Building bridges: dismantling eurocentrism in archives and respecting Indigenous ways of doing it right
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When I was five, my family moved to a farming community in Germany. My mother regularly wrote home to her parents, telling them about our lives and sending them gifts, which they put in their modern curiosity cabinet. This is a very reasonable situation and one which happens all the time. Nevertheless, what if foreigners who moved to Germany were only ever allowed to read my mother’s letters as the complete and acceptable truth for the entire German nation and its people. Would one deem this an accurate history? Would it be enough to analyze German culture, religion, and society? Would looking at the gifts be enough to determine their use without talking to a German? One would most likely answer no to such questions. I chose this narrative because it mirrors the trust adventures, academics, and so forth have put in the archival records written about Indigenous Peoples and their ways. Europeans writing about the Peoples they encountered did not speak the local languages, nor did they understand the cultural practices. Therefore, everything they wrote was interpreted through a strictly European lens, which in turn means that their writings were utterly biased and their interpretations often misconstrued. Nonetheless, many scripts have ended up in archival institutions. In kanata, this form of literature has continued without much interruption, and many such writings continue to be archived. This thesis will analyze the history of archiving in kanata using a decolonizing lens. It will analyze four archival institutions who are doing it right and four crucial documents, although not the only crucial documents, relevant to decolonizing, indigenizing, and reconciling the archival field in kanata with Indigenous Peoples. Finally, through the use of a case study, it will demonstrate the modern problems surrounding the archiving of Indigenous knowledge not produced by Indigenous Peoples nor housed with any community engagement. The point of this thesis is to call out archivists responsible for the continuing oppression of Indigenous Peoples and provide them with ways of rethinking the archival protocols and practices they put onto Indigenous knowledge contained within archival records.