Across Canada, undocumented and unmarked graves of Indigenous children are being located at former Residential Schools, reaffirming the testimony of residential school survivors. The role of residential schools in the willful dismantling and destruction of Indigenous peoples’ cultures and families is becoming increasingly obvious. Many are looking for ways to provide aid and support to Indigenous communities in their grief. Archives have a very particular and important role to play in these efforts.
At this time, we urge members of the Saskatchewan Council for Archives and Archivists to dig deep into their collections to see if they have anything that could be useful in identifying Indigenous children in unmarked graves at these residential school burial sites. Furthermore, we would encourage archivists to assess their holdings for any materials that relate to Indigenous genealogy. Families were torn apart by the residential school system and other colonial interventions like the 60s Scoop, and any information that can help bring the fragmented histories of those families back together is invaluable to First Nations, Inuit and Métis communities.
Imagine the personal impact of uncovering a record of an uncle or aunt whom you never met, or a childhood photograph of a parent or grandparent that you didn’t know existed. Imagine finding names for multiple relatives who you know existed, but whose identities were erased through generations of colonial trauma. Imagine the healing power of rebuilding family histories and community narratives. This is a worthy example of the role archives can play in Truth and Reconciliation.
The SCAA reaffirms our commitment to Call to Action #77 as stated by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission:
We call upon provincial, territorial, municipal, and community archives to work collaboratively with the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation to identify and collect copies of all records relevant to the history and legacy of the residential school system, and to provide these to the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation.
The needs and voices of Indigenous communities must guide us as we pursue this work, and as a profession, we should attempt to decolonize methods in our archival practice. We must remember that for many Indigenous people, archives are emotionally complex spaces, in many cases reflective of the governing bodies that have historically repressed their culture and communities. We cannot expect Indigenous peoples to engage in the traumatic work of discovering this information in archives unsupported and on their own. Saskatchewan archives can play an important and active role in uncovering and identifying records that may have meaning to Indigenous communities, and by returning that information to those people, be it directly or through contribution to the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation Archives, https://archives.nctr.ca.
This work is of great importance. This is complex and sensitive work that can take an emotional toll on archivists themselves. The Saskatchewan Council for Archives and Archivists will be producing a series of resources to help our membership undertake this work and the council will do its utmost in supporting members as the work proceeds.
Please watch for future communications aimed at assisting you in conducting this work in a sensitive and trauma-informed way. Planned resources will include short pieces on: ways to engage in this research, the types of archival records that may be of value, how to connect with Indigenous communities, and how to utilize and support the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation Archives. If you have any questions or suggestions for resources, please contact archives advisor, Cameron Hart at scaa.advisor
Mark Vajcner – SCAA President
Stevie Horn – SCAA Chair of Diversity Working Group
The SCAA promotes Saskatchewan's documentary heritage through leadership, support and education of archives and archivists.
1. Refine governance systems
2. Improve programs and services
3. Expand human and financial resources
4. Enhance communication with members
5. Increase awareness of value and use of archives
It may look similar, but now searches of the full shared content of SCAA member institutions can be made in one place, including the ability to search within different photograph collections making MemorySask - SAIN a powerful tool for research.
As part of the SCAA's mission to promote the use of Archives, we have maintained the Saskatchewan Archival Information Network (SAIN) with the help of the University of Saskatchewan. SAIN initially was established in 2000 and has gone through many transformations since. It is a network of information about archival holdings in Saskatchewan and currently consists of two databases, one containing descriptions of archival collections and the other descriptions and digital scans of photographs in our members' collections.
One of the most significant transformations was the deployment of the software platform "Access to Memory" or AtoM. This piece of software is open-source, developed by Artefactual Systems in British Columbia, and has been implemented by most provinces and territories including Archives Canada at the national level. AtoM allows our members to directly enter their descriptions into the database, with minimal help of SCAA staff. The ability to handle all the differing levels in archival description with the AtoM software has made it possible to merge SCAA's two SAIN databases into one.
In late 2019, U of S, with funding and staff support from SCAA, contracted Artefactual Systems to merge the two databases. This was a major undertaking involving both custom programming and manual review of descriptions. The work on the SAIN merger project was completed in March. Since then, several contributing institutions have been adding and updating entries through a temporary hosting arrangement. This arrangement was facilitated by U of S, which hosts the public database, to minimize further downtime as their IT staff were focused on support required due to the pandemic.
Those SCAA member institutions already contributing who wish to begin contributing can contact the Archives Advisor (Cam) at either 306-242-0796 or email, firstname.lastname@example.org, to get your Log-in set up.
AtoM is being used provincially and nationally;
British Columbia, https://www.memorybc.ca/; Alberta, https://albertaonrecord.ca/; Manitoba, https://main.lib.umanitoba.ca/; Ontario, https://www.archeion.ca/; New Brunswick, https://search.canbarchives.ca/; Nova Scotia, https://memoryns.ca/; Prince Edward Island, http://www.archives.pe.ca/atom/; Newfoundland, https://arc.anla.nf.ca/.
And finally, of course, Library and Archives of Canada, https://archivescanada.accesstomemory.ca/
An archival record can be:
- A textual document like a letter, a report or meeting minutes
- A visual document like a photograph, map or architectural drawing
- An audio document like a tape recording of music or oral history interview
- A multimedia document like a home movie
- A digital document like an email
The important thing to remember about any kind of archival record is that it is a primary
source of historical information.
A primary source is a record created or collected by an individual, organization or institution to document a particular event, activity, idea or decision.
Some examples of primary sources include: letters and diaries; government, church, and business records; oral histories; photographs, motion pictures, and videos; maps and land records; and blueprints.
These archival records/primary sources provide unique opportunities for exploring and understanding history.
By examining the primary sources stored in any archives, one can begin to see why history attaches importance to specific dates, names and places. At the same time, you may find information related to these dates, names and places that you would not be able to find in any history textbook.
2022-23 forms for SCAA's Professional Development Fund have now been posted here on the Professional Development page
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