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letter of support

Page history last edited by PBworks 16 years, 7 months ago


David Farris

Editor, Canadian Subject Headings

Standards, IMO

Library & Archives Canada

E-mail / CÉ:  david.farris@lac-bac.gc.ca

Telephone / Téléphone:  (819) 953-6810

Fax / Télécopieur:  (819) 934-6777


Dear David Farris:


On behalf of the UBC Library Cataloguing Division and the First Nations House of Learning, Xwi7xwa Library we would like support your proposal to review the Subject Headings identifying Aboriginal peoples in Canadian Subject Headings (CSH) and Library and Archives Canada Cataloguing (12 Jan 2007) for the reasons LAC cited in its Report and Recommendations of the Consultation on Aboriginal Resources and Services, 2003.


By way of background we would like to let you know about the Aboriginal subject description work underway at the University of British Columbia Library.



The UBC First Nations House of Learning (FNHL) Xwi7xwa Library has been developing local subject headings for First Nations topics since its inception in the early 1970s.  In 2005, the Library of Congress authorized our request to establish the FNHL Indigenous Thesaurus based on the existing 11,000 subject headings and according to principles derived from the FNHL mandate (see: below).   


The FNHL Indigenous Thesaurus project is about to proceed in two phases:


1. Clean up the punctuation, capitalization and pluralization of existing subject headings and recode them from 690 to 650 in the UBC Library catalogue.  Create name authority records for the names of Nations.


2. Plan, design and implement the FNHL Thesaurus.



The UBC Cataloguing Division and the subject specialists at the Xwi7xwa Library are working collaboratively on the FNHL Indigenous Thesaurus project. Currently we’re focused on the following areas:


1. Definition of Warrant

The design principles that guide the thesaurus development recognize various forms of “warrant”, specifically cultural warrant in addition to literary warrant.


2. Methodology

Further development of the existing subject terminology will be guided by Aboriginal protocols and undertaken in consultation with local Aboriginal communities, specifically the library’s user groups of Aboriginal scholars and students, local land-based and urban communities, and LIS professionals working in the field.


Currently Xwi7xwa is a partner in two SSHRC grant applications, each of which has a component devoted to the development of appropriate Aboriginal subject representation in relation to knowledge mobilization and transfer.  1) UBC Department of History – Reclaiming the Past for Today and for Tomorrow: Indigenous Narratives and Knowledge Repatriation.  2) UBC Faculty of Education – Transforming Indigenous Education. Although we don’t know whether the applications will bear fruit, they are cited as an indication of the level of interest within the academic community in providing intellectual access to Aboriginal materials for Aboriginal purposes and projects.


3. Metadata

As LAC leads the country in the integration of traditional library and archival description of materials, we recognize this trend and are considering its possible implications for metadata design particularly for Aboriginal materials.   It is possible the FAST project and FRBR have relevance for our project.


4. Faceted Classification

The FNHL Thesaurus will use a faceted expansion of the (existing) Brian Deer Aboriginal classification scheme as an architecture to map the domain of Indigenous topics and scholarship, and as a tool to develop the descriptive vocabulary.


5. Simultaneous initiatives

There seems to be quite a widespread general interest in First Nations/Indigenous subject representation. For example, the established work of the Union of BC Indian Chiefs on their subject headings, the National Aboriginal Health Organization, INAC and Statistics Canada. In the U.S., the American Indian Library Association is participating in a SACO Funnel project to modify LCSH for Aboriginal topics, the National Indian Law Library Thesaurus and Native American Educational Services have been established.  Both New Zealand and Australia have Indigenous Thesauri/subject headings.


5. Terminology and Syntax

At the UBC Library the following topics are currently being explored:

i. Generic terminology for First Nations and Aboriginal people

ii. Terminology for specific Nations

The terms we select are those used by the Nations themselves and we strive to remain current in a continuously changing world. There is some question whether to include the word ‘Nation’ after the name of the nation for retrieval purposes.

For example:


Nisga’a Nation 

iii. Issues of retrieval on general topics related to specific nations.

There are 197 First Nations in BC and the assignment of specific and general subjects to Nations for retrieval purposes is being discussed.

For example:

Nisga’a – education

To retrieve all citations relevant to Aboriginal education in BC an (additional) umbrella term may be required.

For example:

First nations – education – British Columbia


iv. Prepositional, adjectival, adverbial terms

v. Complex, compound subjects

vi. Facet order

vii. Homonyms, ambiguous subjects, ambiguous boundaries

vii. Inversions

ix. Relationships between entity, process and occupation

For example:

baskets, basketry, basket makers

x. First Nations House of Learning, Indigenous Thesaurus

Statement of Guiding Principles:


The Xwi7xwa Library supports the mandate of the First Nations House of Learning to make the vast resources of the University more accessible to Aboriginal people. Integral to this mandate is the development and use of accurate, culturally appropriate First Nation subject representation within the library and its catalogue.  Xwi7xwa has created and maintained First Nations subject headings in support of this mandate since its inception in the 1970’s.


The Xwi7xwa Library Subject Headings strive to ensure that the Aboriginal voices of Canada are heard and felt through accurate representation in the catalogue. The subject headings do not wholly rely on the published literature (i.e. literary warrant) itself because so much has been written ABOUT Aboriginal peoples from non-Aboriginal perspectives. The compilers search creatively for the right words that will elicit and are true to Aboriginal perspectives.  For example, the Xwi7xwa Subject Headings reflect the names by which First Nations identify themselves rather than the anthropological terminology used by other systems.  In this way the Xwi7xwa Subject Headings are compiled with the intent of accurately and meaningfully representing Aboriginal peoples, materials produced by Aboriginal peoples, as well as, re-describing the content of some materials written from non-Aboriginal perspectives.  The compilers seek authoritative Indigenous sources in establishing the subject headings.



If Library and Archives Canada is considering partners, we are interested in discussing possible collaborative efforts related to the development of regional subject headings on Aboriginal topics. A preliminary authority list for names of BC First Nations is available on the website <www.library.ubc.ca/xwi7xwa> and MARC authority records are being compiled for them in the UBC Library database. As grant monies become available, work will proceed on the design, rationalization, and development of subject vocabularies relevant to the local collections here at the UBC Xwi7xwa Library. 


We wish you every success with the review and revision of the Canadian Subject Headings for Aboriginal topics.







Ann Doyle, Branch librarian, Xwi7xwa Library

UBC First Nations House of Learning




Susan Andrews, Principal Cataloguer

Technical Services

UBC Library




Kim Lawson, Reference Librarian, Xwi7xwa Library

UBC First Nations House of Learning




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