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NCTR: The importance of decolonizing data now

"The window to hear directly from a Residential School Survivor is slowly closing."

September 29, 2023 — 

The National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation (NCTR) is working to restructure and decolonize its archives.

Headed by Raymond Frogner, the project aims to rebuild the digital architecture of NCTR‘s archives, which currently hold around 5 million documents originally collected by government and church offices for colonial purposes.

“There are more and more survivors passing away each day, which means the window to hear directly from a Residential School Survivor is slowly closing,” says Kaila Johnston, Supervisor of Education, Outreach, and Public Programming for NCTR. “Which which means the archive and the Survivors’ stories and experiences we hold is going to be a primary resource for individuals who are looking to listen, hear as well as experience those stories from survivors who have since passed on.”

The project will shift focus towards individuals, allowing future users to trace Indigenous connections through different institutions. The new endeavour will involve Indigenous communities and expand perspectives, particularly around photographs from Residential schools.

The open-source system developed will also grant partners access to meaningful data, and the Manitoba Centre for Health Policy will use the organized records to study downstream health and welfare effects of childhood trauma in schools, making it a ground-breaking effort in cultural heritage policy and Indigenous research.

In addition to the video above, please consider watching NCTR’s “Lunch and Learn” conversation series, around the history of Residential Schools through the eyes of Survivors. Other topics include unconscious bias and stereotypes, intergenerational impacts and ongoing systemic discrimination, and taking action towards Reconciliation. Every conversation has accompanying discussion questions and resources.

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