"A number of Indigenous feminists and other scholars of colour have advocated powerfully for a more mindful and ethical consideration of our citational practices in academia. I think here especially of the work of Audra Simpson (Mohawk) and Jodi Byrd (Chickasaw), Sara Ahmed's feministkilljoys blog, and the Citation Practices Challenge by Eve Tuck (Unangax), K. Wayne Yang, and Rubén Gaztambide-Fernández—and especially that we not continue to replicate the closed circuit of white heteropatriarchy in affirming the same group of voices over and over again." (From Why Indigenous Literatures Matter by Daniel Heath Justice).
The official MLA and APA citation style guides do not have guidelines for citing Indigenous Elders and Knowledge Keepers.
NorQuest College has developed the following templates for citing Indigenous Elders and Knowledge Keepers (CC BY-NC 4.0) in the spirit of wahkôhtowin and reconciliation, and we thank them for sharing their template.
For information on the development of these templates and how to use them in practice, please see:
Lorisia MacLeod. "More Than Personal Communication: Templates for Citing Indigenous Elders and Knowledge Keepers." KULA: Knowledge Creation, Dissemination, and Preservation Studies 5, no. 1 (2021). https://doi.org/10.18357/kula.135
Unlike other personal communications, Elders and Knowledge Keepers should be cited in-text and in the References list.
The in-text citation should follow APA guidelines for formatting in-text citations for paraphrasing and direct quotes. Include the Elder or Knowledge Keeper's last name and the year of communication. For example:
Delores Cardinal described the nature of the... (2004).
The nature of the place was... (Cardinal, 2004).
Corresponding References list entry format:
Last name, First initial., Nation/Community. Treaty Territory if applicable. Where they live if applicable. Topic/subject of communication if applicable. personal communication. Month Date, Year.
For example: Cardinal, D., Goodfish Lake Cree Nation. Treaty 6. Lives in Edmonton. Oral teaching. personal communication. April 4, 2004.
Unlike most other personal communications, Elders and Knowledge Keepers should be cited in-text and in the Works Cited list.
The in-text citation should follow MLA guidelines for formatting in-text citations for paraphrasing and direct quotes. Include the Elder or Knowledge Keeper's last name. For example:
Delores Cardinal described the nature of the...
The nature of the place was... (Cardinal).
Corresponding Works Cited list entry:
Last name, First name., Nation/Community. Treaty Territory if applicable. City/Community they live in if applicable. Topic/subject of communication if applicable. Date Month Year.
For Example: Cardinal, Delores., Goodfish Lake Cree Nation. Treaty 6. Lives in Edmonton. Oral teaching. 4 April 2004.
Note: If you would like to approach an Elder or Knowledge Keeper for teachings, remember to follow protocol or if you are unsure what their protocol is, please ask them ahead of time.
Chicago Manual of Style
Work is underway to develop guidelines for citing Elders and Knowledge Keepers with Chicago Manual of Style. Please check back for updates.
Citing Traditional Knowledge or Oral Traditions of Indigenous Peoples
How this information is cited is dependent on if and how the information was recorded. If it has been recorded in a format or manner that can be retrieved, for example, a book, YouTube video, podcast etc., cite it as you would that type or format of the source with an in-text citation and an entry in the reference list.
For Traditional Knowledge or Oral Traditions that are not in a retrievable format, you must provide an in-text citation with as much detail as possible to outline the content and contextualize the origin of the information. You do not need to include a reference entry.
Did you speak to an Indigenous person directly to learn information?
If they are not a research participant, then you can cite them as you would personal communication. Include in an in-text citation the person's full name and the specific Indigenous group they belong to, location, and additional details that are relevant to them, ending with the words "personal communication" and the date of the communication.
Parenthetical in-text citation: (A.A. Smith, Indigenous group, location, additional details, personal communication, March 31. 2020)
Narrative in-text citation: A.A. Smith (Indigenous group, location, additional details, personal communication, March 31, 2020)
Did your information gathering occur over a number of dates?
If this is the case you should include a general date or range of dates that reflect when you consulted with the person.
Are you including information from your own experience and/or community?
If you are an Indigenous person and are including information from your own experience or information that has previously not been recorded of your people "describe yourself in the text (e.g., what nation you belong to, where you live) to contextualize the origin of the information you are sharing." (APA, 2020, p.261). You do not need to include a personal communication citation or have a reference list entry.
Additional helpful sections and resources
For further details on citing Traditional Knowledge or Oral Traditions for Oral History purposes for research participants please see page 261 of the Publication Manual.
For further details on terms to use when describing Indigenous Peoples, see Section 5.7 (APA, 2020, pp. 142-145).
For an excellent resource on writing by and about Indigenous peoples see Dr. Greg Younging's book Elements of Indigenous style: A guide for writing by and about Indigenous Peoples. Additional resources are listed below.
(APA, 2020, pp. 260-261)