Native Americans create, preserve, and organize knowledge within the context of community, thereby ensuring the inclusion of Native American philosophies. Historically, mainstream cataloging and classification systems have not adequately represented this knowledge. The Mashantucket Pequot Thesaurus of American Indian Terminology was designed to incorporate an Indigenous perspective into mainstream controlled vocabularies. Using story as pedagogy, this article examines the conceptual foundations, theoretical framework, and application of the Thesaurus to a museum setting.
This article explores cognitively just, reliable subject access to indigenous knowledge through knowledge organization systems (KOSs). Cognitive justice requires that indigenous people be able to access materials in a way that respects their worldview, yet dominant KOSs are based on positivist, Western approaches that are fundamentally incompatible. Alternatives to universal systems include the creation of new KOSs and the adaptation of universal ones. Going forward, emerging web technologies are presented as key to moving away from universalist schemes and toward specialized access.
More than 30 years ago, in October of 1978, Standing Rock Sioux scholar Vine Deloria Jr. prepared a paper for The White House Pre-conference on Indian Library and Information Services On or Near Reservations titled “The Right to Know.” In his paper, Deloria establishes the United States Federal government’s treaty responsibility for Indian Country’s:
…need to know; to know the past, to know the traditional alternatives advocated by their ancestors, to know the specific experiences of their communities, and to know about the world that surrounds them (Deloria 1978, p. 13)
Deloria called for “direct funding from the federal government to tribes for library, information and archival services…[specifying that] every effort should be made in joint planning to transmit the major bulk of records dealing with tribal histories to modern and adequate facilities on reservations” (p. 13). Deloria warned us that “Authorizing the development of libraries, archives, and information centers and dividing existing federal records among these groups will require sophisticated and intelligent planning by the persons concerned” (p. 15).
One decade into the twenty-first century, this paper analyzes two catalytic initiatives relating to this Indigenous “right to know” funded—at least partially—by the US Federal government:
* Institute of Museum and Library Services’ Grants to Indian Tribes
* Fourth Museum of the National Museum of the American Indian.
It places these initiatives within the broader Indigenous knowledge ecology.
This article addresses how the advent of technology can allow for the inclusion of indigenous stories in American literature history. Thus, this article is rooted in the assumption that may become a part of American literary history. It is the hope that through this integration of Native American culture through oral traditions and artifacts that they can no longer excluded from the study of American literature.
“The advent of digital technology is undoubtedly changing our understanding of the origins and story lines of American literary history, as Randy Bass suggests. This interpretive shift offers a critically important opportunity to think more carefully about the place of Native American expressive culture as an integral, albeit long-neglected, part of “American literature.” While most anthologies in the field now include an opening section on indigenous origins—irresponsibly reducing thousands of years of precolonial storytelling to a few pages—the selections are invariably limited to stories that fit within the parameters of the white printed page. Rather than reviewing this history of exclusion yet again, I will assume here that the field is ready to acknowledge that indigenous stories are indeed part of American literary history, whether they appear in the form of the oral tradition, rock art, narratives woven in wampum belts, or pictographic images inscribed on birch bark. This may be an overly generous assumption. Nonetheless, my point is to demonstrate how digital technology can be utilized to extend the formal boundaries of the field and to create exciting new interpretive opportunities by taking seriously, at long last, the idea that the Ojibwe “epistemology of beginnings” is an intellectually valid interpretive paradigm. In doing so, the Gibagadinamaagoom digital archive, whose name means “to bring to life, to sanction, to give authority,” devotes itself to sanctioning the intellectual sovereignty of indigenous wisdom carriers, so that the question of whether American literary history begins with the Puritans or Columbus becomes moot as we set off in search of much deeper origins, wondering whether we are “worthy to translate wind” or to record “knowledge [that existed] long before humans.”
To inform debates about decolonizing museum records, this article maps the history of cataloging at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History. In the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, when material heritage was collected for museums from Indigenous peoples, the knowledge within those communities was often measured against Eurocentric biases that saw Indigenous knowledge as the object of material culture research, not a contribution to it. This article thus argues for a historical approach to understand how standards in object description involve assumptions that have resulted in a lack of Indigenous knowledge in museum records from this time.
Turner, H. (2015). Decolonizing Ethnographic Documentation: A Critical History of the Early Museum Catalogs at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History. Cataloging & Classification Quarterly, 53(5–6), 658–676.
The Community and Museum collaboration guidelines were developed over a three-year period of collaboration between Native and non-Native museum professionals, cultural leaders and artists. The guidelines are intended as a resource for community members who are working in collaboration with museums. This is not a set of rules; instead, it offers ideas to consider when working with museums.
Your work with a museum might consist of viewing the collections to learn what the museum has from your community; sharing information about items from your community that are part of a museum’s collection; helping to develop museum exhibits; or if you are an artist, you might use a museum’s collections for artistic inspiration. These are just a few of the ways you might engage with a museum.
For at least half a century, catalogers have struggled with how to catalog and classify Native American and Indigenous peoples materials in library, archive, and museum collections. Understanding how colonialism works can help those in the field of knowledge organization appreciate the power dynamics embedded in the marginalization of Native American and Indigenous peoples materials through standardization, misnaming, and other practices. The decolonizing methodology of imagining provides one way that knowledge organization practitioners and theorists can acknowledge and discern the possibilities of Indigenous community-based approaches to the development of alternative information structures.
This chapter demonstrates how the University of Waikato in New Zealand adapted a global standard (the Library of Congress Classification) for local use by inscribing topics related to and about Māori history and people.
The University of Waikato’s classification simultaneously uses and implicitly critiques a universal system written from a U.S. vantage point. It seems to acknowledge the benefits and necessities of using a globally recognized standard, as well as a need to inscribe local, anticolonial perspectives into that system.
This case study discusses a Participatory Design pilot project at Montana State University: User Experience with Underrepresented Populations (UXUP), in which Native American students and a librarian co-created a new community outreach tool. It provides an in-depth view into the UXUP design process, with further discussion of outcomes, limitations, assessments, and recommendations for implementing Participatory Design practices with Indigenous communities.
Archives have a long and troubled history as imperialist endeavors. Scholars of digital archives can begin to decolonize the archive by asking, how is knowledge imparted, in what media, by whom, and for what ends? Drawing on a six-year-long ethnohistorical study of Cherokee language and writing, I explore these questions and analyze the epistemological work of wampum, Sequoyan, and digital storytelling. I argue that decolonial digital archives have built into them the instrumental, historical, and cultural meanings of whatever media they include. To be understood in and on their terms, these media need to be contextualized within the notions of time, social practices, stories, and languages that lend them meaning.
Cushman, E. (2013). “Wampum, Sequoyan, and Story: Decolonizing the Digital Archive.” College English, 76(2), 115–135.