Traditional cultural expressions (TCEs) may be understood as the ways in which the traditional culture of Indigenous peoples is manifested. Examples of TCEs include traditional songs, arts, ceremonies, handicrafts, stories and dances of Indigenous peoples. These are generally passed down generationally and do not usually have an identifiable author.

TCEs are extremely valuable for the Indigenous peoples who hold them, as TCEs constitute significant expressions of Indigenous peoples’ spirituality, world views, socio-economic identity and culture. TCEs are also valuable within the context of the modern economy. Traditional designs, for instance, have increasingly been incorporated into a number of contemporary fashion trends by major brands in their clothing and accessories lines. Similarly, traditional dances, songs and rhythms have been featured in a number of major music recordings and art performances. The economic potential of TCEs thus makes them an important asset to consider.

  • Brigitte Vézina is a CIGI fellow and an expert on intellectual property protection of traditional cultural expressions and issues around cultural appropriation.