Citing Indigenous Elders and Knowledge Keepers

Here’s something useful, via the library at U of Alberta:

This short article summarizes the contents of the following project report:

MacLeod, Lorisia. 2021. More Than Personal Communication: Templates For Citing Indigenous Elders and Knowledge Keepers. KULA: Knowledge Creation, Dissemination, and Preservation Studies 5(1). doi:10.18357/kula.135. More Than Personal Communication | KULA: Knowledge Creation, Dissemination, and Preservation Studies (7 February, 2022).

In this project report, I introduce the citation templates for Indigenous Elders and Knowledge Keepers that I created in partnership with the staff of the NorQuest Indigenous Student Centre. These citation templates have been adopted/linked to by twenty-five institutions across Canada and the United States. They represent an attempt to formalize something that Indigenous scholars have been doing for decades: fighting to find a better way to acknowledge our voices and knowledges within academia.

Here are examples of the citation format described in both APA and MLA flavors:

APA

  1. Last name, First initial.
  2. Nation/Community.
  3. Treaty Territory if applicable.
  4. Where they live if applicable.
  5. Topic/subject of communication if applicable.
  6. “personal communication.”
  7. Month Date, Year.*

Cardinal, D. Goodfish Lake Cree Nation. Treaty 6. Lives in Edmonton. Oral teaching. personal communication. April 4, 2004.

MLA

  1. Last name, First name.
  2. Nation/Community.
  3. Treaty Territory if applicable.
  4. City/Community they live in if applicable.
  5. Topic/subject of communication if applicable.
  6. Date Month Year.*

Cardinal, Delores. Goodfish Lake Cree Nation. Treaty 6. Lives in Edmonton. Oral teaching. 4 April 2004.

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Most journal styles explicitly say not to include personal communications in the reference list, but “Oral teaching” or “oral text” makes it a different genre. Some argue that reference lists are only for “published” works but a) linguists violate that all the time with their manuscripts and (in prep)

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Personally, I take a perspective of cite/reference everything I am quoting. I just delineate it as such. I ran across this resource when I was doing my MA thesis on citation and reference practices related to language archives. Though at the time I only saw the APA version. The framing of the need for this sort of reference struck me as odd. If I want to record the story teller/knowledge holder then reference the recording and give it due attribution. But to reference a person telling me something in a bibliography… how is that any different than doing (p.c., 2019) with a footnote explaining who the person is? It is this last method which is more inline with the Chicago series of stylesheets. Maybe APA and MLA don’t have the techniques of adding footnotes and using personal communication? I’m concerned that by putting a person in the references section we somehow objectify the person rather than honoring them in their personhood. I was also wondering why this sort of advise was appropriate First Nations elders and not my italian grandmother…