Duarte and Belarde-Lewis’ article, “Imagining: Creating Spaces for Indigenous Ontologies,” reminded me of the previous article by Caswell titled, “Seeing Yourself in History: Community Archives and the Fight Against Symbolic Annihilation” as they both seemed concerned with providing a demographic with the difficulties in accessing their own history. With both articles in mind, we see a connection among our discussions of history, symbolic annihilation, metadata, and the rhetoric behind all of these topics. Duarte and Belarde-Lewis’ struggles are the culmination of these topic as they grapple with how to create an information system for Native Americans that can be accessible to them, especially considering the current misclassification of virtually all their history due to colonialism:
Being aware of the context of names and the colonial practice of renaming helps us understand the frustration Indigenous peoples experience when attempting to research Indigenous histories through Western-oriented classification and cataloging systems. (685)
Therefore, the question is how to fight against this misnaming caused by lingering colonialism? Duarte and Beladre-Lewis offer insight into how this can be accomplished, requiring effort from both non-indigenous and indigenous people. They both cite examples of Native American effort to accumulate their cultural histories. However, the efforts continuously leave questions as to how we can eradicate misclassification, and they all pertain to rhetoric and who has control to dictate said rhetoric.
This article articulates that this must be a conjoined and collaborative effort and I agree, but I do not believe that complete and equal collaboration is possible. As stated by these two authors, “[t]he practice of cataloging and classifying is satisfying; there are approved tools, standards, techniques, languages, instructors, policies, and institutions to support the practice,” however, “it is precisely all of this structure that makes imagining alternative Indigenous approaches so elusive and frustrating, and as some have said, inconvenient” (681). Because of the standards that are in place, classification for indigenous artifacts and histories complicate the collaboration that Duarte and Belarde-Lewis seek. What happens if the Native American interlocutors do not agree with the standards? What happens if they wish to create a new standard? If this history is successfully classified correctly, then who now gains access to the information? Similar questions pop up after reading Caswell’s article on the concept of local history and creating databases for local histories and under-represented peoples. Such delicate situations of rhetoric always steer back to the question of power and who has control over what. Therefore, it seems to me that rhetoric is so powerful in such issues that it is impossible NOT to have someone in control over what information is displayed and how it is presented.