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APA Citation Style (7th edition)

Citing Indigenous Knowledge

APA Publication Manual, 7th edition provides guidance on citing Indigenous Traditional Knowledge and Oral Traditions as well as rules for applying bias free language for Indigenous Peoples from around the world. APA provides the following outline when citing information related to Indigenous Peoples or Indigenous sources (5.7, 8.9 APA Publication Manual, 7th.ed., p.144):

  • When writing about Indigenous Peoples use the names they call themselves
  • In Canada, refer to Indigenous Peoples collectively as "Indigenous Peoples" or "Aboriginal Peoples" (Younging, 2018)
  • Specify the Nation or People if possible: e.g. People of the First Nations of Canada, First Nations Peoples, Metis, Inuit
  • Examine published works carefully (especially older works) to ensure that information about Indigenous Peoples is accurate and appropriate to share before citing these works

Oral Traditions

How do I cite Indigenous Oral Histories in APA?

  • Like any source, the format of that source, influences how it is cited. Indigenous Oral Histories and Traditional Knowledge that are not recorded, either through video, audio, or a publication for example, is not recoverable to the reader and is classified in APA as a personal communication (See 8.9 APA Publication Manual, 7th ed.).
  • Personal communications include personal interviews, telephone conversations and live speeches as well as non-retrievable communications including emails, text messages, online chats, direct messages, unrecorded classroom lectures, memos, letters and more.

How do I cite personal communications?

  • Because personal communications are not recorded and therefore not recoverable by the reader a reference list entry is not used. 
  • Do not use a personal communication citation for personal communications that are part of your own original research, i.e. quotes, conversations or interviews from study participants (See 8.9 APA Publication Manual, 7th ed.).

Does my source fall into the category of personal communication?

  • When considering whether a source is retrievable and therefore cited as a personal communication, consider whether the reader can access the original source.
  • If the source has been recorded and is recoverable by the reader cite it in the text and include a reference list entry for the correct format for that type of source (i.e. YouTube video, recorded interview, etc). Otherwise, if it is not recoverable, provide as much description in the in-text citation as is necessary to describe the content and to contextualize the origin of the information (See 8.9 APA Publication Manual, 7th ed.,p. 261)

Personal Communication Example

Personal communications (8.9 APA Publication Manual, 7th ed.)

  • Personal communications include emails, phone interviews, text messages, direct messages, live speeches, etc.
  • Personal communications are considered not recoverable sources and are cited in text only. Do not add to your Reference list.

No Reference list entry required


In an interview, J.S. Smith (personal communication, July 25, 2015) mentioned...

Variation on Personal Communication in-text citation (8.9 APA Publication Manual 7th ed., p. 261)

  • If you spoke with an Indigenous person directly to learn information use a variation of the personal communication citation:
    • Person's full name
    • Nation or specific indigenous group
    • Location
    • Other relevant details
  • Follow with the words "personal communication" and date of communication
  • Date refers to when you consulted the person, not to when the information originated
  • Confirm the person agrees to have their name included
  • Confirm the accuracy and appropriateness of the information you present

In-text Example

We spoke with Anna Grant (Haida Nation, lives in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, personal communication, April 2019) about traditional understandings of the world by First Peoples in Canada. She described...

Sharing your own experiences (8.9, APA Publication Manual, 7th ed., p.261)

  • If you are an Indigenous person sharing your own experiences or previously unrecorded Traditional Knowledge or Oral Tradition of your people describe yourself in the text (e.g. what Nation you belong to, your location)
  • Do not use a personal communication or reference list entry because you don't need to cite personal information