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Citing Your Sources

Resources to assist in citing your sources and managing references.

Indigenous Citation: Context

Whose voices and words do we elevate in our written and spoken work? How do we situate our thoughts and ideas in relationship and acknowledgement to people, knowledges, and their influences upon our own?


The Citation Practices Challenge posed by Eve Tuck, Wayne K. Yang, and Rubén Gaztambide-Fernández in April 2015 asked each of us to:

“Reflect on the way you approach referencing the work of others in your own writing,
presenting and thinking. Whose work do you build on to make arguments, describe the
field and the problems you engage in your work? Who are you citing, and why do you cite them (and not others)?

Consider what we might want to change about our academic citation practices. Who do we choose to link and re-circulate in our work? Who gets erased when we follow traditional citation practices? Who should we stop citing?”

 In their article, “Decolonizing Attribution: Traditions of Exclusion,” Jane Anderson and Kimberly Christen (2019) critique structural practices of attribution as a tactic of dispossession and articulate how, ”Attribution functions as a key mechanism within a copyright/author/archive matrix which maintains hierarchies of knowledge production by reducing Indigenous and non-European subjectivity and legitimating the ongoing appropriation of Indigenous cultural material by non-Indigenous authors” (113).

Whose voices do we validate with our citation practices? How are Indigenous scholars, researchers, and academics impacted by citation practices?

Listen to this segment from CBC Radio Unreserved to hear perspectives shared by Sarah Hunt (Kwakwaka'wakw) and Kyle Powys Whyte (Potawatomi) on, “The politics of citation: Is the peer review process biased against Indigenous academics?”

Libraries are seeking to legitimize how Indigenous knowledge systems are reflected in citation practices by developing templates and instructions that recognize orally transmitted Indigenous knowledges, and respect the role of Indigenous Elders. For more background on this work, see this Indigenous Research Support Initiative blog post, “Decolonizing Citations: Help X̱wi7x̱wa Create a Template for Citing Indigenous Elders and Knowledge Keepers in Chicago Style” by Bronwen McKie (September 2020).

Consider also implications of copyright and intellectual property in the CFLA-FCAB Position Statement on Indigenous Knowledge in the Copyright Act that highlights the issue that: "Canada’s Copyright Act does not protect Indigenous knowledge, which may be found in published works as a result of research or appropriation. In Canadian law, the author of a published work holds the legal copyright to that knowledge or cultural expression, while the Indigenous peoples from whom the knowledge originated have lost their ownership rights.” Furthermore, in respect to sacred and private knowledge, “there may be a necessity to include a right to regain ownership of some Indigenous knowledge, even if the work has lapsed into the public domain.”

Indigenous Style Guides

“Decolonizing language surrounding Indigenous peoples is not finished: terms, names, and styles continue to evolve. So, plan on not getting it right. Make your best effort to make informed, mindful choices about terminology.” - Gregory Younging, Elements of Indigenous Style: A Guide for Writing By and About Indigenous Peoples.

See Chapter 6, "Terminology" in Gregory Younging, Elements of Indigenous Style, for a discussion of principles and review of appropriate terminology, questionable or culturally inappropriate terminology used in reference to Indigenous Peoples.

Citing Indigenous Elders: Style Template Examples

Approaches for adapting formal citation guidelines to acknowledge and cite Indigenous Elders are found in the APA and MLA resources below developed by Lorisia MacLeod (James Smith Cree Nation) at Norquest College Library for use in their local context (Edmonton, Alberta). Kwantlen Polytechnic University has also developed guidance, including for Chicago Style.

Of note, these tend to diverge from conventional guidelines in stating that personal communication with Indigenous Elders ought to be included in the reference list, and not only as in-text citations, and by identifying the Elder's relationship to a nation or community.

To learn more about the development of these templates, see: MacLeod, Lorisia. 2021. “More Than Personal Communication: Templates For Citing Indigenous Elders and Knowledge Keepers”. KULA: Knowledge Creation, Dissemination, and Preservation Studies 5 (1).

APA Style
MLA Style
Chicago Style
Canadian Legal Citation
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