Update from the SCCA Response to the Report on the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Task Force (TRC-TF) – Feb. 2017

Erica Hernández-Read recently posted on Arcan-L an update of the work of the SCCA Response to the Report on the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Task Force.  For those not on Arcan-L but curious as to how the archival community is responding to the TRC calls to action on a professional level I’ve re-posted the notice below.  We are currently working on a number of projects as a Task Force with the goal of having an actionable final report completed by September 2018.


 

Dear members of the Canadian archival community,

 As you may recall, the mandate of the SCCA Response to the Report on the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Task Force (TRC-TF) is to conduct a review of archival policies and best practices existent across the country and to identify potential barriers to reconciliation efforts between the Canadian archival community and Indigenous record keepers. With such a review in hand, the Task Force will then work in collaboration with Indigenous  community partners  to create an actionable response to this research which will become the foundation for a reconciliation and decolonization framework for Canadian archives. The following is a summary of the TRC-TF Action Plan (v.5) submitted to the SCCA Steering Committee on January 30, 2017 which outlines the specific activities and timelines TRC-TF members will engage in and work towards as they fulfill this mandate.

Summary of Planned Activity:

 *  Beginning 23 January 2017, TRC-TF members will begin collaborations on their team-based assignments. The first activities to be undertaken include identifying and soliciting financial support from potential institutional partners and funding agencies. This funding, if received, will be applied towards travel costs for community outreach and for TRC-TF members to undertake a “History Matters” reconciliation dialogue workshop at the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation which will assist them in grounding themselves within the legacy of the Indian Residential School system.

  *   Initial activities also include developing and disseminating an on-line survey to the Canadian archival community as a means through which to obtain perspectives / requirements / questions / concerns / hopes for reconciliation within a Canadian archival context, and to obtain samples of existent policies or protocols employed by Canadian archivists for the purposes of decolonizing institutional access to, and description of, archival holdings.

  *   Concurrently, TF team members will undertake the identification and development of appropriate communications protocols and a comprehensive outreach strategy in preparation for March-July 2017 outreach initiatives with Indigenous communities and organizations across Canada. Through these community outreach initiatives it is hoped that many Indigenous record-keepers will be inspired towards collaboration and will agree to engage with us as we collectively work towards the development of draft Protocol and Principles documentation.

  *   The next round of activities will include conducting a literature search spanning both national and international archival discourse around reconciliation, and any pertinent discourse identified within other professions (i.e. library science, museum studies, social work, etc.) so as to highlight what reconciliation activities have been undertaken; what has worked and what has failed; and to highlight decolonization strategies which might be successful if applied within a Canadian archival context.

  *   Following on the heels of this literature research will be direct one-on-one follow-up dialogue by TRC-TF team members with the authors and contributors to this discourse to really gain a sense of how their past work towards reconciliation is, or is not, being continued into the present. Indigenous cultural experts identified during community outreach activities who are willing and able to engage directly with TRC-TF team members in this way will also be consulted as part of this dialogue process.

  *   Data obtained through the survey, community outreach activities, literature search, and follow-up dialogue will be synthesized down to its essence to form the foundation of the Protocols and Principles documentation. Once drafted by the designated TRC-TF team in collaboration with our Indigenous partners, and vetted through by the entire TRC-TF, the draft Protocol and Principles documents will be released to the Canadian archival community and Indigenous communities to solicit feedback. This release is tentatively scheduled for the beginning of April 2018, with the conclusion of this iterative process by the end of May 2018.

  *   A final report, outlining research methodology and findings, a list of recommendations for action, and the final draft Protocol and Principles documents will be submitted to the SCCA Steering Committee by the end of September 2018. Once approved, all documentation will be publically disseminated to the broader Canadian archival community and Indigenous communities and organizations across Canada.

  *   Our Indigenous partners, communities and organizations who worked with us throughout this process will then be publically acknowledged for their contributions and thanked.

  *   It is anticipated that all work by the TRC-TF will be concluded by the October 2018 meeting of the SCCA Steering Committee.

If you have any input/questions/concerns you would like to share with the TRC-TF please don’t hesitate to contact me.

Regards,

Erica Hernández-Read, Chair
On behalf of Response to the Report on the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Task Force Steering Committee on Canada’s Archives

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AlgomaU Profile: Decolonizing and Indigenizing the Academy

My fantastic co-worker Skylee-Storm Hogan and I were recently profiled as part of Algoma University’s ongoing efforts to highlight the great work going on at the university.

The profile focuses on our work relating to decolonization and indigenization with an emphasis on the “Doing The Work: The Historian’s Place in Indigenization and Decolonization” Active History piece we wrote in December 2016.

I’m delighted to have had the chance to work with Skylee-Storm over the past couple of years and thrilled to see the work of the archives staff garnering some attention.

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AAO 2017 Conference

The 2017 Archives Association of Ontario conference is slated for April 26-28, 2017 at the University of Toronto Faculty of Information (iSchool).  This year’s conference theme is “Come Together: Meaningful Collaboration in a Connected World.”  The draft program at a glance is available online and it looks like a great couple of days of programming. Early bird registration just opened and runs to March 12, 2017.  It’s been a couple of years since I’ve had the opportunity to attend AAO – I blame the fact that Sault Ste. Marie is so far from basically everywhere. But this is typically a great smaller conference with lots of friendly folks and good conversation.

As part of the 2017 conference Danielle Robichaud and I will be talking archives and Wikipedia as part of the Digital Storytelling session on Friday April 28, 2017.   April is going to be a busy month for me with both NCPH and AAO within a couple of weeks. But I’m really looking forward to connecting with Ontario archives folks at AAO and presenting with Danielle.

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Mental Health Awareness and Support

In the nine years I’ve had this blog I’ve started and deleted variations of a post on mental health many times.  I’ve written about self-care, historical trauma, or emotional labour in heritage fields.  These topics all relate to mental health but they also dance around some of the harder hitting closer to home issues associated with mental health.

Wednesday January 25, 2017 was #BellLetsTalk day which encourages Canadians to discuss mental health.  I have some problems with the commercialization of mental health though this initiative and the overwhelmingly middle-class white cis representation in the associated media campaign.  However, this is a huge awareness campaign that reaches many Canadians and the merits (or downsides) of this type of ‘end the stigma’ based campaign are worth of a separate discussion.

In addition to #BellLetsTalk, LIS Mental Health Week is January 30 – February 3, 2017.  This week aims raise awareness of mental health among library and archives workers.   On February 2, 2017 there will be a #lismentalhealth twitter chat at 5pm EST to talk about mental health in the LIS field. This advocacy week also encourages library and archive professionals to use the week as a time to facilitate discussions about mental health, share skills, reflect, and advocate for support.

I do think that sharing mental health experiences can be helpful in raising awareness, advocating for improved services, and supporting each other.  I think initiatives such as LIS Mental Health Week are particularly potent because of their sense of community and the resulting discussion of the intersection of the workplace and mental health. I also really like that LIS Mental Health week emphasizes the fact that you don’t need to disclose your personal mental health status to participate in a conversation about mental health. For many people some talking about their personal mental health experience can be victimizing and stressful.  I’ve suffered from depression on and off since I was a teenager and in the past year I’ve also been struggling with anxiety, however I don’t feel the need or desire to expand on that experience in this context.  We need to respect that fact that you can be an advocate and supportive without sharing all (or any) details of your mental health status.

For many people, myself included, mental health is a deeply personal topic that can be difficult to talk about.  For me, many of my interactions relating to mental health have often been directly connected to my gender and sexual identity. Gender based social stereotypes about mental health and gender bias in diagnosis/treatment can greatly impact a person’s experience when seeking support for a mental health concern. I know many female presenting folks that are genuinely afraid to talk about mental health in their place of work because they are already battling equality issues related to their gender. This concern is amplified for WOC, queer women, and trans-women who often face discrimination on all sides.  Conversations about mental health can be difficult and emotionally draining but they are important and it’s worth considering how we frame our workplace dialogues about mental health.

How do you help support conversations about mental health in your workplace or professional circles?

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Indigenous Collections Symposium Webinar

The Indigenous Collections Symposium: Promising Practices, Challenging Issues and Changing the System is an initiative through the Ontario Museum Association, Woodland Cultural Centre, and the Indigenous Knowledge Centre at the Six Nations Polytechnic.  The Symposium is going to be held March 23-24, 2017 in Brantford, Ontario.

In-person registration for the event is sold out however it is possible to attend online.  Online registration includes three webinars, streaming of day one of the symposium, and video archives of all presentations.  The Symposium aims to create discussion about the care and interpretation of Indigenous collections and to begin conversations about collaboration and best practices.

Leading up to the conference there will be three webinars:

Museum Perspectives on the Task Force on Museums & First Peoples and the Recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission
Date: Thursday, February 16, 2017
Time: 12:00pm-1:00pm
Speakers: Trudy Nicks, Senior Curator (Retired), Royal Ontario Museum and Paula Whitlow, Museum Curator, Woodland Cultural Centre

An Introduction to Residential Schools in Ontario: Histories and Interpretation
Date: Friday, February 24, 2017
Time: 12:00pm-1:00pm
Speakers: Amos Key Jr., Director of First Nations Language Program, Woodland Cultural Centre, and Krista McCracken, Archives Supervisor, Arthur A. Wishart Library and Shingwauk Residential Schools Centre, Algoma University

Historic and Contemporary Indigenous Groups in Ontario
Date: March 2017
Speakers: TBC

I’m looking forward to presenting with Amos Key Jr in the “Introduction to Residential Schools in Ontario: Histories and Interpreation” webinar.  Our webinar will cover the history of residential schools in Ontario and also discuss the challenges of displaying and teaching about this history in a heritage setting.  Both Amos and I work at sites which were once residential schools and we’ll be drawing on our respective experiences working with the histories of the Mohawk Institute and the Shingwauk Indian Residential School.

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#1Lib1Ref Initiative

The #1Lib1Ref (One Librarian, One Reference) initiative is running January 15 – February 3, 2017.  The project targets librarians and information professionals and encourages them to engage with Wikipedia by improving citations and adding citations to existing pages.  The skills required to add citations draw on a lot of the research and reference skills that librarians excel at and adding a citation is an easy way to start editing Wikipedia.

Earlier this month via Arcan-L Danielle Robichaud reminded the Canadian archival community that archivists have similar skills and resources which can be used to contribute to the #1Lib1Ref initative.  Danielle suggested that archivists include citations from:

  • reference resources held in your reading room that are not currently available online; [i]
  • historical newspapers you have on hand in clippings files, on microfilm/fiche or as part of paid subscriptions;[ii]
  • print resources that your organization has digitized and have made available online or through the Internet Archive; [iii]
  • digital versions of finding aids, news features or journal articles that pertain to the topic at hand that have not been used elsewhere in the page.

I whole heatedly agree with Danielle and would encourage both librarians and archivists to become involved.  I have been working away at contributing citations to Wikipedia pages relating to residential schools, Indigenous activists, and members of the Children of Shingwauk Alumni Association.

New to Wikipedia and unsure where to start? The #1Lib1Ref page has a basic outline of the steps required to add a citation using either the visual editor or source editor in Wikipedia. You can also check out the visual editor guide or the short introduction tutorial. More importantly I would just suggest diving in and trying things out.  Citations are a really easy way to improve Wikipedia and the learning curve is relatively easy, even if you have never edited a page before.

On a citation spree and want to get folks at your place of work or a group of information professionals involved? There’s a “Coffee Kit” page that provides guidelines for organizing an event around #1Lib1Ref.  There are also lots of other suggestions of other ways to engage your library/archive with the wider Wikipedia community.


[i] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edna_Haviland#cite_note-Russell-1
[ii]
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles_Thiele#cite_note-KWRBrief-9
[iii]
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Canadian_Indian_residential_school_system#cite_note-Bryce1906-38

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Listening: The Henceforward Podcast

I listen to a lot of podcasts and some of those are pure leisure while others inspire critical thinking. Last year I came across The Henceforward, a podcast that “considers the relationships between Indigenous peoples and Black peoples on Turtle Island.”  The podcast aims to “reconsider the past and reimagine the future, in the henceforward.”  It also addresses inter- sectional relationships and “how these relationships can go beyond what has been constructed through settler colonialism and antiblackness”. The podcast is part of the Indian & Cowboy podcast network, which is a network dedicated to Indigenous podcasting and storytelling.

So far The Henceforward has created seven episodes all with different guest contributors and tackling a range of topics including reconciliation, land, DNA/identity, and decolonization. The podcast is produced by Eve Tuck (Unangax) a writer and scholar in Toronto and the University of Toronto.  Contributors have included Stephanie Latty, Rebecca Beaulne-Stuebing (Naawakwe giizhigookwe), Hunter Knight, Faith Juma, Lynn Ly, Christy Guthrie, Karima Kinlock, Deanna Del Vecchio, Sefanit Habtom and others.  The podcast has also been mentored by Chelsea Vowel (âpihtawikosisân).   It evolved out of a Ontario Institute for Studies in Education course titled Decolonization, Settler Colonialism and Antiblackness offered by Eve Tuck.  The recording of the first season coincided with the #BlackLivesMatterTO public protest.

So far I’ve loved this podcast for the range of topics it has addressed but also for the multiplicity of voices.  Each episode has had a slightly different format but all have emphasized conversations and dialogue while centering Indigenous and Black voices.  The podcast addresses fundamental questions such as what does reconciliation look like.  But it also dives into scholarly debates of both historical and contemporary relationships on Turtle Island.  I could easily see a number of episodes from the first season being used as teaching tools or resources for post-secondary classes when discussing Indigenous communities, blackness, and settler colonialism.  As a note for any new listeners: the sound quality of the episodes gets substantially better as the podcast season progresses and the content is well worth listening past the few segments with poor audio quality.

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Writing, Editing, and Imposter Syndrome

editingLast fall I was struggling to submit an article I had been working on for over a year.  The paper had already undergone significant revision based on feedback including a complete overhaul of its central argument and structure.  The article was at the point where I had been tweaking it for months.  I kept reading more, adding in a few additional sources, and was spending hours antagonizing over word choice and grammar.  The paper was starting to be something I didn’t want to spend any additional time on and something I was causing me fair bit of anxiety mixed in with imposter syndrome.

While all of this was going on I was having a lot of self-doubt in my ability to self-edit, copyedit, and format a paper based on citation style I wasn’t all that familiar with. For a number of years I have edited other people’s work and provided constructive feedback to others on their academic and fiction work.  However I didn’t feel competent when addressing my own work.  After a lot of back and forth and internal arguing with myself I ended up seeking outside copyediting help.  I ultimately paid for copyediting services from a professional who specializes in academic writing.

The relief that came with making that decision was huge.  It helped take something off of my plate that I was struggling with and helped put things in perspective.  You can be a great writer and still suck a copyediting.  They are completely different practices and it is always harder to pick apart your own work.  I understand that not everyone is in the space where they can pay for this type of service, but I think as an option it is something that needs to be talked about.  Academics use professional editors for a whole host of different reasons.  And if your work ends up being accepted you’re going to be working with an editor and copyeditor eventually.  But it tends to be something we don’t talk about.  Personally, I started to question if using an editor devalued my work.  It doesn’t.  Copyediting doesn’t change your ideas or make your arguments for you – it’s about making your writing conform to accepted academic publishing norms, which can vary greatly from publication to publication.

I think imposter syndrome around the publication process is something we need to talk about.  We also need to talk about how we cope with moving past publication related anxiety and how to create an environment that supports new and mid-career professionals in the publication process. I firmly believe in the idea of a peer-nurturing environment where we help lift up each other and help support each other.  For me that means having that group of colleagues who you can talk to and mentors who you turn to for advice, even when things seem impossible to overcome. It also means sharing what knowledge I have with others and finding ways to amplify the voices of others while lifting them up.

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Performing Archive: Digitizing and Contextualizing Edward S. Curtis Photographs

Performing Archive: Edward S. Curtis + “the vanishing race” is the result of a three-month pilot project undertaken by the Claremont Center for Digital Humanities. The project is focused on the well known and controversial collection of photographs of Indigenous communities and people that were created by Edward S. Curtis in the early 20th Century.  Curtis is perhaps most known for his published work The North American Indian and for his work photographing Indigenous people because of his belief that they were a “vanishing race.”

The use of Curtis’ photographs is currently controversial because of the context behind them – they are representative of colonial relationships, often very staged, and representative of a fundamental lack of understanding of the communities they portray. As the Performing Archive essay “Vanishing Race and Canon de Chelly” by Ken Gonzales-Day notes “In many cases Curtis encouraged his models to stage, restage, or perform dances or ceremonies out of season and out of context, but Curtis believed that performing for the camera could serve as a way of preserving cultural traditions while there was still a living memory of them. The staged images were often paired with titles created by Curtis which further emphasized his perspective of Indigenous communities as vanishing and as ‘others.’

The Performing Archive initiative digitally brings together archival material relating to Curtis from Claremont Colleges Honnold-Mudd Library Special Collections, Northwestern University, the Library of Congress, the Smithsonian by way of the Digital Public Library of America, and the University of Indiana Bloomington Archives of Traditional Music. The project brings together “nearly 2,500 items related to Curtis and his ethnographic and photographic work with western American and Canadian tribes” and also “brings together a number of new scholarly works designed to facilitate teaching with Curtis’ work.”

I think it is crucial to note that the Performing Archive aims to contextualize Curtis’ images and to present them in a way that critically engages with the context of the creation, preservation, and current day usage.  The site aims to unpack the relationships of authority in the images and provides critical essays to critically engage students and casual viewers who come across the content.  The essays written by Ken Gonzales-Day unpacking the creation and use specific images are extremely well done and insightful.  However, I do worry about viewers skipping this important part of the website and diving headfirst into the images without that important piece of context.  That being said the site navigation is setup in such a way that the introduction and critical essays are displayed first making it more likely that visitors will engage with that material prior to simply searching for photographs.

I also really enjoyed the sections of the site which examined the archival and visualization implications of Curtis’ images and the digitization of these works.  The project has also looked into using data analysis and data visualizations to examine the relationships between photographs and the communities the represent.  In the site essay “Conclusion: The Archive and the Technology of Race” David J. Kim notes that “The approach we have taken with the network representation of Curtis’ images and his social network is an attempt to unveil the history of visual documentation as technology of establishing the “what of” and the “knowing” of, or the essence of, Native Americans, as well as the history of how the scientific discourse of race has made the category of Native Americans archivable and archived in the early twentieth century.”  Performing Archive does an excellent job of critically examining and exploring it’s own processes and the cultural implications of these approaches to Curtis’ work.

This is a hugely interesting project and I’m amazed at how much material is here considering it was developed out of a three month pilot project.  I also think that this is a crucial work examining the historically context around colonial photography from archival and historical perspectives.  One red flag for me about the project was that the section on partnerships with Indigenous communities was very limited.  By the sounds of it there is plans that this part of the initiative will grow, and I really hope it does as working with the Indigenous communities represented in the photographs is hugely important.  Similarly I’m always slightly uncomfortable seeing Curtis’ images published anywhere – be they in a book or on a website – I think the contextualization done by Performing Archive mitigates that somewhat but without Indigenous community support this initiative has the potential to repeat colonial relationship structures.

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