As I have been reading this week about the history of the information profession I began to think about the history and place of tribal archives. Tribal archives offer a much different set of challenges and products then traditional archives typically do. Tribal archives often serve a critical role in cultural protection and revitalization, particularly in the documentation of, protection of, and promotion of tribal languages.
Tribal archives are a relatively recent phenomena when compared to most other archives, libraries, and museums. “Beginning in the 1970s, the development of tribal museums surged due to the availability of federal funding and concomitant emphasis on economic development.“ While historically there has been a heavy dependency on federal funding, the influx of revenue from Indian gaming and other economic successes has greatly expanded tribe’s abilities to fund and expand tribal archive positions.
One of the major differences in tribal archives is there is a much greater focus on oral histories and the use of technology to document and preserve elders protecting the language and culture. In the past, archival materials pertaining to indigenous knowledge were the dominion of libraries and museums often hundreds or thousands of miles away from the community in which the records were about. Present day tribal archives are changing this relationship and tribes are taking ownership over their indigenous knowledge through tribal archives.