Community Archival Description and Community Access

circle of trees

This week my colleague Jenna Lemay and I presented on “Community Archival Description and Community Access” as part of the Maskwacis Cultural College Microlearning Series.

Our webinar focused on how the Shingwauk Residential Schools Centre does archival description and archival access. We provided an overview of the Centre’s approach to both and also discussed specific projects and examples.

You can view our slides here. Additionally, the session and part of the discussion were recorded.

Photo by Martin Reisch on Unsplash

Reclaiming Shingwauk Hall Behind the Scenes

Reclaiming Shingwauk Hall poster

Earlier this week, as part of the Shingwauk Residential Schools Centre’s ongoing webinar series I presented a Behind the Scenes look at the Reclaiming Shingwauk Hall exhibition space.

My talk focused on the Survivor community based approach of the exhibition, challenges of installing an exhibit in a University hallway, and decisions around which photos to include.

You can see my slides with notes here. And the recording of the webinar is available here.

Best Article In Indigenous History Prize

I’m honoured and deeply humbled to have won, alongside Madeline Whetung, the Canadian Historical Association Best Article In Indigenous History Prize.

Madeline Whetung’s article “(En)Gendering Shoreline Law: Nishnaabeg Relational Politics Along the Trent Severn Waterway” is a must read. Whetung examines the concept of shoreline law as a means of discussing place-based kinship ties that the Mississaugas hold with water and land and other beings with which they share territory.

My article, “Challenging Colonial Spaces: Reconciliation and Decolonizing Work In Canadian Archives” seeks to highlight existing colonial frameworks within the Canadian archival system and explore the impact of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada on Canadian archival practices.

The article would not have been possible without the guidance of the Children of Shingwauk Alumni, my colleagues at the Shingwauk Residential Schools Centre, and the advice of Skylee-Storm Hogan.

Photo by Thor Alvis on Unsplash

Context Matters: Indigenous Knowledge and OER

Title slide of presentation

As part of my eCampus Ontario Open Education Fellows project I’ve had the opportunity to collaborate with Skylee-Storm Hogan on a couple of projects. As always, this collaboration has been a joy and I’ve learned so much from work with Skylee-Storm.

Part of this work has included creating a video that explores the intersection of Indigenous knowledge and OER. I’ve shared the video below and if you’re interested you can also checkout our slides and notes here.

Listening and Reading – Thunder Bay

Change written in neon lights

Last week after a two year investigation, the Office of the Independent Police Review Director released its review on the relationship between Indigenous people and the Thunder Bay Police Service (TBPS). The full 208 page report, “Broken Truth: Indigenous People and the Thunder Bay Policy Service,” is worth taking the time to read and reflect on.  At minimum I encourage everyone to read the executive summary.  The report sheds light on historical contexts in the land we currently call Canada and provides 44 recommendations for the TBPS.

Senator Murray Sinclair also recently released his final report on the Thunder Bay Police Services Board, at his recommendation the Ontario Civilian Police Commission has disbanded the policy services board for at least one year. This is an equally important report that I encourage people to engage with.

If reading reports isn’t for you, I recommend listening to Ryan McMahon’s Thunder Bay podcast. This five episode podcast talks about the history and current reality of Indigenous life in Thunder Bay.  As a warning, one of the episodes deals with underage sex trafficking and folks might find the entire series hard to listen to.  That being said, McMahon’s work is really important in terms of light it sheds on local politics, lived experiences, and centering Indigenous realities.

Photo credit: Ross Findon on Unsplash

Doing the work: Editing Wikipedia as an act of reconciliation

My latest piece, “Doing the work: Editing Wikipedia as an act of reconciliation“, written in collaboration with Danielle Robichaud is now up on On Archivy.  This piece developed out of an Archives Association of Ontario talk Danielle and I presented back in 2017 on “Collaborative archival practice: Rethinking outreach, access, and reconciliation using Wikipedia.”  The post looks at the how editing Wikipedia can be part of reconciliation efforts and includes tangible actions folks can take right now.

OER and Exploring Pressbooks

Cover of the Healing and Reconciliation Through Education Pressbook.
Cover of the draft Healing and Reconciliation Through Education Pressbook.

I recently starting working with Pressbooks as a way to develop an Open Educational Resource (OER) about residential schools and the history of the Shingwauk Indian Residential School in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario.

For folks not familiar will Pressbooks, it is a publishing platform that you easily create ebook and print-ready files for printing physical books.  In Ontario, eCampus Ontario has a dedicated Pressbooks instance for folks at universities in the province who are looking to develop OER and open textbooks.   The platform is extremely user friendly, and if you’ve used WordPress you’ll find the navigation and content entry system very similar.  I love the idea of using digital tools to create accessible, open access material for students to use in the classroom.  I also think there is a ton of potential for archives to work with historians to provide primary source material for this type of project.

We’re still very much in the content development phase of this project; but it has been really interesting to think about ways to illustrate the unique history of the Shingwauk Indian Residential School site in connection to the larger residential school system.  This is a history that the Children of Shingwauk Alumni Association and the Shingwauk Residential Schools Centre have been collecting and discussing for decades. It’s also a history that has become past of my daily work for the past eight years, either through archival practice or educational outreach programming. The development of OER content has the potential to deliver this history in new ways and to expand the reach of this important work.

I’m also really seeing the benefit of using a platform which supports collaboration.  I’ve been able to bring in a number of conspirators  co-authors to this project and we have been able to jointly develop content and design. I also like the flexibility a digital platform provides – hyperlinks, embedded audio-visual, and photographs are some of the obvious advantages.  In the case of our project we’re also embedding primary source material held by the Shingwauk Residential Schools Centre.  It is allowing us to directly connect learns will archival records, archival photographs, and documents which are central to telling the history of the Shingwauk site.

I would love to hear what other public history and Canadian history folks are doing with Pressbooks, OER software, and open textbook development. What are you working on? What resources do you wish existed to support your students? 

Reclaiming Shingwauk Hall

Reclaiming shingwauk Hall poster

A permanent exhibition project I have been working on since 2012 is finally coming into fruition.  The first part of the Reclaiming Shingwauk Hall exhibition will open on August 3, 2018 and is dedicated to the generations of Survivors who attended Indian Residential Schools across the country.

Reclaiming Shingwauk Hall was developed and led by the Shingwauk Residential Schools Centre.  It has been a Survivor-driven reclamation of the former Shingwauk Indian Residential School and is a Healing and Reconciliation through Education initiative.   It will be housed on the third floor of Shingwauk Hall, a former residential school building that is now houses Algoma University. 

This opening of August 3rd will include three distinct gallery spaces:

We are all Children of Shingwauk Gallery: This space witnesses the comings and goings of hundreds of Indigenous children from communities near and far.  It features photos and stories of some of the earliest students of the Shingwauk school in its industrial phases, contemporary portraits and testimonies of Survivors, and ‘selfies’ of current Algoma and Shingwauk Kinoomaage Gamig students. Here, visitors will see how entire families were connected to the Shingwauk site and learn about the remarkable ongoing healing work that has taken place.

Life at the Shingwauk Home: an Indian Residential School Gallery: This gallery illustrates how a scattering of modest buildings on 90.5 acres of land acquired in 1874 for ‘Indian Education’ became an ever-expanding industrial school complex and home to hundreds of Indigenous children. It charts the Shingwauk and Wawanosh Schools’ transition from industrial to residential school through photographs, offering a glimpse of the day-to-day existence of children over the years of the schools’ operation.

From Teaching Wigwam to Residential School Gallery: This final gallery recounts the story of Chief Shingwauk and his vision to create ‘Teaching Wigwams’ as a means of sustaining Anishinaabe self-determination. This historical gallery, which begins in the late 1700s, traces the history of the first iterations of the teaching wigwam through the absorption of the Shingwauk Home into the Canada-wide Indian Residential School System.

I am tremendously happy to see this project come together and humbled to be a part of such inspiring and important work.

Indigenous Archival Material, Open Access, and Decolonization

Map of the united states

The Newberry Library recently released a digitized collection of early 20th Century drawings by the Lakota community.  These drawings are part of the Edward E. Ayer Collection which contains artworks, books, and other material relating to Indigenous culture.   These drawings were created in 1913-1914 and are now in the public domain.

Any press content I’ve read about the material focuses on how the digitization project reflects “the institution’s awareness of absences within its holdings, and represent important steps towards decolonizing the archives.” Similarly, any of the news coverage I have read focuses on how unique this material is, 40 of the drawings were created by Lakota children.

I kept reading these press releases and articles hoping that there was a mention of the Newberry working with Indigenous communities in developing access protocols and to provide copies of the material to the community. Not a single release mentioned working with the Lakota or any other Indigenous group. Rather, the press releases focus on the missionary who paid Indigenous people to draw the images and subsequent settlers involved in their collection.  Maybe I missed something. Maybe there was consultation. And if so,  I would welcome details on the collaboration.

Open access does not automatically mean decolonization. Indeed, in many cases Western understanding of copyright goes completely against Indigenous intellectual property rights and community ownership principles.  For folks looking to learn more about this I would suggest reading the First Nation Principles of OCAP and the Protocols for Native American Archival Materials. I would also recommend Allison Mill’s Archivaria article “Learning to Listen: Archival Sound Recordings and Indigenous Cultural and Intellectual Property.”

As many archival and heritage organizations begin to think about decolonization and reconciliation, Indigenous ways of knowing need to be incorporated into how we operate.  Indigenous people know what is best for their communities and their heritage. As archivists and heritage professionals we need to listen to those desires and needs.

Photo credit: United States of America compiled from the latest & best authorities. By John Melish, 1818. The Newberry.

Métis Nation of Ontario Root Ancestors Project

On April 24, 2018 Stacey Devlin of Know History presented a talk at Algoma University focused on the Métis Nation of Ontario Root Ancestors Project.  This fantastic project aims to increase resources and accessibility of information about the unique history and development of Métis communities in Ontario.

The Root Ancestors Project was developed based on feedback collected by the MNO in 2010/11.  The results of this consultation process can be found in ‘What We Heard’ report which includes suggestions relating to Métis identification and registration. One of the suggestions in this report focused on the development of easily accessible materials relating to Métis genealogy research and communities. The Root Ancestors Project stems from that 2011 recommendation.  I highly recommend folks explore the publicly available historical research and community based positing of the project.

Stacey Devlin’s talk provided an excellent walk through of the Root Ancestors Project and clearly laid out the ways in which the project combined archival research and community needs.  If you’re interested in learning more I’ve created a Twitter moment of my tweets from the event: