Successful approaches to decolonizing archives

For Immediate Release
Wed, 08/09/2023


Rob Christopher

Marketing Coordinator

ALA Publishing & Media

American Library Association


CHICAGO — Simply put, decolonial archival practices involve thinking about and consciously changing how historical knowledge is produced, communicated, and preserved. And though it is especially critical that scholars and archivists who work with records by and about Indigenous people critically consider the implications of their work, this perspective is an essential one for all members of the profession. Published by ALA Neal-Schuman in partnership with the Society of American Archivists (SAA), “Decolonial Archival Futures,” written by Krista McCracken and Skylee-Storm Hogan-Stacey, challenges non-Indigenous practitioners to consider constructs of knowledge, which histories we tell, and how the past is presented. The book includes a Foreword by Ricardo L. Punzalan. Guided by the authors’ incisive synthesis of theory and current practice, readers will learn:

  • where Western archival practice is situated in relation to the colonial histories of Canada, the United States, Australia, and New Zealand, and the ways in which archival structures have reinforced colonial relationships;
  • a working definition of decolonial archival practice, which is rooted in concepts of community, reciprocity, and a desire to actively resist colonial recordkeeping practices;
  • the implications of this approach for policy making, collection development, and arrangement and description;
  • methods for reframing or reworking original order and provenance using digital technology, community participation, and removing hierarchical structures in order to meet the needs of Indigenous communities;
  • examples of community-driven descriptive practices, in which Indigenous knowledge and languages are infused into archival description at both the fonds and file level;
  • how the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), the Protocols for Native American Archival Material, the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Library and Information Resources Network Protocols, and other cultural stewardship protocols can be implemented within archival practice; and
  • more about the relationship building work that settler communities and researchers still need to do, demonstrated using examples of partnerships rooted in Indigenous knowledge structures, kinship ties, and relationships with the land.

Examination copies are available for instructors who are interested in adopting this title for course use. 

McCracken (they/them) is an award-winning public historian and archivist. They work as a Researcher/Curator at Algoma University’s Arthur A. Wishart Library and Shingwauk Residential Schools Centre, in Baawating (Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario) on the traditional territory of the Anishinaabe and Métis people. Krista is an editor of the popular Canadian history website In 2020, they won the best article in Indigenous History prize awarded by the Canadian Historical Association’s Indigenous History Group for their article “Challenging Colonial Spaces: Reconciliation and Decolonizing Work in Canada’s Archives.” Hogan-Stacey (they/them) is a historian and researcher currently living and working on the unceded territory of the Algonquin Anishinaabek in Ottawa, Ontario. A descendant of the Mohawk Nation of Kahnawà:ke, Skylee-Storm has explored Indigenous-Crown legal histories, the legacy of Residential Schools, Indigenous stories of resistance, and oral histories of Kahnawà:ke elders. Skylee-Storm works with Know History Historical Services as an Associate in their Ottawa office.

Founded in 1936, the Society of American Archivists is North America's oldest and largest national professional association dedicated to the needs and interests of archives and archivists. SAA represents more than 6,200 professional archivists employed by governments, universities, businesses, libraries, and historical organizations nationally.

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