Tribal Librarians Focus on Cultural Materials

Aug 15th, 2002 | By | Category: 14-1: Honoring Our Students, Tribal College News
By Anne Edinger

Tribal librarians, archivists, and curators attended a national conference, “Preserving Our Language, Memories, and Lifeways” in Mesa, AZ. During the three-day conference May 7-10, they realized how much the lines of distinction between their professions had blurred. Despite their different titles, they address similar issues in preservation, revitalization, research, and ethics. Amongst the participants were 10 tribal college librarians.

Keynote speaker Ofelia Zepeda (Ph.D., Tohono O’Odham), poet laureate of the city of Tucson and former MacArthur Fellow, emphasized the importance of Native languages in understanding the cultural materials, both tangible and intangible, that tribes are working to preserve and restore.

The conference was sponsored by a grant from the federal Institute for Museum and Library Sciences (IMLS) to the “Five State Museum Program.” This program, directed by Alyce Sadongei of the Arizona State Museum, has created a museum, library, cultural center, and college community of professionals with the shared goal of cultural preservation in its many forms.

Librarians attending the conference included Jani Costilla, Blackfeet Community College; Yatty Fischer and Julia Sage, Nebraska Indian Community College; Kathy Kaya, Montana State University-Bozeman; Rachel Lindvall, Sinte Gleska University; Magdalene Moccasin and Tim Bernardis, Little Big Horn College; Quincee Baker, Fort Berthold Community College; Mark Holman, Sitting Bull College; Lotti Home Gun, Blackfeet Community College; Marta Lemke, Si Tanka-Huron; John Currier, Chief Dull Knife Memorial College; and Myrna DeMarce, Cankdeska Cikana Community College.

Tribal college librarians, archivists, and curators interested in exploring opportunities for collaboration may want to explore the following:

  • Tribal Museum Network of the Mountain Plains Museums Association, an organization created to provide advocacy in the states of Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, North Dakota, South Dakota, Texas, Wyoming, Arizona, Colorado and Kansas. For additional information, contact <>.
  • National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI) Internship Program, which is designed to provide students with an opportunity to study museum practice on site at the NMAI. Sessions offered throughout the year, 10 weeks per session. A limited number of stipends are available. Contact <>.
  • Spectrum Scholars Program provides $5,000 scholarships to American Indians/Alaska Natives pursuing a Master’s of Library and Information Science degree. Includes membership to American Library Association and attendance at a national library diversity institute. See <>.
  • National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC) provides grants to develop tribal archives and records management programs. Contact the commission at (202) 501-5610 to request guidelines and view previously funded projects.
  • “If I Can Read, I Can do Anything” project assists Indian communities with increasing literacy skills, while preserving Native American identity through a transferable model of a school year-long reading promotion program. See the Univesity of Texas website <>.
  • Knowledge River at the School of Information Resources and Library Science, University of Arizona. Works with Hispanics and Native Americans to find linguistically appropriate and culturally authentic information solutions to everyday problems. Fellowships available. See <>.
  • IMLS’s Fiscal Year 2002 programs are now outlined on the institute’s website <>.
  • First Archivists Circle plans a Western Archives Institute in 2003. Will address specific concerns related to the preservation of Native American and tribal records. See>.
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