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First Nations and Indigenous Studies

What is a primary source?

The definition of a primary source depends upon the discipline and on how one is using the source.

Usually, a primary source is a direct, first-hand account of an event. It is usually something that was created at the time of an event, or shortly thereafter. Examples include:

  • Diaries
  • Letters
  • Speeches
  • Interviews
  • Statistics
  • Photographs
  • Art
  • Newspapers
  • Maps
  • Video and audio recordings
  • First-hand narratives or stories

Remember search terms such as:

  • biograph*
  • interview*
  • perspectiv*
  • autoethnograph*
  • narrativ*

In contrast, a secondary source would be something that interprets, analyses, or remarks upon a primary source. Examples include:

  • Journal articles
  • Essays
  • Theses and dissertations
  • Textbooks
  • Biographies
  • Stories or films produced about an historical event

For more information, check out Defining Primary and Secondary Sources or the UBC Library research guide to Primary Sources in the Humanities and Social Sciences.

UBC Catalogue

UBC Catalogue

In the UBC Library catalogue, try combining your keywords with one of these terms:

  • correspondence
  • diaries
  • personal narratives
  • interviews
  • sources
  • travel
  • autobiography
  • photographs


  • "residential schools" and "autobiography"
  • "Indians of North America" and "interviews"
  • "First Nations" and "photographs"

Note: UBC Archives have also put together a guide to First Nations Historical Resources found within the UBC Archives. Note that further searching within finding aids may be necessary to locate this material and that UBC Archives and UBC Rare Books & Special Collections are separate institutions. Primary source material houses at RBSC does not appear on this list.

Contemporary Sources

Government Records

Historical Sources

Oral Narratives

In the UBC Library Catalogue, use the terms "oral narratives" or "oral history" with your search (e.g.: "tlingit oral history").

The following are examples of online oral history projects - you will find many more online or in the UBC Catalogue.