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Indigenous Knowing

Indigenous Knowing resources at the Camosun Library

Welcome to the Camosun College Library Indigenous Knowing Guide. This guide is for members of the Camosun and greater community seeking resources by Indigenous authors or information related to Indigenous topics. 

Library categorization systems

Library categorization systems shape how we access and understand information. They influence:

  • the information we access 
  • the ways we think about words and their meanings

The goal of these standards is to make information accessible to library users. 

Many academic libraries and publishers use the Library of Congress (LOC) system of cataloguing. This includes the Camosun Library, and the majority of resources accessible through the library.

Subject headings and research 
Subject headings are part of library categorization systems. They are words chosen to describe and organize things and ideas. When you search library databases, your keywords are matched with related subject headings to retrieve relevant information. In this way, subject headings are an integral part of the research process.

LOC subject headings are political
The American Library of Congress first published a list of subject headings in 1898. The list has been regularly added to throughout the years. But, no system to challenge or update a subject heading existed until the 1990s. 

Challenging or adding new subject headings is a complex, time-consuming process. Members of the Library of Congress (American political representatives) vote to adopt changes. As a result, many LOC subject headings:

  • are rooted in colonialism
  • express Western world views
  • uphold values of white supremacy
  • are outdated, racist, or derogatory

This is especially true when referencing specific Indigenous communities or groups. For example:

  • names created for Indigenous groups by cultural outsiders may still be in use 
  • words that have changed over time may not have been updated 
  • no terms may exist to describe specific issues disproportionately impacting Indigenous people (see “Suggestions for searching” on the MMIWG2S guide)

Searching for Indigenous topics
There are 3 key search strategies to offset these challenges and help you find ample information related to Indigenous topics: 

  1. combine search terms
  2. be specific 
  3. use synonyms and alternative spellings

Combining search terms
When researching an Indigenous topic, combine subject terms to retrieve effective results. This may mean including outdated or offensive terms. For example, “Indians of North America” is a standard LOC term used in most academic libraries. This term does not reflect how Indigenous Peoples in Canada are described today.

Other words to use include:  

  • Indigenous peoples*
  • Native peoples -- Canada*
  • Native American
  • Aboriginal
  • Métis
  • Inuit
  • First Nations
  • American Indians

A search combining these terms may look like: 

(“Indigenous peoples” OR Aboriginal OR "First Nations" OR Inuit OR Métis)

*You will notice the lower-case "p" in "peoples" in these subject terms. This reflects LOC formatting. Learn more about using capitalization to show respect for Indigenous identities, institutions, and collective rights by visiting the Indigenous Style Elements page

Be specific
If you're looking for information on a specific people, search for that group. For example, Haida, Salish, Métis, etc.

Use synonyms or alternate spellings

Many Indigenous words have alternate spellings. This is because words may change over time or have different transcriptions. For example, 

  • Nisga 
  • Niska 
  • Nisga'a

To find the most resources, search using the "OR" operator. A search using these terms may look like: 

(Niska OR Nisga OR Nisga'a)

Decolonization at Camosun Library
Decolonization at the library is an ongoing process that involves acknowledging, questioning, and undoing colonial practices. We are working to decolonize the library collection, research practices, and library spaces.

For detailed information, visit the Decolonizing the Library page.

Where to find books & e-books

To search for books and e-books by Indigenous authors or Indigenous topics use the following tools:

Single Search tool

A tool that searches the Camosun catalogue and majority of Camosun databases. Use the "advanced search" function to increase the complexity of your keyword search or to limit your results to print and electronic books. 

A-Z Database list: Indigenous-themed topics

Tailor your search to humanities and history-specific databases by searching the A-Z Databases list. Access the list from the library homepage, clicking on the "Articles & databases" tab, and selecting the "Databases - search for articles, e-books, media" link. 

Once at the A-Z Databases list, you can search for databases by name alphabetically, or use the "filter by subjects" drop-down menu to search by discipline. Select from databases including JSTOR, Humanities Abstracts with Full Text, and Academic Search Complete.


Screen cap image of A-Z Database index with the subject field filtered to "Indigenous Studies"

Canada Commons logo

The Canada Commons collection provides content from Canada's scholarly and independent publishers as well as public policy papers from think tanks and government sources. It features a variety of e-resources by Indigenous authors and information on Indigenous topics.

Canada Commons collection content is not always represented using the library's Single Search tool. You can access Canada Commons using the links below, or using the A-Z database list to search for the latest holdings in this collection of Canadian e-resources. 

Introduction to Indigenous Knowledge – Books & ebooks

The Inconvenient Indian: A Curious Account of Native People in North America.

Thomas King, 2017
Call Number: E 77 K566 2017​
Authentic Indigenous Voices

Indigenous Relations: Insights, Tips & Suggestions to Make Reconciliation a Reality

Bob Joseph & Cynthia F. Joseph, 2019
Call Number: E 78 C2 J67 2019
​​​​​​​Authentic Indigenous Voices

Book cover image of

My Conversations with Canadians

Lee Maracle, 2017
E-book and in print: PR 9199.3 M3497 A6 2017
​​​​​​​Authentic Indigenous Voices

Working with Elders and Indigenous Knowledge Systems: A Reader and Guide for Places of Higher Learning

Herman Michell, 2011
Call number: E 96.2 M53 2011 
​​​​​​​Authentic Indigenous Voices

Roots of Entanglement: Essays in the History of Native-Newcomer Relations

Myra Rutherdale, Kerry Abel, & Whitney P. Lackenbauer, 2018
​E-book and in print: E 78 C2 R66 2018

Working Effectively with Indigenous Peoples

Bob Joseph & Cynthia F. Joseph, 2017
Call Number: E 78 C2 J75 2017
​​​​​​​Authentic Indigenous Voices