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Citing Sources: Indigenous Knowledge

Citing Indigenous Knowledge and Oral Tradition

How Indigenous Knowledge is cited varies depending on whether or how the information has been previously recorded. 

If this information has been recorded in a format that can be retrieved, such as a book, a video, or a website, cite it as you would cite any other material in this format. See the other sections of this guide for detailed information on citing materials in different formats. In this case, you would include both an in-text citation and a reference list entry. 

If you spoke to an Indigenous person directly to learn information, cite it using a variation of the personal communication citation as described in the emails and interviews section. Provide the individual's full name, the nation or specific Indigenous group to which they belong, their location and other relevant details, followed by the words "personal communication", and the date of the communication. Because this information is not retrievable, you do not need to include a reference list entry. 

Example (parenthetical)

(Anna Smith, Haida Nation, lives in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, personal communication, April 2019)

Example (narrative)

Note: If the name of the person who was interviewed is mentioned in the sentence leading into the quote or paraphrased content, you do not need to repeat it in the in-text citation.

Anna Smith (Haida Nation, lives in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, personal communication, April 2019)

If you are an Indigenous person and are sharing your own experience, or information about your people that has not been previously recorded, describe yourself in the text, including what nation you belong to, where you live, etc. to provide context for the information you are citing. In this case, you do not need to provide either an in-text citation or a reference list entry, because you do not need to cite personal information. 

Important Note on APA Format

The formal APA Style guide does not have a format to acknowledge Indigenous Elders and Knowledge Keepers as a reference

This can be seen as devaluing the rich information provided by these sources.  To remedy this, the following template has been developed by Lorisia MacLeod and NorQuest College Indigenous Student Centre Staff for citing and referencing Indigenous Elders and Knowledge Keepers (CC BY-NC 4.0).  

How to Cite Indigenous Elders & Knowledge Keepers

Unlike other personal communications, Elders and Knowledge Keepers are cited in-text and in the reference list. The in-text citation should follow the same guidelines noted for a paraphrase or direct quote:

Name of Elder/Knowledge Keeper with year of communication.

Delores Cardinal described the nature of the... (2018).


The nature of the place was... (Cardinal, 2018).

How to Reference Indigenous Elders & Knowledge Keepers 


Last name, First initial., Nation/Community. Treaty Territory if applicable. Where they live if applicable. Topic/subject of communication if applicable. personal communication. Month Date, Year.


Cardinal, D., Goodfish Lake Cree Nation. Treaty 6. Lives in Edmonton. Oral teaching. personal communication. April 4, 2004.


Note: If you would like to approach an Elder or Knowledge Keeper for teachings, remember to follow protocol or if you are unsure what their protocol is, please ask them ahead of time.