Virtual Help icon Virtual Help

  • Chat with library staff now
  • Contact your library
Skip to Main Content

Inquire: Knowledge Use (Sub-Module 2 of 3 of Inquire Module)

Knowledge Use protocols outline appropriate use of Indigenous knowledge, culture, objects, and beliefs. Among the many harmful outcomes of colonization in the Canadian context are the exploitation and misappropriation of Indigenous Peoples’ knowledge, culture, and beliefs.

Resources: Knowledge Use

Indigenous Knowledge

Indigenous Knowledge (IK) or Traditional Knowledge (TK), is "commonly understood to refer to collective knowledge of traditions used by Indigenous groups to sustain and adapt themselves to their environment over time. This information is passed on from one generation to the next within the Indigenous group. Indigenous Knowledge is unique to Indigenous communities and is rooted in the culture of its peoples. Indigenous Knowledge is usually shared among Elders, healers, or hunters and gatherers, and is passed on to the next generation through [ways such as] ceremonies, stories, [and] teachings" (Assembly of First Nations).

Source: Traditional Knowledge (Assembly of First Nations)

Learn more

Video: Cultural Appropriation vs. Appreciation

CBC host, Rosanna Deerchild, explains the difference between cultural appropriation and appreciation.

Knowledge Use Protocols

Knowledge Use protocols outline appropriate use of Indigenous knowledge, culture, objects, and beliefs. Among the many harmful outcomes of colonization in the Canadian context are the exploitation and misappropriation of Indigenous Peoples’ knowledge, culture, and beliefs. Thus, it is essential, especially in light of Truth and Reconciliation and in retribution for past wrongs, that the use or reference to Indigenous knowledge and culture be done respectfully, responsibly, and with full consent. 


  • It’s about stopping the appropriation of sacred knowledge, culture, or art for financial gain that doesn’t benefit First Nation communities.
  • It’s about learning how Indigenous people view their knowledge and respecting their views and protocols.
  • It’s important to know the difference between appropriation and appreciation.
  • Indigenous Nations do not see ownership as an individual right, but rather a communal responsibility.
  • Indigenous forms of ownership include communally owned property, familial-owned property, or properties held by the nation.
  • Stories like dances and songs belong to specific Indigenous communities. Listening to a story or tale does not provide a person with the privilege of retelling that story.
  • If you are buying an Indigenous gift or craft, take the time to make sure that it’s authentic.
  • Responsible collaborations involve consent, shared control, acknowledgement, respect, and reciprocity.

Indigenous Data

What are Indigenous Data?

"Indigenous data are any information that is from or about any Indigenous person or their community, territory or nation, including but not limited to their languages, Knowledges, customs or traditions, intellectual property and ideas. Indigenous data are also relational and reciprocal, and need to reflect and be held by the community as a collective, and are equally as important to pass down through generations as a part of lifelong journeys of coming to be" (Indigenous Innovation Initiative).

What is Indigenous Data Sovereignty?

"Indigenous Data Sovereignty refers to the right of Indigenous peoples to control data from and about their communities and lands, articulating both individual and collective rights to data access and to privacy" (Open Data for Development Network).

Sources: Indigenous Knowledges and Data Governance Protocol (Indigenous Innovation Initiative) | Issues in Open Data - Indigenous Data Sovereignty (Open Data for Development Network)

Learn more

Video: Understanding the First Nations Principles of OCAP: Our Road Map to Information Governance

FNIGC's mission is to uphold the First Nations principles of OCAP, a set of guidelines that ensure First Nations people are the stewards of their own information -- and that they have the power to own, protect and control how their information is used.

Oral Traditions

Oral traditions or oral histories are an important aspect of Indigenous cultures. Through oral traditions, elders can pass down and preserve knowledge, history, and culture to younger generations (Canadian Encyclopedia).

Source: Indigenous Oral Histories and Primary Sources (Canadian Encyclopedia)

Learn more

Video: Recording History Through Oral Tradition

This video focuses on the purpose of oral tradition in Haudenosaunee culture including a description of how wampum belts are a means to record history and treaties.

Origin Stories

Like many cultures, Indigenous cultures have their own diverse and unique origin or creation stories which explain how people came into the world. Origin stories are shared within the community and passed down to younger generations through oral traditions. It is important to note that although there may be similarities in origin stories, each Indigenous community will have their distinct origin story which reflect their unique history, culture, values, environment, and people.


Video: Nanabush & Creation

Listen to Odawa/Ojibwe Knowledge Keeper, Edna Manitowabi, as she shares stories of Nanabush that she heard as a child.

Seven Sacred Teachings

The Seven Sacred Teachings, Seven Grandfather Teachings, or Seven Sacred Laws revolve around the ideas of respect and sharing, and serve as a foundation for a way of life for the Anishinaabe. There are different versions of these seven teachings passed down through generations. Each teaching is embodied by the spirit of an animal which serves as a reminder to follow and live by the seven teachings.

  • Respect (Buffalo)
  • Love (Eagle)
  • Courage (Bear)
  • Honesty (Sabe or Raven)
  • Wisdom (Beaver)
  • Humility (Wolf)
  • Truth (Turtle)

Learn more

Video: The Seven Sacred Laws

As Shared by Elder Nii Gaani Aki Inini (Dr. Dave Courchene), Anishinaabe Nation, Eagle Clan. In the Anishinaabe world, and others, the Seven Sacred Laws have acted as the foundation of our way of life and connection to the Spirit and the land. The Seven Sacred Laws are represented by seven animals that ensure our close relationship with Nature. Each animal offers a special gift and understanding of how we as people should live our lives on Mother Earth.

Medicine Wheel Teachings

"There are many versions of medicine wheel teachings. These teachings vary from one community to another but there are some foundational concepts that are similar between the various medicine wheel teachings. For example, Medicine Wheels are usually depicted through four directions but also include the sky, the earth and the centre. For Ojibwe people, the colours are yellow (east), red (south), black (west), white (north), Father Sky (blue), Mother Earth (green) and the self (Centre, purple). The medicine wheel reminds us that everything comes in fours – the four seasons, the four stages of life, the four races of humanity, four cardinal directions, etc." (Elder Susan Manitowabi).

Source: Historical and Contemporary Realities: Movement Towards Reconciliation (Susan Manitowabi)

Learn more

Video: Medicine Wheel Teaching

Kaaren Dannenmann from Trout Lake, Ontario talks about the medicine wheel of how are we all related. The use of Circles and colors depends on the community. There is 4 circles she teaches about self-aspect, mental, emotional, spiritual, and physical, and many more teachings related to the circle.