Since its inception OCAP™ has become the leading ethical standard for conducting research on First Nations peoples. OCAP™, in its expanded form, stands for Ownership, Control, Access and Possession. These four principles provide First Nations with the means of exercising self-determination throughout the research process – by determining what research is able to be conducted, how the information will be used, where the data will be stored and who will be able to access the data.In 1998, OCAPTM was initially expressed as OCA. OCA came to fruition during the 1998 National Steering Committee of the First Nations and Inuit Regional Longitudinal Health Survey (RHS).

The idea of Ownership, Control and Access (OCA) was coined by Cathryn George of the Association of Iroquois and Allied Indians. The “Possession” was later added after discussions concerning the importance of having First Nations physically possess the data; which in turn allows First Nations to restrict “Access” more effectively.

Principles of OCAP™


Ownership refers to the relationship of First Nations to their cultural knowledge, data, and information. This principle states that a community or group owns information collectively in the same way that an individual owns his or her personal information.


The principle of control affirms that First Nations, their communities and representative bodies are within their rights in seeking to control over all aspects of research and information management processes that impact them. First Nations control of research can include all stages of a particular research project-from start to finish. The principle extends to the control of resources and review processes, the planning process, management of the information and so on.


First Nations must have access to information and data about themselves and their communities, regardless of where it is currently held. The principle also refers to the right of First Nations communities and organizations to manage and make decisions regarding access to their collective information. This may be achieved, in practice, through standardized, formal protocols.


While ownership identifies the relationship between a people and their information in principle, possession or stewardship is more concrete. It refers to the physical control of data. Possession is a mechanism by which ownership can be asserted and protected.

Additional OCAP™ Resources:

Ownership, Control, Access, and Possession (OCAP™): The Path to First Nations Information Governance

This paper will review the origins and rationale for OCAP™, looking at some successful case studies, and considering where OCAP™ goes from here.

Understanding the First Nations Principles of OCAP™

The First Nations principles of OCAP™ are a set of standards that establish important ground rules for how First Nations data can be collected, protected, used or shared.