One Decolonizing Change to Subject Headings at UBC Library

As we come to the end of Indigenous Peoples’ History Month, Technical Services and Xwi7xwa Library are pleased to announce a recent step undertaken in the Library’s effort to decolonize Indigenous subject headings. You may have noticed that many thousands of Xwi7xwa records previously containing the term “First Nations” now use the broader heading Aboriginal Canadians. For many years, Xwi7xwa Library’s own thesaurus has rejected the LCSH term “Indians of North America” in favour of local alternatives. As Sarah Dupont, Head of Xwi7xwa Library states, “When Aboriginal Peoples go looking to find representations of our many diverse knowledges in the Library collections, we should be able to search using terms we use to describe ourselves. We should not feel the sting of antiquated, colonial, and racist words that perpetuate negative connotations of us, especially when we and our Allies go to do the work of lifting academia and broader society out of these shadows through our scholarly efforts.” Adolfo Tarango, Head of Technical Services, adds, “While we know terminology that attempts to group Aboriginal Canadians is fraught with problems of historic, contextual, and personal challenges, new words to both represent them as a group and replace the most prevalent, problematic phrase Indians of North America were needed to signal a shift in how we think about our roles as professionals in the continued mis-treatment of ‘othered’ peoples.” Sue Andrews, Principle Cataloguer, adds, “Our choice of the new phrase, Aboriginal Canadians, has helped us to correct earlier interpretations and uses of the term “First Nations” in our records, and to instead provide a term that is more inclusive of the different groups that represent our rich heritage of First Nations, Métis and Inuit Peoples in Canada. By selecting a term used widely in Canadian contexts by Aboriginal Canadians themselves we uphold our principle of “cultural warrant” for our choices of terms in our FNHL thesaurus.”

We commit to being responsive to changing this term as needed, and look to our First Nations, Métis, and Inuit colleagues to advise us along this journey. Congratulations, Xwi7xwa and Technical Services!