Professional archivists have the power and authority to construct a dominant narrative on virtually any topic. Unfortunately, the archival world is built on a legacy of colonialism, appropriation, and community disenfranchisement. The power imbalance between archivists and the marginalized communities they often document leads to the dissemination of inaccurate and harmful accounts. The relationship between Native American peoples throughout the United States and the archives which record their histories exemplifies the inequity of this power imbalance. In order to address this reality, this session will explore the three-year evolution of the United American Indian Involvement’s (UAII) photo archive of more than 4,000 community-produced photographs. UAII is a Native American social services agency based in downtown Los Angeles for over 40 years. This project employs a community-based research approach to construct and inform each aspect of the archive, including photographic metadata, the collection of stories, and archive access. UAII’s unique archive exemplifies how to divest from inequitable archival practices by creating a partnership between an academic institution and a community organization founded on shared trust, accountability, and collaboration. The goal of this session is to discuss research strategies focused on the intersections of partnership, reciprocity, and scholarship, which uplift marginalized communities by decolonizing the settler-centered archival process. Session participants will learn about this project’s process by viewing the trajectory of this archive from its beginnings as photos in shoeboxes, to its current iteration as an exhibit entitled: The People’s Home.

Student Contributor:

Kelsey Martin is a senior, sociology major at Occidental College. She is dedicated to pursuing community based scholarship. Kelsey’s research focuses on the intersections of indigeneity, identity construction, and archiving. After graduating, Kelsey aspires to enroll in an interdisciplinary PhD program focused on the intersections of community based education, archiving, and Indigenous studies.