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Guidelines on the use of appropriate images to represent Indigenous Peoples

These guidelines are intended to be followed by members of the Concordia community who wish to record and produce any likenesses of Indigenous peoples, groups and communities, on and off campus.

What underlines these guidelines is the need to work respectfully and in mutually beneficial relationships with Indigenous peoples and communities, always, and to avoid the misappropriation of likenesses of Indigenous peoples and aspects of Indigenous cultural heritage, including material and non-material culture.

If there is one takeaway from this document, it is when in doubt, ask!

Seek permission and consent first and not after undertaking any project involving or about Indigenous peoples, and in this case prior to producing any imagery or representations of Indigenous peoples, unless you are a member of that specific Indigenous community.

This also applies to writing captions and descriptions of photos and other representations of Indigenous peoples and cultural heritage.

Again, when in doubt, ask.

The guidelines include:

  • Definitions of terms
  • The role of intentionality
  • A new way forward
  • Obtaining consent
  • University contacts
  • Related documents and policies

Frequently asked questions

This refers to photos, drawings, recordings, videos, animations, 3D renderings, interactive media, virtual reality and any existing or new means of manually or digitally recording likenesses of Indigenous peoples, groups or communities.

This refers to the colonial mindset of initiating a one-way relationship of taking non-material or material culture which does not stand to benefit Indigenous peoples, without having received expressed consent from the appropriate Indigenous person, group or community and without any fair mutually agreed-upon exchange.

An example of misappropriation is photographing Indigenous peoples without obtaining their prior consent and without any offer of reciprocity.

For Indigenous peoples in Canada, misappropriation is rooted in a legacy of inaccurate, disrespectful and harmful depictions of Indigenous peoples that were originally crafted by colonial settlers to advance their own objectives to dispossess Indigenous peoples of their land and resources through genocide for power and profit.

Non-material culture refers to Indigenous identity, histories, knowledges, languages, beliefs, traditions, stories, literature, art, design, techniques and other modes of cultural expression.

Material culture is the physical expression of non-material culture. This can include prayers, ceremonies, songs, artwork, traditional regalia, beadwork and more. 

When consent is obtained and respectfully undertaken, photographs or the reproduction of Indigenous peoples and cultural heritage can help:

  • Celebrate the successes and achievements of Indigenous peoples, groups and communities.
  • Provide an accurate historic record of meaningful activities on, and off, campus.
  • Raise awareness of the cultural significance of events and activities for Indigenous peoples, groups and communities and why these events or activities should be meaningful to non-Indigenous peoples.

Please read the section on Obtaining Consent contained in the guidelines for more information.

For additional information, please contact

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