well as adapted from the 4 R’s of First Nations and Higher Education (Kirkness & Barnhardt) and the UBC Longhouse Teachings.

  1. Respect – For Indigenous cultural identity, communities, and topics
  2. Relationships – Connects to the concept of all of our relations and building relations with communities
  3. Responsibility – Responsibility to share only when we are allowed, and to publish in an ethical way while considering ownerships, protocols and community practices
  4. Reverence – Respect for the sacred
  5. Relevance  – Legitimize and incorporate Indigenous Knowledges into curriculum when it makes sense
  6. Reciprocity – Both receiving and giving with communities

These 6 R’s provide a framework for considering how we can work ethically to incorporate Indigenous knowledges in open educational resources.


Adapted from Kayla Lar-Son’s keynote, Open Education and Ethical Considerations for Indigenous Knowledges, UBC Okanagan Indigenous Knowledges and Open Education Symposium (2021).


Icon for the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License

UBC Open Text Publishing Guide Copyright © 2022 by Erin Fields; Amanda Grey; Donna Langille; and Clair Swanson is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

Share This Book