Lourdes is sitting at a table sprawled with documents at ASU’s Labriola Center. In the background are rows of books. Lourdes is wearing a black “Strong Resilient Indigenous” shirt and a black face mask.
(Photo by: Shalanndra Benally/Turning Points Magazine)

Indigenizing archives

By: Lourdes Pereira

Tribal affiliation: Hia-Ced O’odham

Major: Justice Studies & American Indian Studies

Indigenous peoples have always had archives and libraries. We just didn’t refer to them by these designations. What we now know as archives stems from the European tradition of information management, which has been thrusted upon us by the colonizers. Before first contact, Indigenous peoples share their songs, stories and ancestral knowledge orally. This form of cultural transmission helped maintain our “archives and libraries,” which was steward by our cultural leaders and elders. Unfortunately, the western management of knowledge has disrupted how we share information in our community hence it has had major effects on Indigenous collective memory.

Most archival materials derive from white anthropologists, historians and researchers without our free, prior and informed consent. These materials have contributed to the dehumanization of Indigenous peoples, which have horrific effects on the Native American community. It is because of their negative depictions of us that our people now deal with psychological self-identity issues. Our historical identity is in danger as only settler colonial archival documents are being chosen to fit their white-washed history. This is why having tribal archives is so vital to Native American communities. This would restorate our fundamental rights as sovereign nations and secure our memoryscapes for the next generation.

Community-driven archives (CDA) were created for unrepresented communities to document and preserve their own identity. In contrast the community archives collections are materials gathered primarily by members of a community for their community and have ownership of their archival collection. That is why CDA work is so vital because our communities are able to reclaim our voices within the archival community.

Lourdes is standing in an aisle in the Labriola Library holding a black-and-white photo of her greatgrandmother and great-great-grandmother. She is smiling looking at the photo.
Lourdes Pereira holds a photo of her maternal great-grandmother Fillman Bell (left) and her great-great-grandmother Rita Ortega at ASU’s Labriola Center. Looking for Bell’s book “The Quitobaquito Cemetery and Its History” was how Pereira first connect with the Labriola Center and now works there as a student worker. (Photo by: Shalanndra Benally/Turning Points Magazine)

In conjunction with the ASU CDA Initiative team, the Labriola National American Indian Data Center has been doing great work in paving the way for CDA events within different tribal communities. At CDA events, Labriola goes over demonstrations with the ASU Native community and tribal communities on how to properly archive documents, pictures, books, and more. Attendees even bring in oral materials that they’d wish to record such as knowledge, songs and stories. Scanners are available to help convert photos and documents over on a file digitally. The most important aspect of these events is that the community goes back with all of their archives.

Before COVID-19, one of the last CDA events was held at Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community. It was an incredible event to be a part of. As a student worker at the Labriola Center, I helped share best archival practices to the community. In one instance, I helped an elder scan her photos that she brought in this cute cookie tin Christmas box and she started telling me about each picture. That ended up leading with her telling me stories of her life. It was an amazing experience and it is a memory I know I cherish to this day.

Indigenizing archives. (Photo by: Shalanndra Benally/Turning Points Magazine)

Now with COVID-19 protocols in place, Labriola has taken their CDA event virtual. There are smaller adjustments to the material that can be distributed at this type, but the information is similar. Labriola still shares the importance of CDA and how it benefits our communities, emphasizing that non-Indigenous memory institutions do not have to take away our documents, pictures and sacred objects in order for them to be properly preserved. Labriola CDA events can help guide our communities on how to properly preserve our own materials and community members also get to keep all of their materials. It is an option on whether or not they would like to donate any materials– this environment does not force the community to give their documents or pictures to non-Indigenous memory institutions in order to keep them intact. Labriola is a perfect example of why we need our own people in the library and archival fields doing this vital work.

Writer bio

Lourdes smiles at the camera. She is wearing colorful earrings and a shell necklace, and in the background are tree leaves.

Lourdes Pereira is this year’s Miss Indigenous ASU 2020–2021. She is Hia-Ced O’odham and Yoeme and a member of the Tohono O’odham Nation. Lulu is a sophomore at ASU double majoring in Justice Studies and American Indian Studies. She sits on the American Indian advisory council for the Arizona Education Department and also works for Labriola National American Indian Data Center. Lulu is very passionate about educating, empowering, and advocating for the Indigenous communities of North America and hopes to continue those efforts.



Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store