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Two-Spirit & Indigiqueer 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. Primary sources can often be found in archives. Examples include:

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

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

Some Primary Source Examples

Finding Primary Sources at UBC

UBC's Library, Archives, and Rare Books & Special Collections (RBSC) are each separate institutions. RBSC Archives holds archival materials collected by UBC, while the UBC Archives holds material created by UBC departments and professors. You will have to search each institution separately to find all the primary source materials held at UBC.

UBC Library

In the UBC Library Catalogue, try combining your topic keywords with one of these terms.

  • biograph?
  • autobiograph?
  • "first person"
  • interview?
  • perspectiv?
  • diary OR diaries
  • autoethnograph?
  • narrativ?
  • photograph?

For Example: "Residential schools" AND Autobiograph?

Search Tip: Use quotation marks to search for a phrase (e.g. "First Nations"). Use a question mark to truncate a term to search for words with the same stem (e.g. Biograph? retrieves Biography, Biographies, Biographical, etc.). 

UBC Archives 

UBC Archives has put together a guide to finding First Nations Historical Resources in the UBC Archives. Note that further searching within finding aids may be necessary to locate this material.

UBC Rare Books & Special Collections

The best way to search for this material is to use Rare Books & Special Collections database search. RBSC's search does not use phrase (e.g. "residential school") or truncated (e.g. residential school?) searching. Try a simple keyword search (e.g. Residential school). 

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.

Citing Elders & Knowledge Keepers

Introduction

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


APA Style

Unlike other personal communications, Elders and Knowledge Keepers should be cited in-text and in the References list.

In-text citation:

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).

OR

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.


MLA Style

Unlike most other personal communications, Elders and Knowledge Keepers should be cited in-text and in the Works Cited list. 

In-text:

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...

OR

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.