Cuturally Appropriate Library Subject Headings For Indigenous Peoples

When I research Indigenous populations in the United States they refer to themselves as "Native Americans" or "Indians" while in my research in Canadian Indigenous populations they refer to themselves as either "Indigenous, First Nation, Aboriginal, Metis or Inuit." So this can be difficult when researching subject-headings and when identifying these populations in my research papers.

The term "Aboriginal"  is supposed to encompass both First Nations and Metis people in Canada, however, I recall a First Nations colleague telling me that the "Aboriginal" has the connotation of abnormal because the first two letters in the term is "ab".

Certainly International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA) should try to work with Indigenous populations to find cultural sensitive terms that can be used universally, which is a tall order that needs to be addressed. The process of deliberative democracy in consulting with the Indigenous peoples who are the key stakeholders impacted by how these subject-headings represent their ethnicity is equally important as the resulting subject-headings from the process.

Therefore, the journey of deciding on the most culturally appropriate subject-headings is equally as important as the destination of the subject-headings-however, from an Indigenous Research Methodology perspective- learning is in a continuous circle like the ocean tides. Thus, I leave you with the quote from

Black Elk:

"You have noticed that everything an Indian does in a circle,
and that is because the Power of the World always works in circles,
and everything tries to be round.

In the old days all our power came to us from the sacred hoop
of the nation and so long as the hoop was unbroken the people
flourished. The flowering tree was the living center of the hoop,
and the circle of the four quarters nourished it. The east gave peace
and light, the south gave warmth, the west gave rain and the north
with its cold and mighty wind gave strength and endurance. This
knowledge came to us from the outer world with our religion.

Everything the power of the world does is done in a circle.
The sky is round and I have heard that the earth is round like a ball
and so are all the stars. The wind, in its greatest power, whirls.
Birds make their nests in circles, for theirs is the same religion as ours.
The sun comes forth and goes down again in a circle. The moon
does the same and both are round. Even the seasons form a great
circle in their changing and always come back again to where they were.

The life of a man is a circle from childhood to childhood, and so it is
in everything where power moves. Our teepees were round like the
nests of birds, and these were always set in a circle, the nation’s hoop,
a nest of many nests, where the Great Spirit meant for us to hatch our children".

Black Elk, Holy Man of the Oglala Sioux 1863-1950

 Based on Black Elk's epistemology of the circle, I believe that learning and deciding upon the best subject-headings for Indigenous peoples is a continuous process flowing within fluid circles of social justice.



Black, E., & Neihardt, J. G. (1961). Black Elk speaks [electronic resource] : being the life story of a holy man of the Oglala Sioux / as told through John G. Neihardt (Flaming Rainbow) Illustrated by Standing Bear. Lincoln : University of Nebraska Press, 1993.

Tanya Tagaq says she was racially, sexually harassed in Winnipeg

WINNIPEG – A prize-winning throat singer says she was sexually harassed and called “a sexy little Indian” while in Winnipeg.

Tanya Tagaq  was in the city performing with the Royal Winnipeg Ballet in a production about the legacy of Indian residential schools.

She says she was followed while out for lunch by a man who crudely propositioned her.

On her Twitter account, Tagaq says it was “creepy and scary.”

Using the hashtag for missing and murdered Indigenous women, Tagaq says such harassment happens “when we are alone, in the day or night.”

The Inuk singer recently won the Polaris Music Prize after a performance that featured the names of some of Canada’s 1,200 missing and murdered Indigenouswomen.

The award is given annually to the best full-length Canadian album based on artistic merit.

Moving Forward, Giving Back Transformative Aboriginal Adult Education

Moving Forward, Giving Back

Transformative Aboriginal Adult Education

Edited by Jim Silver     February 2013

Aboriginal people who choose to improve their education as adults often face many challenges, most of which arise from the ongoing impact of colonialism and of racialized poverty. Yet in Winnipeg’s low-income inner city, a variety of innovative and effective Aboriginal adult education initiatives have emerged. Drawing upon the voices and experiences of Aboriginal adult learners themselves, this book describes the initiatives and strategies that have proven successful and transformative for adult Aboriginal students.

Good Places to Live

Poverty and Public Housing in Canada

By Jim Silver     February 2011

Public housing projects are stigmatized and stereotyped as bad places to live, as havens of poverty, illegal activity and violence. In many cities they are being bulldozed, ostensibly for these reasons but also because the land on which they are located has become so valuable. In Good Places to Live, Jim Silver argues that the problems with which it is so often associated are not inherent to public housing but are the result of structural inequalities and neoliberal government policies. This book urges readers to reconsider the fate of public housing, arguing that urban poverty — what Silver calls spatially concentrated racialized poverty — is not solved by razing public housing. On the contrary, public housing projects rebuilt from within, based on communities’ strengths and supported by meaningful public investment could create vibrant and healthy neighbourhoods while maintaining much-needed low-income housing. Considering four public housing projects, in Vancouver, Toronto, Halifax and Winnipeg, Silver contends that public housing projects can be good places to live — if the political will exists.

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Building a Better World 2nd Edition

An Introduction to Trade Unionism in Canada, 2nd edition

By Errol Black and Jim Silver     January 2008

Substantially revised and updated, this widely used introductory text emphasizes how values, objectives and activities of unions are shaped in the face of employer resistance and hostile governments. It includes an analysis of why workers form unions; organization and democracy; collective bargaining and grievances; historical development; and gains unions have achieved for their members and all working people. It also examines the challenges created by rapid economic and technological change, the rise of neoliberalism and the increasingly contingent and acialized character of the labour force.

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Doing Community Economic Development

Edited by John Loxley, Kathleen Sexsmith and Jim Silver     January 2007

Challenging traditional notions of development, these essays critically examine bottom-up, community economic development strategies in a wide variety of contexts: as a means of improving lives in northern, rural and inner-city settings; shaped and driven by women and by Aboriginal people; aimed at employment creation for the most marginalized. most authors have employed a participatory research methodology. The essays are the product of a broader, three-year community-university research collaboration with a focus on the strengths and difficulties of participatory, capacity-building strategies for those marginalized by the competitive, profit-seeking forces of capitalism. no easy answers are offered, but many exciting initiatives with great potential are described and critically evaluated.

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In Their Own Voices

Building Urban Aboriginal Communities

By Parvin Ghorayshi, Peter Gorzen, Joan Hay, Cyril Keeper, Darlene Klyne, Michael MacKenzie, Jim Silver and Freeman Simard     January 2006

In Their Own Voices is an examination of the urban Aboriginal experience, based on the voices of Aboriginal people. It is set in Winnipeg’s inner city, but has implications for urban Aboriginal people across Canada. While not glossing over the problems that confront urban Aboriginal people, the book focuses primarily on innovative community-based solutions being created and run by and for urban Aboriginal people. Separate chapters examine Aboriginal involvement in community development, adult education and the mainstream political process. The concluding chapter, based on in-depth interviews with 26 experienced, Aboriginal community development workers, describes a well-defined and very sophisticated form of Aboriginal community development that is holistic and is rooted in traditional Aboriginal values of community and sharing. Out of their often harsh urban experience, Aboriginal people are defining and creating their own, innovative community-building strategies. In cities with significant Aboriginal populations, these strategies are the basis of a better future, for Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people alike.

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Solutions That Work

Fighting Poverty in Winnipeg

Edited by Jim Silver     January 2000

The explosive and dramatic growth of poverty in Winnipeg, and strategies for combating poverty, are the subject of this collection. Some of the chapters discuss the severity and the consequences of poverty; others describe policy solutions, with a particular emphasis on community-based solutions. Included are chapters on: the growth and incidence of poverty in Winnipeg; the impact of poverty on, and community economic development strategies being developed by, Winnipeg’s Aboriginal community; community-based schooling as a response to inner city poverty; the experience with workfare in Manitoba; the importance of the minimum wage in combating poverty; and a wide range of small but innovative and exciting community development alternatives which are proving their worth in Winnipeg’s inner city. While the focus is on Winnipeg, and particularly Winnipeg’s inner city, where poverty levels are astonishingly high and still rising, the patterns analyzed and the policy alternatives offered are applicable to communities across Canada.


Aboriginal people who choose to improve their education as adults often face many challenges, most of which arise from the ongoing impact of colonialism and of racialized poverty. Yet in Winnipeg’s low-income inner city, a variety of innovative and effective Aboriginal adult education initiatives have emerged. Drawing upon the voices and experiences of Aboriginal adult learners themselves, this book describes the initiatives and strategies that have proven successful and transformative for adult Aboriginal students.

These programs also positively influence the lives of the students’ families and are even felt on the community level, functioning as anti-poverty initiatives. Moving Forward, Giving Back posits that effective Aboriginal adult education initiatives need to be dramatically expanded to improve the health and vibrancy of Aboriginal people and communities across Canada.