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Editors’ Choice: Doing the work – Editing Wikipedia as an act of reconciliation

Since its establishment in 2001, the English version of Wikipedia[1] has grown to host more than 5.6 million articles that reflect content ranging from culture and the arts to technology and the applied sciences. Consistently ranked as one of the top visited sites on the Internet, Wikipedia provides an open and freely accessible resource of interconnected information that anyone can edit. Unfortunately, not everyone actually does. Nine out of ten editors are male. The average Wikipedian is an educated, English-speaking citizen of a majority-Christian nation in the global north. They are technically proficient and likely hold, or are skilled enough to hold, white-collar employment. Not surprisingly, these commonalities have introduced systemic bias to the manner in which content is generated, updated, and, most critically, omitted from the site.

Pages about trans and cis women, gender non-conforming people, cultural communities in the global south, those living in poverty, and people without internet access are chronically underrepresented on Wikipedia. This includes groups in developing nations, as well as racialized and systemically marginalized groups in economically wealthy countries, such as the Black and Latinx communities in the United States. Equally absent are pages about Indigenous peoples[2], communities, and cultures. As of August 2018 there were 3,468 articles within the scope of the Indigenous Peoples of the Americas WikiProject. This number represents only 0.06% of the articles on English-language Wikipedia, with an even smaller percentage relating to First Nations, Inuit, and Métis peoples in what is currently known as Canada. Overall, representation of Indigenous-focused content is sorely lacking.

As settlers living and working as archivists on the traditional territories of ‎the Neutral, Anishnaabeg, Métis, and Haudenosaunee peoples — Danielle on the Haldimand Tract, land extending six miles from each side of the Grand River that was promised to the Six Nations, and Krista on Robinson-Huron Treaty territory — we have personally and professionally considered the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada Calls to Action (TRC) that outline the responsibilities of cultural heritage workers to educate both themselves and the general public about the Canadian Indian Residential School System (Residential Schools). In working to do so, however, we recognize that Residential Schools were but one of the many horrific consequences of settler colonialism. Meaningful engagement with the reconciliation process and Indigenous communities in Canada means raising awareness about more than Residential Schools. It means understanding the need for cultural organizations to build relationships with Indigenous communities rooted in solidarity and allyship; centering an ethic that moves beyond rote territorial acknowledgements; and setting aside defensive dismissals of wrongs that happened before we were born in order to prioritize what Senator Murray Sinclair calls “a sense of responsibility for the future.” It also means acknowledging that colonialism continues to impact Indigenous communities and working to break down colonial systems that exist within cultural organizations. We believe that editing Wikipedia through a lens of reconciliation is one way to do so.


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