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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Nakona wasnonya yuhabi/Assiniboine knowledge keepers : Indigenous archiving from the 19th into the 21st centuries Horowitz, Joshua Ben


This dissertation investigates the ways that Assiniboine peoples have kept bodies of cultural knowledge alive for their people from the reservation period in the U.S. and Canada in the late nineteenth century to the present. I intend to contribute to the archival turn with what I would call a nascent theory of Indigenous archiving. By focusing on Assiniboine people, I describe five Indigenous methods of keeping knowledge alive for their communities, including oral tradition, ceremony, sacred sites and territoriality, written texts, and artwork, as distinct from the Western methodologies of archiving. I contrast Assiniboine perspectives of archiving with what settler society collected and said about Assiniboine culture and history, and then explicate the differences between these settler and Indigenous points of view. This historical investigation of archiving Assiniboine knowledge illustrates relationships that range from animosity to reciprocity between Assiniboine and settlers regarding what it means to archive Assiniboine knowledge. This dissertation examines archives as bodies of cultural knowledge, archiving as an action of preservation, and Assiniboine cultural practitioners as archivists or what I call keepers of cultural knowledge. Throughout this dissertation I examine Assiniboine archiving as a set of interrelated processes. I suggest that the Assiniboine have employed a constellation of Indigenous archival processes that, in particular instances, worked in synchronicity in sustaining a degree of Assiniboine cultural identities, cosmologies, and a sense of peoplehood that has both undergone change and experienced continuity over time. I show that this constellation of archival processes mitigated previous damage caused by the ways of collecting by settlers, including those methods used in the disciplines of Anthropology and History, the universities that house them, and colonial museums and national archives. I demonstrate that these ways of archiving show the potential for Indigenous peoples to work with settler archives to support their own cultural preservation and to decolonize settler efforts through reciprocal relations (repatriation, managing or working with exhibitions), such as tribally managed archives and museums. This dissertation is based on extensive archival research and oral interviews with Assiniboine people on reserves in Montana, Saskatchewan, and Alberta.

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Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.5 Canada