“Let Me Tell You About Indian Libraries”: Self-Determination, Leadership, and Vision — The Basis of Tribal Library Development in the United States
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Tribal libraries in the United States have become sites of cultural and language renewal, gathering places, and places to collect, preserve, and share Indigenous knowledge. After more than forty years of development, tribal libraries have become important sites of decolonization, where sovereignty and self-determination are paramount. These libraries are relatively recent tools that Native (and non-Native) people have begun to employ to collect, preserve, and transmit Indigenous knowledge for current and future generations. Despite the important role these institutions play in many Native communities, their presence is relatively unknown in the scholarly literature. This research traces the history and development of tribal libraries using qualitative research methodologies informed by Indigenous approaches to knowledge. Interviews with early designers as well as with current tribal library designers were conducted to tell the story of tribal library development. Analysis of archival documents provided additional information on the development of tribal libraries. This research addresses the question, What was the basis for the development of tribal libraries? The result of this examination reveals that the basis for tribal library development included the following: 1. Inadequate library services for American Indians; 2. Federal responsibilities to Indian education; 3. The activism, leadership, and advocacy of the early designers of tribal libraries; 4. The era of Self-Determination; 5. Opportunities for American Indian library leaders, educators, community members, and allies to collectively send a message to the U.S. president and congress regarding American Indian library services; 6. A strong vision for tribal libraries; and 7. Linking American Indian culture to libraries. An understanding of these historical and current intersections is crucial to provide context to design and support information systems from Indigenous positions.
- Information science