Today marks the first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation in Canada. The purpose of the day is to honour Survivors of residential schools and those who died in them.
A few days ago Keeta Gladue, Indigenous Student Advisor and Team Lead at the Writing Symbols Lodge at the University of Calgary reached out to me and asked me to consider writing a blog post today about Indigenous ways of citing and referencing. Keeta led the Indigenous Academic Integrity project, which has not only benefitted our university, but has been shared further at other institutions across the country including Ryerson University (Ontario) and Red River College (Manitoba), among others. Keeta has also presented this project nationally and internationally. Check out the recorded version of one of her presentations on this project here.
Keeta is not alone in her efforts to bring awareness to the ways in which academic integrity is embedded in Indigenous ways of knowing, being, teaching, and learning. Iehnhotonkwas B.J. Maracle from the University of Toronto developed “Seven Grandfathers in Academic Integrity”, a fantastic resource that is publicly available as a .pdf.
The impact of residential schools on Indigenous children, in terms ethical and moral violations, not to mention outright abuse and crime, could fill volumes. When Keeta asked me to think about a blog specifically about Indigenous citing and referencing, that resonated with me. This post is not intended to trivialize, diminish, or dismiss the importance of broader conversations about residential schools, decolonization, or reconciliation. Instead, it is intended to honour the Indigenous scholars, educators, and knowledge keepers I have learned from, directly and indirectly, with respect to my work as an academic integrity scholar and advocate, including Keeta Gladue, Yvonne Poitras Pratt, Gabrielle Lindstrom, among others. It is also intended to generate broader conversations about the need to question systems of oppression that get labelled as “integrity” when do little or nothing to promote integrity at all.
Before we get to reconciliation, we start with truth. Here are some truths about citing and referencing:
- Citing and referencing styles are established, by and large, by organizations (e.g., APA, MLA) that profit from the sale of manuals and guidebooks that prescribe conventions for how citing and referencing should be done in a particular discipline.
- The organizations that set up citing and referencing systems are generally academic in nature, and their boards of directors are often populated by white scholars, many of whom are male. Indigenous scholars (as well as Black and other scholars of colour) are rarely, if ever, elected or appointed to the boards that govern these organizations.
- Citing and referencing manuals universally ignore or diminish the value of Indigenous knowledge by failing to provide adequate guidance about how to cite and reference Indigenous knowledge. (See this article by Lorisia MacLeod for a discussion of how citing oral knowledge as personal communication is simply not enough.)
- Too often, when students fail to follow the conventions of a particular citing and referencing style, they are punished or reported for plagiarism. Research has shown over, and over, and over again that many cases of student plagiarism are not intentional or deceitful, but instead they are due to a lack of skills and knowledge.
- The minutiae of citing and referencing standards are weaponized against students (and everyone else who uses them, for that matter). Those who know how to wield the finer details of citing and referencing are lauded as erudite scholars. Those who do not are mocked, dismissed, or accused of misconduct. (Honestly, who gives a flying leap about sentence case versus title case capitalization? Can we do away with these nonsensical details, once and for all, please?!)
These are just a few of the truths about citing and referencing that we need to confront. As an academic integrity scholar and advocate, part of my job involves not only upholding the rules, but questioning the systems that created them. The deeper I dive into this world, the more I realize that much of what gets labelled as “academic integrity” actually has little to do with ethics, and more to do with behaviour control, oppression, and even corporate profit. There’s a lot of work we need to do to put the integrity back into “academic integrity”.
Once we have told the truth, we can start to work on reconciliation. Here are a few things we can think about as we move along the path to reconciliation:
- Learn from (and cite) Indigenous authors and knowledge keepers. As part of my own journey towards reconciliation, I am making a point to educate myself about Indigenous ways of knowing, being, teaching, and learning. I have a lot to learn, and the journey is worthwhile. In addition to learning, I make an effort to give attribution to those from whom I have learned.
- Educate ourselves about how to give attribution to Indigenous Elders and Knowledge Keepers. A great place to start is by reading Elements of Indigenous Style by Gregory Younging. From there, check out MacLeod’s Templates for Citing Indigenous Elders and Knowledge Keepers.
- Stop weaponizing citation and referencing. These systems should be used to give attribution to the creators and keepers of knowledge, not to punish people for failing to comply with rules. Focus on giving attribution as a way to honour and show respect, not as a means to inflict punishment. Giving attribution to others should be a joy, not an afterthought, a drudgery, or a cause for punishment or anxiety.
- Re-consider citing and referencing systems in general. These systems embody colonialism in education and scholarship, focusing on rule compliance, rather than actual learning. It is time to have deep and provocative conversations about the ways citing and referencing systems propagate colonialism, oppression, and elitism in education and publishing. Elsewhere I have called for a universal citation system that is easy and free to use and that is accepted by educational institutions and publishers.
- Take an educative and supportive approach, rather than punitive to academic integrity. The “Gotcha!” approach doesn’t help students learn.
- Think about attribution in relational ways. As I have discussed in my book on plagiarism, my own PhD supervisor taught me to think about the people who write books and articles, situating myself in relation to their work and words. He taught me to pay attention to who was writing as much as what they were writing.
There are many conversations we need to have about decolonizing education. Recognizing the harms inflicted by colonial education systems is essential. Oppressive systems have become a pervasive hallmark of education. We need to recognize the ways in which vestiges of colonialism permeate all aspects of our educational systems, including academic integrity, citing, and referencing. As part of our work to decolonize education, let’s not forget about how to decolonize our approaches to academic and research integrity (and misconduct). It’s time to ditch the “crime and punishment” approach to misconduct and instead focus on relational, reconciliatory, and restorative approaches to building integrity with one another and the systems in which we live and work.
References and further reading from Indigenous authors
Gladue, K. (2021). Indigenous Academic Integrity. Retrieved from https://taylorinstitute.ucalgary.ca/resources/indigenous-academic-integrity
MacLeod, L. (2021). More than personal communication: Templates For citing Indigenous Elders and Knowledge Keepers. KULA, 5(1), 1-5. https://doi.org/10.18357/kula.135
Poitras Pratt, Y., & Gladue, K. (forthcoming). Re-defining academic integrity: Embracing Indigenous truths. In S. E. Eaton & J. Christensen Hughes (Eds.), Academic integrity in Canada: An enduring and essential challenge: Springer.
Lindstrom, G. (forthcoming). Accountability, relationality and Indigenous epistemology: Advancing an Indigenous perspective on academic integrity. In S. E. Eaton & J. Christensen Hughes (Eds.), Academic integrity in Canada: An enduring and essential challenge: Springer.
Younging, G. (2018). Elements of Indigenous style: A guide for writing by and about Indigenous Peoples. Edmonton, AB: Brush Education Inc.
References and further reading from non-Indigenous authors
Eaton, S. E. (2021). Plagiarism in higher education: Tackling tough topics in academic integrity. Santa Barbara, CA: Libraries Unlimited.
Howard, R. M. (2001). Forget about policing plagiarism. Just teach. The Chronicle of Higher Education, B24. Retrieved from http://chronicle.com/article/Forget-About-Policing/2792
McGowan, U. (2005). Academic integrity: An awareness and development issue for students. Journal of University Teaching and Learning Practice, 2(3a), 48-57. Retrieved from http://jutlp.uow.edu.au/2005_v02_i03a/pdf/mcgowan_005.pdf
Schwabl, K., Rossiter, M. J., & Abbott, M. L. (2013). University students’ and instructors’ paraphrasing and citation knowledge and practices. Alberta Journal of Educational Research, 59(3). Retrieved from https://journalhosting.ucalgary.ca/index.php/ajer/article/view/55730
Share or Tweet this: Indigenous Academic Integrity: A Post in Honour of the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation – https://drsaraheaton.wordpress.com/2021/09/30/indigenous-academic-integrity-a-post-in-honour-of-the-national-day-for-truth-and-reconciliation/
This blog has had over 2 million views thanks to readers like you. If you enjoyed this post, please “like” it or share it on social media. Thanks!
Sarah Elaine Eaton, PhD, is a faculty member in the Werklund School of Education, and the Educational Leader in Residence, Academic Integrity, University of Calgary, Canada.
Opinions are my own and do not represent those of the University of Calgary or anyone else.