Access to Indigenous knowledges and their cultural materials depends on decolonizing libraries & cultural memory institutions

Truth and Reconciliation Walk... over 10,000 strong. Photo by Annie Wenjack
Truth and Reconciliation Walk... over 10,000 strong. Photo by Annie Wenjack

THUNDER BAY – NEWS – The Truth and Reconciliation Committee of the Canadian Federation of Library Associations (CFLA-FCAB) released a report outlining a path forward for respecting Indigenous culture and increasing access to traditional Indigenous knowledge. The 77-page report, which is the product of months of research and evaluation, makes ten recommendations to enhance experiences and opportunities for Indigenous peoples and researchers in Canada by decolonizing libraries and archives and their practices.

“The Truth and Reconciliation Committee was the first committee established by CFLA-FCAB when the federation was founded,” said Peter Bailey, Chair of CFLA-FCAB. “Canada’s library community is strongly motivated to support universal access. We aim to provide services that create opportunities for everyone while respecting all cultures and promoting cultural products.”

The report is a first for Canada’s library community, using a framework and methodology based on the Anishinaabe medicine wheel. The medicine wheel represents the Four Elements of Nature, the Four Elements of the Human Being, the Four Stages of Life, and the Four Seasons.

Camille Callison, Indigenous Representative on the board of CFLA-FCAB, served as Chair of the Truth and Reconciliation Committee.

“When implemented, these overarching recommendations will ensure libraries, archives, cultural memory institutions and other stakeholders are always encouraged to make materials and programming accessible to all Canadians,” said Callison. “We are recommending that library systems address structural biases by integrating Indigenous theories of knowledge into the way libraries store, organize, and share knowledge and information.”

The report also recommends establishing an online database of “living documents” to highlight existing Best Practices related to Indigenous services in libraries, archives, and cultural memory institutions. It further recommends the maintenance of a database of Indigenous organizations committed to preserving cultural memory to support the development of an Indigenous association of library, archives and cultural memory institutions.

“Another of our aims is to implement Indigenous Knowledge Protection protocols and agreements with local and Indigenous groups who have holdings in the library, archive and cultural memory institutions to respect the Indigenous cultural concepts of copyright with regard to Indigenous history or heritage,” said Callison. “We very much look forward to sharing this report widely among all stakeholders in Canada’s library, archive and cultural memory sector.”

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