Collaborative Archival Practice: Rethinking outreach, access, and reconciliation using Wikipedia

I had a great time at the 2017 Archives Association of Ontario conference last week.  If you’re interested in the talk Danielle Robichaud and I gave relating to Wikipedia, archives, and reconciliation work our slides are now online.

It was great to meet Danielle in person (and yay for twitter connecting us virtually long before this conference). Many thanks to all who came to our talk.  If you have questions relating to our presentation, using Wikipedia in archives, or Wikipedia editing as reconciliation work feel free to reach out to either Danielle or I.

AAO: Wikipedia and Reconciliation

Headed to the Archives Association of Ontario conference this week? Come join Danielle Robichaud and I on Friday April 28th from 2:30-3:15pm in session 6b.  We’ll be talking Wikipedia and reconciliation and sharing some of our experiences editing Wikipedia within the context of reconciliation.

I’m really looking forward to this talk and hope to see many Ontario archives folks at AAO this year. If you’re planning to be at AAO but you can’t come to our talk please feel free to say hello during the conference.

[Edited for typo fails]

4Rs Framework: Seeding Reconciliation On Uneven Ground

Table of Contents from Seeding Reconciliation on Uneven Ground

Table of Contents from Seeding Reconciliation on Uneven Ground, publication by 4Rs Youth Movement.

The 4Rs Youth Movement is a youth-led organization dedicated to facilitating conversations and changing relationships between Indigenous and non-Indigenous youth. 4Rs is committed to the values of respect, reciprocity, reconciliation and relevance and brings those values into all of the dialogues and programming it runs. I’ve had the opportunity to work with 4Rs on a couple of events in recent years and to participate in some of their facilitated programming. They are a fantastic group of change makers and a source of inspiration for anyone involved in cross-cultural or reconciliation work.

4Rs recently released their dialogue framework, Seeding Reconciliation On Uneven Ground: The 4Rs Approach to to Cross-Cultural Dialogue. This is a must read for anyone engaged in facilitation, cross-cultural dialogues, or youth engagement.  Seriously, go read it.  The framework shares what 4Rs has learned through their youth-led community drive dialogues and cross-cultural conversations.  It provides examples of how 4Rs has fostered safe spaces to encourage cross-cultural conversations with an emphasis on mix-methods and experience based learning processes.

The section of Seeding Reconciliation which reflects on the term reconciliation is particularly powerful and relevant for anyone who has been part of an organization which is interested in engaging in conversations of reconciliation, Indigenization, or decolonization.  The framework highlights different perspectives on reconciliation that have been shared by Indigenous activists, scholars, and thinkers.  These perspectives highlight the ongoing relationship building inherent in reconciliation work and the need to understand that reconciliation is about way more than just residential schools.

The actual step-by-step guide for cross-cultural dialogue is represented using through the use of a garden analogy, connecting conversations back to land.  The guide is broken into five steps:

  1. Getting There: Pathways to new relationships
  2. Preparing The Ground: Restoring balance to the landscape of reconciliation
  3. Planting The Seeds: Growing leadership, relationships and truth
  4. Connecting Our Roots: Going deeper into dialogue
  5. Harvesting: Taking it home

Each step focuses on youth led conversations and the fact that building strong relationships takes time and effort.  Creating safe spaces and facilitating conversations requires a lot of groundwork to be laid before important dialogues can take place.  As Seeding Reconciliation notes “We are not thinking about an end product that can be easily packaged or replicated; our Framework is not an assembly line…This Framework emphasizes that cross-cultural dialogue cannot be rushed” (p. 34).  Approaches to reconciliation and cross-cultural conversations are not a one size fits all situation. This is a deeply thoughtful and inspiring document that I would encourage people to engage with, especially those in the heritage field who are beginning to have conversations about reconciliation.  The frame uses easy to understand language but has the potential to provoke challenging questions ideas about reconciliation that are applicable in many contexts across Canada.

Archival Professional Communities

At the start of November I participated in a meeting of Anglican Diocesan Archivists in Toronto.  Spread over two days the meeting was a chance for Diocesan Archivists to connect, talk about ongoing projects, and discuss professional challenges and triumphs.  Many of the archivists in the room have been serving as Diocesan Archivists for many years.  For me it’s somewhat of a new role. I’ve only been working as the Assistant Diocesan Archivist for the Anglican Diocese of Algoma since 2014/2015 – it’s one of the many hats I’ve had the opportunity to wear at Algoma and has provided a contrast to the community based archival practice that I’m involved in the Shingwauk Residential Schools Centre side of things.

The meeting was a good experience and provided a chance to connect with archival colleagues in-person which I always find hugely beneficial.  Hearing about ongoing projects being undertaken at other archives provides inspiration and at times points for commiseration.  Having a network of people to bounce ideas off and to discuss larger profession wide opportunities for change can be a huge boon.  Similarly, I think speaking with archivists who are working in similar archives (in this case Anglican and often lone arranger) circumstances can be particularly useful for building professional communities and sharing resources.

I took a lot away from those two days of meetings and our discussions inspired a lot of introspection and questions around larger archival issues such as volunteerism, electronic records, and the term ‘decolonizing archives’.  Parts of my thoughts on those topics will likely appear in blog posts in the future.

I’m going to leave folks with a short video clip from the “Keep Anglicans Talking” series of Anglican Diocesan Archivist Melanie Delva speaking about reconciliation and her changing perceptions of Indigenous people.  Delva’s words speak directly to how working in an archive which contains records on residential schools can be a game and perspective changer. It is also a good starting point for larger conversations religious archivists need to be having around the TRC’s Calls to Action and archival practice.

 

Ten Books to Contextualize Reconciliation in Archives, Museums, and Public History

My latest post “Ten Books to Contextualize Reconciliation in Archives, Museums, and Public History” can be seen over at Active History.  The post looks at ten books and articles as a starting point for learning about reconciliation, residential schools and indigenous rights in the context of heritage organizations.

Interactive History: Indigenous Perspectives and the Blanket Exercise

BlanketsAs part of Orientation Week at AlgomaU students, staff, faculty and community members were invited to participate in the KAIROS blanket exercise.  Originally developed in the 1990s as a response to the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples the blanket exercise is a participatory teaching too that invites participants to learn about Canadian history from an Indigenous perspective.  The exercise has been updated since the 1990s to include information on more recent events such as Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women and Shannon’s Dream.

The exercise teaches about the impacts of colonialism, the loss of Indigenous land, residential schools, the sixties scoop, and numerous other facets of Canadian history that are not often taught in a classroom setting.  The visual representation of Turtle Island through the use of blankets, the physical act of participants representing Indigenous people and watching the spacial and visceral damage that is caused by colonialism is a really moving and had a huge impact on participants.

This is a very unique teaching tool that can be scaled to different age groups and number of participants.  I particularly liked how the session I participated in combined the national historical perspective with local responses and local experiences.  A local First Nation Chief spoke about his community and the removal of resources from their land and a Shingwauk Residential School Survivor shared their experience at Shingwauk as part of the exercise’s narrative.

Given the potentially triggering nature of the content health and cultural support was available throughout the event and the scripted portion of the exercise was followed by a sharing circle which allowed participants an opportunity to reflect on the exercise and discuss the experience.  Overall I think this is a great teaching tool that should be brought into more classrooms, community centers, and university campuses as a way of talking about history, ongoing inequality, and reconciliation.

Shingwauk Gathering – the 2016 Edition

Poster2016FinalThis past weekend the Shingwauk Gathering and Conference was held at Algoma University.  This event grew out of the 1981 Shingwauk Reunion and invites survivors, inter-generational survivors, those engaged in reconciliation and healing work, and community members to gather, share, and learn.  This year the theme of the Gathering was “Fulfilling the Vision” and focused on present day responses to carrying out Chief Shingwauk’s Vision of teaching wigwams.

Since beginning to work at the Shingwauk Residential Schools Centre (SRSC) in 2010 I’ve been fortunate to be part of five Gatherings.  My role in the organization of the Gatherings has varied greatly from year to year.  Sometimes I acted solely as an archives staff person supporting the work through helping with research requests, other years I helped planned special exhibits for the weekend or helped coordinate the schedule, and other year’s I’ve been responsible for most of the logistical planning of the event.

Most of this work falls under ‘other duties as assigned’ type work and is something I do outside my normal archival related duties.  There were a number of comments during this year’s Gathering that resonated with me about the nature of this work:

  • “I had no idea that working in an archive could be so physical.” -Setup volunteer.
  • “What do you do the rest of the year when you aren’t organizing this event?” -Participant who was treated to an explanation of archival work.
  • “You need a fit-bit.” -Participant, after seeing me walk back and forth the length of the school multiple times.

Holding this type of conference is a huge amount of work.  But every year I’m left with a feeling that I’ve contributed to something meaningful.  The healing work that takes place during the conference is important.  The event also continuously highlights the importance of the archival collections at the SRSC in documenting the residential school experience and the healing movement.  Every year there are survivors or intergenerational survivors who are returning to the Shingwauk IRS site for the first time.  Being able to share with them the history of the site, photographs of the school and possibly photographs of themselves at Shingwauk is an amazingly powerful experience.

For the past couple of years the Gathering has also included youth programming.  In this case youth is very broadly defined and tends to include anyone ~35 and younger.  This programming is some of my favourite to sit in on, hear about, and help plan.  It’s inspiring to see young people engaged in community work, reconciliation, and learning about the history of residential schools.  It’s all important work and the involvement of the youth gives me hope that the legacy of the Children of Shingwauk Alumni Association and other survivor based groups will continue for generations.

Regardless of how I’ve been involved at every Gathering I’ve learned something new about residential schools, the survivor experience, and the realities of Indigenous life in Canada.  I’m grateful to be welcomed in this space and the lessons I’m continuously learning are important for anyone engaged in archival work that documents residential schools or Indigenous communities.  We need to work together as engaged scholars and engaged archivists and learning is the first step toward that.

Anishinaabe Inendamowin (Thought) Research Symposium

Last week I attended the second Bi-Annual Anishinaabe Inendamowin (Thought) Research Symposium at Algoma University.  It was a great day and included speakers on everything from sustainability, to the power of food, to decolonizing railways. The symposium also included scholars from a range of backgrounds including community members, all levels of students, and academics.  It was nice to see such a diverse group of participants and to learn about so many interesting projects.  Some of the highlights for me included:

Sustainable Education Practices

Yvonne Vizina was the keynote speaker for the day and spoke on her academic and professional work relating to sustainability.  I found her work relating to the integration of Indigenous knowledge in science education and her curriculum development advocacy particularly interesting.  Her talk also focused on role Indigenous people have to play in environmental science and the need for the incorporation of Indigenous voices in policy development relating to sustainable environmental practices.  Yvonne also spoke about her work on the Indigenous Science From Place project which examined the inclusion of First Nations and Métis perspectives in the Saskatchewan school science curriculum and the impact that inclusion had upon student outcomes.

Urban Indigenous Youth For Change Panel

This panel featured Candace Neveau, Jordan Tabobondung, Rihkee Strapp and was chaired by Mitch Case. I’ve heard this group of youth speak a few times before and it is always an inspiring experience to hear about their community driven work and the success they’ve had in engaging local youth.  The discussion focused on how the panelists were involved in the local and other communities, what Indigenous innovation means, the role of Indigenous ways of knowing in their work, and advice for other Indigenous youth looking to become involved in similar work.  The panel included many powerful words and examples of being dedicated and driven to create safe spaces, open the lines of communication, and look at problems from Indigenous perspectives.

Work to Aid Healing and Reconciliation

Maggie McGoldrick, a PhD Candidate at Queens and an AlgomaU grad, spoke on her research relating to Indigenous centered archival movements and specifically the work of the Shingwauk Residential Schools Centre to aid healing and reconciliation. I’ve been in touch with Maggie over the past couple of years while she’s started this work and its great to see the early stages of her research coming together.  Her presentation focused on archives as site of memory and the power of archives to act as collective memory.  She also spoke on the need for historical documents and lived experience to interconnect.  I look forward to hearing more about Maggie’s work as it progresses.

National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation

NCTR

Screenshot of nctr.ca

The National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation at the University of Manitoba officially opened this week.  The first day of opening  focused on the history of residential schools, reconciliation, and steps for the NCTR going forward.  The second day of he opening emphasized education and included the launch of the NCTR website.

Work on the website is ongoing and materials collected by the TRC have just begun to be uploaded to the site.  Currently video footage from TRC events and hearings are available and a limited selection of archival materials relating to residential schools has been placed online.

This material was all openly available prior to the launch of the NCTR.  But it is now all aggregated on the new NCTR site and integrated into their collection. The national events and hearings were open to the public and some of them live-streamed.

The residential school archival material uploaded to the site is a bit more challenging in nature and is still a work in progress.  I found the school narratives created by the Government of Canada that are linked to each school interesting. However these narratives are very analytical and impersonal.  They are also include some errors (eg. the Spanish Girl’s School being labeled as St. Anne’s instead of St. Joseph’s).

The NCTR does note on that front page of these school narratives that:

“The National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation has not verified the content of this document. It is provided here for reference purposes only….You are welcome to contact the NCTR if you wish to add, comment on, or challenge any versions of the history presented herein.”

I was also struck by how each school’s page includes a “Featured Images” and “Related Material” section.  The bulk of the Related Material is quarterly return and administrative records from Library and Archives Canada. This material was previously available via LAC and is well documented on the NCTR website with details around origin, dates of creation, author, etc.

Conversely, the featured images are not accompanied by any contextual information or metadata.  The complex nature of residential school photography and ownership of these images that were often taken without active consent makes interpreting these images challenging.  Providing contextual information is crucial to understanding this history.  Ideally survivors and communities should be involved in how to describe, display, and share these images.

The NCTR has the potential to be an amazing resource for communities, educators, researchers and the general public.  I know that the website is a work-in-progress but at a first glance I saw a few red flags that need to be addressed in the near future.  However I do look forward to seeing how the NCTR’s digital access develops in the future.

Orange Shirt Day

September 30, 2014 is the second annual Orange Shirt Day.  The day grew out of a residential school commemoration event held in Williams, Lake BC in Spring 2013.  During this event Phyllis (Jack) Webstad, a Survivor of the St. Joseph Mission Residential School described her experience of arriving at the residential school and having an orange shirt that was bought for her by her grandmother taken away from her.

Speaking about her experience Phyllis said that “the colour orange has always reminded me of that and how my feelings didn’t matter, how no one cared and how I felt like I was worth nothing.  All of us little children were crying and no one cared.”  Phyllis complete story can be viewed here.

As a result of Phyllis’ experience and the 2013 commemoration event Orange Shirt Day was created as a way to inspire conversation around residential schools and reconciliation.  Similar to the anti-bullying pink shirt campaigns, the Orange Shirt Day/Every Child Matters campaign encourages people to wear orange and begin discussing the issues behind the cause.  Many school boards across Canada are using this as an opportunity to begin discussions of residential schools in their classrooms.  More information about Orange Shirt Day can be found on their website and facebook page.