quill box on a stump

Our research is community-driven, not community-based or community-placed.

This means communities have control. They determine all research conduct, establish research priorities, choose methodologies and decide how the findings are used. We collaborate with communities. They’re our co-researchers.

The OFIFC recognizes that Indigenous knowledge is not a singular entity that can be “discovered” by social scientists, or translated, interpreted, analyzed or summed up in scientific journals and academic dissertations. Indigenous knowledge comes from all relations. It manifests itself in the voices and actions of people. It is generated when people get together. It arises simultaneously from the past, present and future. It lives in words, stories, movement, dance, feelings, concepts and ideas.

Taking this approach, we work with communities and create trauma-informed spaces for all members, including youth, Elders and Traditional Knowledge Keepers to contribute safely to research activities.

Our research benefits communities.

Our findings lead to the development of those products, initiatives or activities that communities tell us they need. All research is action-oriented and conducted with the explicit intention of improving urban Indigenous people’s quality of life.

It is never value-neutral.

The USAI Research Framework

Our research projects follow a framework developed by the OFIFC in 2012.

Its name reflects the four principles that guide it:

  • Utility
  • Self-voicing
  • Access
  • Inter-relationality

The USAI Research Framework stresses the inherent validity of Indigenous knowledge, acknowledges its historical and political contexts, and positions Indigenous knowledge within all relationships.

It welcomes principled partnerships, ethical cooperation and meaningful collaboration, while providing guidelines to protect the integrity of Indigenous knowledge.

The USAI Research Framework guides our research principles and ethical considerations. It includes our rules of conduct and the goals of our research.

We have numerous partnerships with academic institutions and continue to work with notable Indigenous scholars and researchers within these institutions. We collaborate with allies who recognize the principles behind the Framework and follow our research protocols. Our vision is to shift the imbalance in power, by initiating research that is in-line with the research priorities established by urban Indigenous communities and inviting academic partners to participate in roles and responsibilities identified by those communities.

Download the usai research framework
Ethics & Oversight

Our research team operates using policies and guidelines grounded in Indigenous knowledge in the areas of collaboration, data collection management, as well as intellectual property and authorship. All research projects with potential academic or community collaborators are asked to formally go through our Ethics Review process. The process entails a thorough assessment of research risks and is ultimately approved at the discretion of the OFIFC Board’s Research Ethics Committee.

Our Research team is guided by Elders and Traditional Knowledge Keepers who oversee all aspects of our work and are available if a Traditional Fire is called (similar to notions of forming an ad hoc committee) to deliberate key research-related issues. Some of the applications reviewed by our ethics committee include research projects from Queen’s University, Brock University, Carleton University, Laurentian University, Trent University, St. Thomas University, University of Guelph, the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH), and the Women’s College Research Institute (WCRI).

After dedicating 50+ years to build an Indigenous Research department, we are proud to be a community-driven organization that creates safe spaces for high-quality Indigenous-led research.

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