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Citing and Writing MLA 9: NEW! Citing Indigenous Elders

Information on style guides, specifically MLA (9th edition), example citations, and other resources for citing and writing.

Indigenous Style

Excerpt from Elements of Indigenous Style: A Guide for Writing By and About Indigenous Peoples by Gregory Younging:

The purpose of Indigenous style is to produce works that: 

  • reflect Indigenous realities as they are perceived by Indigenous Peoples

  • are truthful and insightful in their Indigenous content

  • are respectful of the cultural integrity of Indigenous Peoples



Works by indigenous authors or with Indigenous content should follow standard style references and house styles, except where these disagree with Indigenous style.

In these works, Indigenous style overrules other styles in cases of disagreement.  

The politics of citation

Curious about the politics of citation? Check out this episode of CBC's show Unreserved on The politics of citation: Is the peer review process biases against Indigenous academics? 

Read more about The rise of citational justice: how scholars are making references fairer on the website of one of the world's most cited scientific peer-reviewed journals Nature

Indigenous Elders and Knowledge Keepers

Citing Elders: citation practices and Indigenous Knowledges

Throughout your degree at AUArts you will likely be asked to submit assignments which require following Modern Language Association (MLA) style. Like other standards for writing and documentation often used in academic settings, MLA can help readers evaluate information, but can also perpetuate hierarchies of knowledge and enforce biases. For example, MLA outlines how to cite interviews and personal communications,  but what are the limitations of using these categories to cite oral history or teachings from Indigenous Elders and Knowledge Keepers?  

James Smith Cree Nation librarian and Indigenous scholar Lorisia MacLeod argues that using the MLA personal communication citation template for oral teachings from Indigenous Elders is not only inappropriate, and inaccurate, but actively reinforces racist and colonial conventions in scholarly writing. In response, MacLeod and colleagues at NorQuest College’s Indigenous Student Centre developed a template for citing Indigenous Elders and Knowledge Keepers which “[position Indigenous Knowledges] alongside the conventional forms of written scholarship privileged in Western academia” (MacLeod, 3).


When citing Indigenous Elders and Knowledge Keepers, the in-text citation should be formatted as: 

For example:

Casey Eagle Speaker brought his characteristic humour and wisdom to... 

With great humility and insight...(Eagle Speaker). 

The long citation should be formatted as:  

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

For example:  

Eagle Speaker, Casey. Kainai Nation. Treaty 7. Oral teaching. 16 November 2021. 


For an in-depth discussion of this new template, please read MacLeod’s article “More Than Personal Communication: Templates for Citing Indigenous Elders and Knowledge Keepers”, in the peer-reviewed, open access journal KULA: Knowledge Creation, Dissemination and Preservation or read a 2022 interview with Lorisia on the ACRLog, the Association of College and Research Libraries' (ACRL) blog

Note: If you would like to approach an Indigenous Elder for teachings, remember to follow protocol or if you are unsure what the appropriate protocol is, make sure you ask them first. To learn more about cultural protocol and guidelines when seeking guidance from Elders, contact to learn more.