Skip to Main Content

Indigenous Languages

Search Tip

When searching for articles using Summon, Google Scholar, or databases, remember that names of Indigenous languages often change over time and spellings vary. You may need to conduct multiple searches using a variety of search terms to find information about a particular Indigenous language.

Changes Over Time

  • Names of languages change over time and also vary by different groups and academic disciplines.
    For example: Dane-zaa Záágéʔ is also called the Beaver language.
    For example: Dakelh is also called the Carrier language.
  • Names of dialects also vary.
    For example: Plains Cree is also known as the Y-dialect or Nehiyawewin.

Spelling Variations

  • Consider spelling variations, especially for languages that have had multiple (or no) written systems.
  • Classification systems in libraries and archives might use different spellings and ordering systems.
    For example: Stó:lō, Stó:lô, Stó:lõ, Stahlo, Staulo, Stolo, Stohlo, Sto:lo (group of people)
    For example: Tsuut’ina, Sarcee, Sarsi, Tsuu T’ina, Tsu T’ina, Tsúùtínà (language)

The First Peoples' Language Map of British Columbia maintains a First Nations Index, which includes current and other names of nations, and a Language Index, which includes current and other names of languages.

Selected Databases

Searching within databases can be more time consuming than using Summon, but there are advantages to this research strategy: 

  • Databases are usually limited by academic discipline, which means you will retrieve fewer results but they may be more relevant.
  • Databases are highly structured, which means you can perform complex searches using controlled vocabulary.

The following databases are useful for finding articles related to Aboriginal languages. For a more comprehensive list, see the Articles & Databases page of our First Nations and Indigenous Studies research guide.

Each database may have their own way and limitations of searching within the database. Some may use "And," "Or," quotation marks and other search strategies in the above box, but some may not. If you are not getting the results you expected within a database, make sure the search is worded the way the database works. 

TIP: Searching databases with the keywords recommended in this research guide is a good starting strategy. However, be aware that some databases may use different terminology. When you find a relevant article, check the subject headings and article description for terminology that could be useful in a new keyword search.