Indians in the Database

Student Relationships with Subject Headings


  • Christian Isbister University of Alberta



Critical cataloguing, Indians of North America, Subject Headings, Indigenous peoples in Canada, Radical Cataloguing


The goal of this exploratory research study is to better understand how students in the Faculty of Native Studies at the University of Alberta relate to terminology for Indigenous peoples in Canada, namely Indian, in controlled vocabulary subject headings. The language used in controlled vocabularies to describe resources about Indigenous peoples does not always reflect terms Indigenous peoples use to describe themselves, leading to a disconnect between users and subject headings. Although this issue is beginning to enter academic discourse alongside reconciliation efforts, to date no research study has examined how students react to this issue. In this study interviews were conducted with five students from the Faculty of Native Studies to better understand how they relate to terminology. Students reported feeling uncomfortable at being forced to use language they saw as racist or insensitive. Future research should be conducted to better understand student relationships with subject headings, particularly at different institutions




How to Cite

Isbister, C. (2021). Indians in the Database: Student Relationships with Subject Headings. Pathfinder: A Canadian Journal for Information Science Students and Early Career Professionals, 2(2), 2–17.