I am a non-indigenous scholar and approach this post with great humility and the desire to create a space for conversation, critique, and feedback that might further the discussion of decolonization in the field of Library and Information Science. My background is that of a Masters student, currently studying in the field of Library and Information Science, trained in a Western paradigm and to whom Indigenous methodologies are relatively new. I remain open and flexible in my approach and seek to engage with other researchers, scholars, and individuals both from within my field and from other fields who may be interested in my work.
Working against unilateral cultural appropriation and toward an indigenous telling of indigenous experience, indigenous geography has emerged over the past few decades as a movement driven by a critical outlook and re-envisioning of the future within academic and Native communities. In the Indigenous Peoples Atlas of Canada, Drew Hayden Taylor writes, “By letting settlers tell our stories, they control how the public views us. The Native experience is filtered through a non-Native consciousness, and therefore inaccurate and flawed” (Taylor, n.d.). Stories told by indigenous voices are integral to truth and reconciliation work. Karyn Pugliese writes, “Reconciliation means putting our truths in the same story. Stories built on half-history lead to tropes not truths” (Pugliese, n.d.). Restoring relationships built on mutual respect between people, land, language, and ways of knowing are essential for this healing journey (“Redress and Healing,” n.d.; “The Road to Reconciliation,” n.d).
As with any field of research, it is vital to recognize the importance of community ownership and self-determination in research. Research often plays an integral role in social and economic equity. In 2018, the National Inuit Strategy on Research (NISR) was published in order to, “advance Inuit governance in research, to enhance the ethical conduct of research, to align funding with Inuit research priorities, to ensure Inuit access, ownership and control over data and information, to build capacity in Inuit Nunangat research” (Research, n.d.). Indigenous methodologies reconceptualize the research process, the search for knowledge, as a spiritual journey that is circular and cyclical and work to ensure that, “research on Indigenous issues is accomplished in a more sympathetic, respectful, and ethically correct fashion from an Indigenous perspective” (Louis, 2007, p. 133). Indigenous methodologies include the following four aspects identified by Louis (2007): relational accountability, respectful representation, reciprocal appropriation, and rights and regulations. The research process from an indigenous perspective also relies upon, “storytelling as a means of thinking through the complexity, contingency, and plurality of co-creating knowledges” (Wright, et al., 2012, p. 41).
Names have power and are a way to exert control. The work of decolonization must necessarily include the decolonization of geographic place names. Already, this work has begun across Canada. Dan David writes, “Nearly 30,000 official place names across Canada are of Indigenous origin and provinces now have groups dedicated to changing place names and maps back to the original Indigenous name” (David, n.d.). Specifically, in 2015, the Northwest Territories approved five names for the Mackenzie River in the languages of those who live along the river system, which are “Deho” in North Slavey, “Dehcho” in South Slavey, “Grande Riviére” in Michif, “Kuukpak” in Inuvialuktun, and “Nagwichoonjik” in Gwich’in (Natural Resources Canada, 2017). The work of indigenous place names research culminating in these names being made official, according to Lynn Peplinski, “is essential to preserving this tangible source of traditional knowledge for tomorrow’s generations” (Peplinski, n.d.). In many indigenous cultures, place names are descriptive, reflecting intimate and experiential knowledge of the land (Peplinski, n.d.).
Peplinksi works with the Inuit Heritage Trust on their Place Names Program, which seeks to record Elders’ knowledge of place names and share this information (Inuit Heritage Trust, 2013). Digging deeper into the depths of this relationship between people and land, Michael Kusugak notes the naming of place based upon character in the Inuit community, writing, “I have always had an aversion to English place names. They mean nothing to the people who live there. Why anybody would name the place where I grew up, Repulse Bay, I have never known. It is not repulsive in any way; it is a very beautiful place. We call it Naujaat. Nauja means “seagull,” and Naujaat refers to the cliffs there where seagulls nest in summer. It is a much more fitting name than Repulse Bay” (Kusugak, n.d.). Since January 2006, 400 new names and name changes have been added to Canada’s official maps in Nunavut alone, in some cases replacing well-known historical names (Inuit Heritage Trust, 2016).
Additionally, the work of decolonization is exemplified in the work of projects like Native Land Digital’s interactive mapping website. This indigenous-led mapping project seeks to involve indigenous communities in the mapping process and build interest in indigenous lands. The maps are a constant work in progress, evolving and refining with continuous user input.
Providing an additional example of decolonizing work in the digital humanities, the Diné Peoples’ 3D Portal is a digital archive of Diné knowledge and language currently supported by collections from the Michigan State University Museum. In its current iteration, the archive holds digital versions of stereographs and Navajo textiles, which are given contextualization within the indigenous experience through links to additional records and media.
In the field of library and information science, controlled vocabularies have a complicated history that includes furthering a dominant narrative, which has excluded and marginalized indigenous populations. The ideals of free and open access to all information have long been embedded in the professional practices of this field. However, these ideals do not take into account the protocols in indigenous cultures that may limit information sharing. Unfortunately, researchers and practitioners have often not respected the sacred and cultural importance of some information, leading to breaches in confidence with indigenous peoples in the name of advancing knowledge (Becvar and Srinivasan, 2009; Parent 2015).
Controlled vocabularies, as a form of standardization and control, must engage in decolonizing work. Coates writes, “Decolonization, the process of identifying and destabilizing colonial structures, creates space for Indigenous ways of knowing, being and doing” (Coates, n.d.). The inclusion of expert peoples who represent originating communities for materials must be an important aspect of any collaborative movement (Enote, 2015). Controlled vocabularies do not need to be limited by their colonial heritage, but can grow and revise to better reflect the multiplicity that exists in ways of organizing knowledge. For example the Brian Deer classification scheme emphasizes the relationality between terms by “placing Haisla, Comox, and Squamish groups in proximity to show that they are geographically close” (Parent, 2015, p. 704). The current information ecosystem is one that is multicultural and multilingual. The terms used to describe and provide access to materials reflect the values, ethics, and beliefs of those describing. Mindfulness of access points, cultural differences, and the appropriateness of terminology is a key step in the process of organizing information in a way that acknowledges and embraces all ways of knowing (Baca & Gill, 2015; Parent, 2015).
Do you know of other digital projects working towards decolonization and reconciliation? Have you been involved in similar projects? Let us know in the comments.
Bone, C. & Lougheed, B. (2018). Library of Congress Subject Headings related to Indigenous peoples: Changing LCSH for use in a Canadian archival context. Cataloging & Classification Quarterly, 56(1), 83-95. DOI: 10.1080/01639374.2017.1382641
Bryan, J. (2009). Where would we be without them? Knowledge, space and power in indigenous politics. Futures, 41, 24-32. doi:10.1016/j.futures.2008.07.005
Hajibayova, L. & Buente, W. (2017). Representation of indigenous cultures: Considering the Hawaiian hula. Journal of Documentation, 73(6): 1137-1148. https://doi.org/10.1108/JD-01-2017-0010
Larsen, S. C. & Johnson, J. T. (2012). In between worlds: Place, experience, and research in Indigenous geography. Journal of Cultural Geography, 29(1), 1-13. DOI: 10.1080/08873631.2012.646887
Littletree, S. & Metoyer, C. A. (2015). Knowledge organization from an Indigenous perspective: The Mashantucket Pequot Thesaurus of American Indian Terminology Project. Cataloging & Classification Quarterly, 53(5-6), 640-657. DOI:10.1080/01639374.2015.1010113
Martens, M. (2006). Creating a supplemental thesaurus to LCSH for a specialized collection: The experience of the National Indian Law Library. Law Library Journal, 98(2), 287-297.
Natural Resources Canada (2017). Indigenous place names [Webpage]. Retrieved from https://www.nrcan.gc.ca/earth-sciences/geography/place-names/indigenous/19739
United Nations. (March 2008). United Nations declaration on the rights of indigenous peoples [PDF file]. Retrieved from https://www.un.org/esa/socdev/unpfii/documents/DRIPS_en.pdf
Baca, M. & Gill, M. (2015). Encoding multilingual knowledge systems in the digital age: The Getty vocabularies. Knowledge Organization, 42(4), 232-243. DOI: 10.5771/0943-7444-2015-4-232
Becvar, K. & Srinivasan, R. (2009). Indigenous knowledge and culturally responsive methods in information research. Library Quarterly, 74(6), 421-441. https://doi.org/10.1086/605382
Coates, T. (n.d.). Education. In Indigenous Peoples Atlas of Canada (First Nations). Retrieved from https://indigenouspeoplesatlasofcanada.ca/article/education-2/
David, D. (n.d.). Traditional land use. In Indigenous Peoples Atlas of Canada (First Nations). Retrieved from https://indigenouspeoplesatlasofcanada.ca/article/traditional-land-use/
Enote, J. (2015). Museum collaboration manifesto [Webpage]. Retrieved from http://ashiwi-museum.org/collaborations/museum-collaboration-manifesto/
Inuit Heritage Trust. (2013). Staff in our Iqaluit office [Webpage]. Retrieved from http://www.ihti.ca/eng/iht-staf.html
Inuit Heritage Trust. (2016). Introduction: Place names in Nunavut [Webpage]. Retrieved from http://ihti.ca/eng/place-names/pn-index.html?agree=0
Kusugak, M. (n.d.). Nunannguaq. In Indigenous Peoples Atlas of Canada (Forewords). Retrieved from https://indigenouspeoplesatlasofcanada.ca/forewords/nunannguaq/
Louis, R. P. (2007). Can you hear us now? Voices from the margin: Using Indigenous methodologies in geographic research. Geographical Research, 45(2), 130-139. doi: 10.1111/j.1745-5871.2007.00443.x
Parent, I. (2015). Knowledge systems for all. Cataloging & Classification Quarterly, 53(5-6), 703-706. DOI: 10.1080/01639374.2015.1027985
Peplinski, L. (n.d.). Place names. In Indigenous Peoples Atlas of Canada (Inuit). Retrieved from https://indigenouspeoplesatlasofcanada.ca/article/place-names/
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Research. In Indigenous Peoples Atlas of Canada (Inuit). Retrieved from https://indigenouspeoplesatlasofcanada.ca/article/research-priorities/
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For those who were able to join us in Salt Lake City, feel free to comment below with any important points that were missed.
The Annual Meeting was held on Wednesday, March 27th at 12:30pm.
The new DH SIG coordinator, Ellen Tisdale of the University of Manitoba, was introduced to attendees.
The Digital Humanities Bibliography by John Taormina of Duke is now available on the Dukewired site http://www.dukewired.org/ as a PDF.
- Around the room, updates on what’s new with DH at our institutions
- Collections as Data – Cohort 2 – Additional calls for projects will come out in the fall. These are well funded by the Mellon foundation and may be applied to broader DH types of projects.
- A member mentioned the Humanities Intensive Learning and Teaching: HILT opportunity
- University of Utah has 5 pilot projects this year with collections as data
DH SIG Blog
- Are any members interested in contributing to the SIG Blog? Those of you that have DH related degrees or programs at your institution, please make sure they’re represented on the blog.
- Suggested blog area: A Collection of Art-Specific DH projects to list on our blog
- It was noted that this project is underway, and that we can coordinate with other groups within ARLIS/NA that are taking the lead on this.
- It may be time to review our SIG Mission statement, written in 2012. Please take a look at our statement on the blog and forward any thoughts on potential updates to Ellen.
- Maintain our separate dh-sig list or just use ARLIS-L?
- We have a blog, a Twitter account, and an inactive Slack channel
- Members expressed the importance of both a Twitter account and a sig-specific listserv.
Ideas for session proposals for the 2020 conference
- Members expressed an interest in an open access GIS tools workshops and workshops/sessions devoted to other open access DH related tools.
- GIS 101 could be a useful session – geared towards those with no previous experience with GIS. Ellen would be ready to coordinate this session.
- GIS plays into the Getty Provenance index and reconciling geo names. Getty vocabularies just built a tool that will work with open refine and can reconcile to the thesaurus of geographic names. Members also discussed the importance of the incorporation of native place names in such projects. Should there be levels of access to certain DH data, such as culturally sensitive locations? Communities should have input into what is done with cultural data.
- Other workshop content ideas are Power BI and Tableau for data visualization and statistical mapping – and perhaps textual analysis tools. Perhaps there are art historians working with text analysis.
- Also suggested was the use of exhibition data in DH projects as well as DH pedagogy and critical DH pedagogy, including ways to help faculty include DH in existing courses.
Summarized by Courtenay McLeland
March 27th, 2019
In a new article in Computers in Libraries (Jan./Feb. 2017), “Top Tools for Digital Humanities Research,” Nancy K. Herther, reviews some of the best free and open source tools available today. Among those reviewed are Voyant Tools, Umigon, Prism, and Sophie. Herther also provides a list of tools arranged by function with sections for Digital Humanities Toolkits, Timeline Tools, and Data Visualization.
Another suggested resource for an in-depth look at tools is the DiRT Directory, a registry of digital research tools for scholarly use. Entries may be viewed by function and the registry offers ways to drill down by platform, cost, license, and type of data or object.
Do you have a favorite resource for learning about new tools, or finding those that best answer a particular need?