8 Ownership

In this book we will discuss concepts of ownership which are derived from a Western perspective. Traditionally, many Indigenous Nations do not focus on “ownership” per se, but rather on stewardship or care taking responsibilities of knowledge, resources, and relations. The stewardship or care taking emphasizes community and inter-generational accountability rather than the individuals’ rights (Younging, 2018). Western concepts of ownership typically focus on the individuals’ rights to profit from their property – intellectual property or otherwise. When we discuss “ownership” in this book, we are looking at ways to protect Indigenous Knowledge and information within a Western legal context.

While Western concepts of ownership primarily focus on the individual, within an Indigenous context, ownership extends beyond. In many cases information, stories, and songs, belongs to the collective, including a clan, family, or Nation. In addition there are often rules or laws called Cultural Protocol which govern when or with whom information may be shared. Some information may only be shared at certain times of year or with certain people. (Younging, 2018).


Finally, Western notions of ownership and copyright typically only apply to print works. Most Indigenous Peoples belong to a robust Oral Tradition. Historically, oral information was not extended Western copyright  (Younging, 2018). We will discuss some of the complications that arise from this later in this book.




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Indigenous Information Literacy Copyright © 2022 by Rachel Chong is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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