April 24th, 2024

Wikipedia ‘edit-a-thon’ aims to correct Blackfoot misrepresentation

By Steffanie Costigan - Lethbridge Herald Local Journalism Initiative Reporter on March 14, 2024.

Herald photo by Steffanie Costigan Shannon McAlorum, Tara Million, Romany Craig and Blair Many Fingers make edits to Wikipedia as part of a Decolonizing Wikipedia: Edit-a-thon workshop on Wednesday at the University of Lethbridge Library.

The University of Lethbridge is holding a week-long celebration of Indigenous Awareness Week and staged a Decolonizing Wikipedia: Edit-a-thon workshop for reconciliation and de-colonization at the university library Wednesday morning.

With the University of Lethbridge Blackfoot name being Iniskim, meaning Sacred Buffalo Stone, the university has focused on educating students on Blackfoot culture as a part of reconciliation.

Romany Craig, professional librarian at the university, shared how she got the idea to hold this workshop by reading about the Wikipedia edit-a-thon which involved individuals coming together to edit around a theme making information more accurate.

“We just kind of pulled it together. And we reached out to other people, particularly in the Indigenous Studies department. And they were excited to contribute, and they wanted to also emphasize the decolonization part of this editing,” said Craig.

Fourth-year student in Indigenous Studies at University of Lethbridge ,Blair Many Fingers, said there is importance in correcting the misrepresentation of Blackfoot knowledge.

“I think it’s very important that Indigenous scholars and Indigenous professors, elders, knowledge keepers, storytellers really become Wikipedia editors because just like going over a few of the pages, I immediately found some misrepresentations of our knowledge and who we are as Blackfoot people,” said Many Fingers.

Liaison in Indigenous Studies along with Liberal Arts and Business Education at the U of L Shannon McAlorum voiced her desire for students to get involved and feel empowered.

“I want students to recognize that they are empowered to change the world around them. And we know that we know there’s misinformation in the world.

“And sometimes it can be difficult to find a place to assert your voice. And Wikipedia is not only a public stage, it’s a public stage used by people to research and learn about the Indigenous communities in this area,” said McAlorum.

Tara Million, assistant professor in the department of Indigenous Studies, agreed with McAlorum emphasizing the importance for Indigenous students to be heard.

“I really hope that students realize that they have the right, and the ability to co-create public materials about Indigenous peoples.

“And particularly for Indigenous students, I think that that’s incredibly important that they feel empowered to have that voice in a public forum, and have that authority to edit and make changes and to correct errors or to provide information from their perspective,” said Million.

Many Fingers expressed the effect misrepresentation can have for those looking to learn.

“For Wikipedia, why it’s so important to address those misrepresentations is so we don’t lead people who are seeking knowledge into areas that will further continue the misrepresentation of Indigenous knowledge. It’s very important that we address some of these,” he said.

Craig shared the importance of questioning where information is coming from when researching.

“As a librarian, I’m really interested in ideas around information literacy. And part of that is questioning authority, and understanding where information comes from, and then being able to assess that information when you’re reading it yourself.

“And obviously, I think almost everyone kind of these days will encounter a Wikipedia article at some point, whether they deliberately seek it out, or it’s just in their list of results when they do a search,” Craig said.

McAlorum also expressed her feelings of correcting information to be as accurate as possible. “It really is dependent upon a community of people who are willing to be editor activists and protect the information and keep it accurate. People vandalize data all the time,” she said.

“All the students here represent the future of our society. They are the ones who are going to be shaping how our society lives and works. And I think that it’s very important that they both understand an Indigenous perspective, that they’re able and prepared to articulate, clear understanding of Indigenous and colonial history. And that then they can use that understanding to move us all forward into reconciliation,” not only in terms of general principles such as the calls to action but “also in terms of an everyday lived reality in interactions with each other,” said Million.

McAlorum said everyone has a responsibility to educate themselves on reconciliation.

“Reconciliation through education is really about all of us here in the space recognizing we’re all treaty people. We’re all a part of this history and have all been affected by it in different ways.

“There’s intergenerational trauma in Indigenous communities that settlers are responsible for having caused, and the more we can all learn about our role in creating a new future in which we’re moving forward with respect and with understanding.”

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Say What . . .

All for keeping history accurate, so if you have been misrepresented, by all means.
I am against historians who feel they know more than our personal family history, by taking some new account and changing history. This was done in our family’s case by a local historian.
I also note that many of the accounts by the early settlers in this region have magically disappeared from historical accounts, noting it was found to be such 20 years ago when doing searches.
Changing historical documents which give accounts, good or bad, will do nothing but increase the ignorance of society, and the same mistakes could be repeated by doing so!
I will also state that tearing down and banishing statues has been one sided, and you do not see anyone demanding pictures or statues of Sitting Bull or others known for atrocities against settlers be removed. I can bring up many accounts which are now very hard to find, since they were all removed!
It will not change who you are or how you got here! What you do now and in the future will!

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