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All information is biased, as you may have discovered while studying differing narratives about colonialism. Just because information is biased does not mean you can't use it in your research, but for all the sources you use, you will need to acknowledge the bias and consider it while interpreting the information.
Consider these questions as you evaluate the sources you find in your research:
- Who created it?
- What is their purpose?
- What bias does the information have? What standpoint is it from?
You can try to verify information you find with a second or third source making the same historical claim or explaining something in a similar way. You may not always be able to verify all types of information. In the case of personal accounts, a similar story by someone else (even if they are from another tribe or in another part of the country) can indicate that both accounts are likely to be truthful.
However, keep in kind that "worship of the written word" is an aspect of white supremacy culture or white dominant culture as described by Tema Okun. In historical and cultural research, this means that there may not always be a verifiable, definitive, documented fact behind the information you find. This aspect of white dominant culture is a good reminder that a personal experience or information from oral tradition are as valuable to historical research as government documents, and invites us to question the authoritative proof we expect from a government document in our culture.
Researching Residential Schools
Indian Boarding Schools Map, Carlisle Indian School Digital Resource Center
Click "Visit the Site" and hover over the numbers on the map to see the name of each school. The rest of the site is a digital archive containing photographs, student records, and cemetery information for residential schools in the US.
Resources, National Native American Boarding School Healing Coalition
The National Native American Boarding School Healing Coalition Resources page includes a list of boarding schools by state. More information about boarding schools and healing efforts is available on this website, particularly in the "Education" section.
The Indigenous Digital Archive
This website contains information about the history of US government Indian boarding schools in the 19th and 20th centuries. It is a project of the Museum of Indian Arts & Culture in Santa Fe, NM.
The Residential School System by Indigenous Foundations
An overview of the history and effects of Indian Residential Schools, with a focus on Canada. Includes sources and further resources. Indigenous Foundations is an information resource on key topics relating to the histories, politics, and cultures of the Aboriginal peoples of Canada.
Use these resources along with Native-Land.ca and your own research about the displacement of native people from or to your place to identify Indian Boarding Schools near you or relevant to the people who lived in your area. These websites also contain additional resources and information about the boarding schools.
You can find more about Residential Schools, or Indian Boarding Schools, in the US and Canada by searching the web with Google (or your preferred search engine) or by searching in the library catalog (below).
Search the Library Catalog
Scholarly Article Databases
JSTOR This link opens in a new window
Full-text backfiles to over 350 scholarly journals from more than 25 academic disciplines published between the 19th and 21st centuries in the JSTOR Arts & Sciences I, Arts & Sciences II, and Language & Literature collections. JSTOR provides complete journal backruns from the date of initial publication up to a "moving wall" of 3 to 5 years before the present year. To limit your search to full text articles, make sure that the option to "include links to external content" is turned off.
In JSTOR, select "American Indian Studies" in the Journal Filter area of the advanced search page, and enter your search.
This will search within journals related to indigenous language, culture, education, law, literature, and more. Be aware that a mix of settler and indigenous voices will be present in academic literature, so you may have to research the author or journal for articles you find to better understand where the information is coming from and biases that might be present.
These are a few other resources that might be useful, and ideas for where to find more. This is certainly not an exhaustive list of resources available on the web.
- Bureau of Indian Affairs: The federal government office for American Indians and federal recognition of tribes. The FAQ page on this website is a good primer for federal Indian law.
- National Museum of the American Indian: Part of the Smithsonian Institution, this museum covers Native people in the Western Hemisphere. Their website has online exhibits and resources on a variety of topics related to Native people.
- The Decolonial Atlas: A volunteer-run project to share and visualize indigenous cartography and experiences of place, as well as mapping the effects of colonialism on the world including climate change and global inequality.
- Land Back: A movement to return "Indigenous Lands back into Indigenous hands."
- Residential Schools Podcast Series by Historia Canada (transcripts available)
- This Land by Crooked Media, hosted by Rebecca Nagle. Particularly useful episodes include "The Five Tribes" and "The Land Grab."
- and many others!
- Social Media:
- Hashtags like #NoDAPL, #LandBack, #StopLine3, and more, and the associated activist movements
- Native people who are using their platforms on Instagram, Twitter, TikTok, etc. to educate and share information about their culture, history, language, or causes.
- Public figures like authors (Robin Wall Kimmerer, Louise Erdrich), artists, activists (Winona LaDuke), educators, and others who share information in their public work. They may also have resources on their websites or social media.
- Non-profit organizations or activist movements dedicated to Indigenous causes or issues.
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