Indigenous Languages and Knowledge on Wikimedia Projects Toolbox
- 1 Authors and acknowledgements
- 2 Introduction
- 3 Start of the project
- 4 Establish publication and protection rules
- 5 Create a Wikipedia: from incubation to launch
- 6 Pedagogic project
- 7 Mobilize the community over time
- 8 Check list
- 9 Resources
- 10 Agreement template
- 11 Notes
Authors and acknowledgements
This is a translation from the original document in French that can be found here.
- Nathalie Casemajor, Professor at the Institut national de la recherche scientifique (INRS)
- Karine Gentelet, Professor at the Université du Québec en Outaouais (UQO)
- With the collaboration of
- Jean-Philippe Béland, Vice President of Wikimedia Canada
- Christian Coocoo, Cultural Services Coordinator, Conseil de la Nation Atikamekw (CNA)
- Benoît Rochon, President of Wikimedia Canada
- Jean-Philippe Béland, Vice President of Wikimedia Canada
- Coordinators of the Manawan Atikamekw Community's Wikipedia Group
- Luc Patin, Computer Science teacher, Otapi school
- Thérèse Ottawa, Coordinator of multimedia services, Manawan
- Antony Dubé, Computer Science teacher, Otapi school
- Cécile Niquay-Ottawa, Language teacher, Otapi school
- Principal MediaWiki Interface translator in Atikamekw language
- Jeannette Coocoo
- Thanks to
École Otapi of Manawan (Sakay Ottawa, students of the computer classes), Conseil Atikamekw de Manawan (Annette Dubé, Jean-Paul Echaquan), Conseil de la Nation Atikamekw, Institut Linguistique Atikamekw (Nicole Petiquay), Sylvie Wezineau, Nastasia Herold, Gabrielle Champagne, Thibaut Martin (†) and all workshops participants.
The project was financed by the Wikimedia Foundation with the contribution of the INRS.
Montreal, Canada, 2017.
Context and goals
This document is addressed to all members of Indigenous peoples that wish to develop projects on the Wikimedia platform. It also includes information for non Indigenous collaborators and Wikipedians that wish to collaborate to such projects. The content of this document has been developed in the Canadian context after a project conducted with the Atikamekw Nehirowisiw Nation. The new experiences on going on the Atikamekw Nation (use of video in connection with the oral transmission, movements on the territory) could lead to a version 2.0 of this document.
What is the Wikimedia movement?
Wikimedia is a worldwide movement which mission is to bring free pedagogic material on Internet in all languages. Its most known project is the Wikipedia encyclopedia which became the 6th most visited website in the world. But the movement also developed other projects: Wiktionary (dictionary), Wikimedia Commons (multimedia database for pictures, sounds, videos, etc.), Wikidata (structured database) and many others.
The movement's projects have the use of the MediaWiki tool in common. A wiki is a web application that allows several people to collaborate in real time to easily create and edit online content. The word wiki comes from the indigenous languages of Hawaii: it means quick. The MediaWiki application is used by all kinds of different organizations. For example, the website Wikileaks uses the wiki tool, but it is not related to the Wikimedia movement. Another characteristic of the Wikimedia movement is the use of free licenses. Free licenses allow a free reuse of all contents, under certain conditions.
All of the movement's projects are not for profit, and the affiliated websites do not show publicity. The movement is financed by the generosity of thousands of donators from all countries. The Wikimedia Foundation (San Francisco) as well as some national chapters offer grants to support projects that contribute to the movement. The success of the Wikimedia projects is the fruit of the work of several volunteers from around the world.
What is the interest for Indigenous peoples?
Indigenous cultures and languages can take advantage of the new digital environment. Internet offers a very current usage context for the language and can thus contribute to the education of younger speakers. Indeed, new generations are increasingly familiar with the digital world. Wikimedia projects can help them to develop skills and knowledge of their traditional language and culture.
The Wikimedia websites have the advantage of being very accessible and widely visited. They offer a large worldwide visibility. Furthermore information that is published on them can be updated anytime. One of the movement's goals is to reinforce the cultural diversity of its contents, especially by collaborating with Indigenous peoples.
Wikimedia platform projects aim for the following goals:
- preservation and updating of the language (written information in the Indigenous language on the Web, creation of new words related to computer-related vocabulary)
- cultural transmission (intergenerational projects about new technology of potential interest for all generations)
- education (integration in classes, contribution to motivation in school)
- documentation of the territory (inclusion of pictures, adding of Indigenous place names in the articles)
- pride and visibility (visibility of public figures, modern artists and historical figures)
Examples of projects to develop
|Discuss an article
To suggest modifications on the talk page (ex.: report articles with missing or incorrect information)
> few minutes
|Improve an article
To edit or correct existing articles
> a few minutes to a few days
|Create an article
To add a new entry in an existing encyclopedia
> a few hours to a few days
To improve the referencing of contents about a nation (history, geography, traditional activities, cooking, modern artists, etc.)
> a few hours to a few days
|Organize a photographic scavenger hunt
To add pictures of the territory, the culture, public figures (or to add maps, videos, audio recordings)
> a few days to 1 month
|Create a dictionary
To add words, definitions and pronunciations in an Indigenous language
Lingua Libre (audio)
> a few weeks to a few months
|Create an encyclopedia
To create an encyclopedia entirely in an Indigenous language
> a year and more
Start of the project
Who can start a project on Indigenous cultures and languages on Wikimedia?
Any person from an Indigenous nation (individual, group of friends, school, cultural or community centre, etc.) can initiate a project in Wikimedia without having to ask for authorization from the movement.
On the other hand, if a project involves an issue of crucial importance to Indigenous peoples' issues (e.g. cultural transmission and language), it is fundamental this project, if not initiated by an Indigenous Nation, be elaborated with the formal agreement of the concerned Nations and developed in close relationship with them, and this from beginning to end of the project. To this end an official and concrete partnership will have to be established with officials of the involved Nations. At all times decisions will have to be made by members of the Nations or the Indigenous peoples, in respect of the principle of self-determination and sovereignty over their data.
Different people can be useful collaborators to the project:
- experienced Wikimedians: for projects requiring advanced competencies (for example, to create any Wikipedia encyclopedia in an Indigenous language), the national chapter or a user group in your region can offer free training and support.
- officials from the Nation's cultural and educational services : to mobilize the community and to find the right contacts.
- the nation's linguistic institutions: to ensure the standardization of the written language and to help in the coining of new words.
- university researchers to accompany the reflection process and document the project.
Engage in a consultation process
For an Indigenous Nation, starting a project with Wikimedia is an occasion to collectively reflect on the needs of the community and on its short, medium and long terms goals. This discussion can involve Elders, political decision makers, service administrators, educational services, teachers, youth representatives. What are the needs regarding the language, culture, education, territorial protection, and material and immaterial heritage ? For example Article 13 of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples establishes the right to preserve, revitalize and develop Indigenous languages. To meet those needs, what are the goals of the project? Those reflexions will help to define the project's orientations .
Take into account the linguistic diversity of the communities
Within the same indigenous nation, different relationships with the language, the culture and the heritage can exist. For example the vocabulary and the pronunciation can vary from one group to the other. It is recommended to take into account this diversity by discussing its inclusion in the project. Without being an obligation, a formal decision from the start-up of the project could clarify the process. Eventually we could involve representatives from the different concerned communities.
Prepare and sign an agreement document
In the case of a partnership between an indigenous nation and external collaborators, it is strongly recommended to sign an agreement document before the start of the project. This document will clearly establish: the engagement of the different partners, their roles and responsibilities, the goals of the project, its duration, the expected outcomes for the nation and for the external collaborators, the potential risks and how to mitigate them (see the agreement template in annex). In all cases the online Wikimedia project stay under the control of each linguistic community. The remuneration of a local collaborator can prove to be necessary during the project, especially during the starting phase.
Establish publication and protection rules
Learn about free licenses and copyright
One of the fundamental principles of the Wikimedia movement is the use of free licenses. Free licenses are a type of copyright that allows anyone to reuse the published contents without having to ask for permission, but respecting some conditions. All content published on a Wikimedia project is automatically "free". This implies that anyone has the right to copy and modify it, including for commercial purposes. The Wikimedia movement made that choice to allow the broadest distribution possible of contents. For example it is thanks to free licenses that personal "smart" assistants such as Siri, Alexa or OK Google can answer your questions using some information from Wikipedia.
But free license does not mean "free of doing anything": there are still important rights attached to the contents. For example if your reuse a picture or a part of a text from Wikipedia, you have to indicate the name of the author or insert a link to the source. If it is you who publish a picture in the Wikimedia Commons base, you also have to respect copyright: are you the author of the picture? Do you possess the copyright allowing to publish it online? In case of a doubt you will need to verify or ask for the authorization of the author or the owner of the copyright.
Discuss the protection parameters
Since information published on the Wikimedia projects can be largely reused, it is fundamental to discuss from the start of the project the issues of protection of the information. What categories of information and pictures can be published on the platform? Which ones do we wish to keep protected within the community? Before any publication online, it is necessary to determine the degree of confidentiality and sacredness of the information, the data and the pictures.
For example a nation could decide to not publish information on medicinal plants, the resources of the territory, the sacred rituals or the deep meaning of certain words. We could also decide to not publish certain photographic archives that show people, alive or deceased, or to ensure to have the authorization from the families.
Understand the governance mechanisms
In each Wikimedia projects (Wikipedia encyclopedias in different languages, Wikimedia Commons, Wiktionary, Wikidata) there are rules already established, it will therefore be necessary to learn them.
There are five basic principles in Wikipedia encyclopedias:
- Wikipedia is an encyclopedia (not a newspaper nor a blog);
- it aims at a neutrality of point of view;
- its contents are published under a free license;
- it a collaborative project where anyone can create and edit content;
- Wikipedia does not have any other rules
This last principle guarantees a flexibility to the project and a capacity to evolve.
An experienced contributor can be elected as an administrator. Administrators have access to additional maintenance tools to which other Wikimedians do not have access. But the administrators do not have more editorial authority that then other contributors: they are there to serve the community. The community of indigenous contributors will elect their own administrators and will decide on its own governance mechanisms on the Wikipedia in their language.
Generally conflict resolution is done by autoregulation: contributors watch each other to enforce the rules. Decision making valorize the discussion between the members to achieve a consensus.
Adapt certain rules to the specificity of indigenous peoples
When a nation creates a Wikipedia encyclopedia in its own language, it can decide what rules will apply. It will be necessary of course to respect the five basic principles described above. But the rest of the rules can be adapted to the specificity of indigenous languages and cultures.
For example the members who set up a new encyclopedia in an indigenous language will be able to decide that oral sources are accepted as references in the articles (and not only written sources like it is the case elsewhere). The notability criteria (that is the conditions that a person or a thing must meet to have an article) could also be adapted to the context of the nation. Furthermore the usual structure of articles (introduction, thematic sections) could also be changed. It can be adapted to reflect the traditional way of transmitting knowledge in the form of stories.
And to go even further we can question what is an encyclopedia in the indigenous context: how to propose a new interpretation adapted to the indigenous knowledge? How to use it as a starting point to encourage the youth to search for other information that is not transmitted online? How to make them want to go meet the elders and go on the territory?
Create a Wikipedia: from incubation to launch
This section presents the steps to create a new Wikipedia encyclopedia entirely in an indigenous language. For more detailed information read the document Create and manage a Wikipedia: Reference guide for First Nations (French only).
The first step is to verify that a project in the concerned language is not already in the process of preparation in the Wikimedia Incubator. If there is already a project in a parent language, it will be necessary to decide if it is more judicious to join it or to create a distinct project. For example the Atikamekw Wikipedia developed in an independent way because the language is officially recognized by its own ISO code.
Training and support
The creation of a complete Wikipedia in an indigenous language is a long-term project. It is strongly recommended to contact experienced Wikipedians to support you in this process. To build a long-term relationship it is suggested that Wikipedians go on the community at the time of the first training sessions. Thereafter an online support group could be created and training sessions could be given remotely, for example by video conference.
Translating the interface
A first condition to create an encyclopedia in a new language is to translate the interface of the MediaWiki software. This is done at translatewiki.net. This means that the main parts of the browser environment of Wikipedia must be translated: menu names, command buttons, automatic system messages, etc. In total there are more than a hundred words and sentences that must be translated. You can find tips for doing that at the blog post Translating the software that powers Wikipedia on the Wikimedia Blog (the post is available in English, French, Portuguese, and Spanish).
Sometimes this will imply to invent new words related to computer: how to say "homepage", "click" or "free license" in your language? The language keepers and the officials of the linguistic institutes are called to play a leading role in this activity. This step could constitute its own project, given the importance of defining a terminology that respects the principles of the language. Creating new words is also the occasion for discussions between the youth and the elders. For example the members of the Atikamekw Nation used images and references related to the territory and the traditional activities to translate some words of the interface instead of doing a literal translation.
A second condition to launch a new Wikipedia is to have created a certain number of articles in the incubator. The incubator is a space that allows to write articles, add pictures and build the homepage and the different rubrics of your encyclopedia. That way the day when the Wikipedia is officially launched, its content will already be developed in part. A good strategy to create contents is to integrate this activity in a pedagogic framework (see the next section).
To produce material it will be necessary to collect documentation, consult experts of the community or to make recordings with resourceful persons in order to gather useful information. Another fundamental factor will be to produce pictures that will illustrate the different articles while being respectful of the culture, the heritage and the identity.
Maintain active contributors
A third condition to create the encyclopedia outside of the incubator is to maintain a certain number of active contributors over time. The administrators that will evaluate your request will verify how many people have contributed at the creation of contents in the incubator during the preceding months. The goal is to demonstrate that an existing group of speakers of your language will be implicated in long-term to ensure to feed and keep the encyclopedia alive after that it will be officially launched.
To promote long-term engagement it is recommended to combine the encyclopedia project with a pedagogic project. The pedagogic project can be attached to computer classes and/or language courses. It can addressed to youth in partnership with a school or to adults in continuing education.
In schools for youth, in continuing education for adults
The fact to integrate the encyclopedia project within a school allows to work with the younger generation on the question of the language while also basing the project on an activity that will motivate them. This will allows to work at the same time at the pedagogic level but also to reinforce their knowledge of their culture and identity. Furthermore this facilitates the use of the language in a new context, the digital medias, which will reinforce the idea of a dynamic language that can evolve and adapt to new communication technologies. This aspect is fundamental for the younger generation of speakers to develop a certain pride to speak the language of their ancestors and that despite the fact to changes in their way of life.
In parallel to the pedagogic project the encyclopedia project can be open to adults and elders that desire to contribute to enrich the encyclopedia and to get initiated to the digital tools. For that the group in charge of the project could collaborate with community centres and adult training centres.
Although the Wikimedia platform is very easy to use, a certain basic knowledge is required (to know how to use a computer and how to browse the Internet). The computer classes are a good occasion to introduce the youth and the adults to the operation of the Wikimedia platform.
The articles writing activity is similar to a word processor. Other more advanced functions require to learn the wikicode: this a simplified version of the computer language HTML. Thus creating content on Wikimedia projects can be the occasion for initiation to a computer language largely used on the Web.
The participants that will become the future administrators of the Wikipedia encyclopedia will need to master certain more advanced computer skills. Without being complex the administrator tools require a more frequent use of the wikicode.
The encyclopedia project can be integrated in a language revitalization project, part of the school path. The project then become a support to allow the younger generation to practice the language in a digital environment.
This is an occasion for collaboration between the more experienced speakers with the beginners, so that the latter learn or support the former. This collaboration can take the form of language workshops during which the language keepers can help the younger in writing articles for the encyclopedia. This is also a way to increase the awareness of the participants on the importance of the language in preservation of the identity and the culture.
Mobilize the community over time
The Wikimedia projects have an impact on the promotion of the language, the culture and the identity. They allow to promote the material and immaterial heritage through the creation of articles and pictures. This is why it is suggested to work on a community basis to engage as many people as possible in the creation of contents. Promoting the project to the entire population will allow to solicit help to validate certain information. For example we could ask help from people with a particular knowledge to know to name of a river or the the recipe of a traditional meal.
Make a calendar of activities
To promote engagement and ensure a regular production of contents it is useful to organize collective activities throughout the year. This can be during the meetings of a social club, extracurricular activities, photographic hunts organized with the students of the community, outings on the territory, audio and video recordings of elders or any other pertinent activities.
An effective strategy is to choose one or several priority themes and to make a work calendar. We could work during a few months on the theme of geography, then the fauna and the flora, the clothing, the cuisine, the legends, the arts, the men and women that had an impact on the community, etc. This will allow to plan the work and to look for specific information if needed.
The essential is to organize structured activities that allow to produce a quality content. This means a content validated by expert people: elders, language or heritage keepers, artisans, etc. The collective work allows to produce a content respectful of the language, the culture, the heritage and the identity.
Use traditional medias and social medias
The use of medias allow to promote the project and to increase the awareness of the population on the questions of language and heritage. We could use the community radio, the displays in public space or the social medias. Creating a social media group is a way to keep the population informed, to promote the activities and to facilitate the collective discussion between the active members of the project.
Sharing this information with the entire community thus allows to think collectively. This allows to gather points of view to further the reflexion and the decision making. This can be the occasion to raise issues that have not been identified prior but that can prove to be crucial to the degree of confidentiality that we give to certain information, data or pictures.
Host a stand during festivities
Proposing an information stand during festive activities is another way to promote the project to the population. Festivities related with the culture or the traditional heritage allow to make a direct link between the promotion of those on Internet. For example pow-wows ou the International Indigenous Peoples Day are good opportunities to meet the community and to discuss the project face to face. Even the people less comfortable with computers can make pertinent suggestions of articles or participate to reviewing articles that we would have printed.
- Start of the project
- Define the goals of the project in relation with the needs of the community.
- Take into account the diversity of the communities of the nation.
- Make list of useful contacts.
- If the project requires mastery of the platform: contact a group of experienced Wikipedians.
- If you are not a member of the Indigenous Nation linked to the project: establish a formal partnership with representatives of the community and sign an official agreement.
- Establish publication and protection rules
- Learn about free licenses and copyright.
- Cite the author(s) when reusing content from Wikimedia.
- Determine the degree of confidentiality and sacredness of information, data and pictures.
- Know the five basic principles of Wikipedia.
- Define the internal rules for the new Wikipedia in an indigenous language.
- Create a Wikipedia in an indigenous language
- Organize training sessions on site and remotely.
- Translate the MediaWiki interface.
- Create articles in the incubator.
- Maintain a number of active contributors each month.
- Make an official request to create the encyclopedia outside of the incubator.
- Include the project in a pedagogic framework
- Contact school principals and officials from adult training centres.
- Work with computer teachers and language teachers.
- Invite elders and language keepers in those classes.
- Mobilize the community over time
- Make a calendar of collective and structured activities.
- Choose the priority themes.
- Promote the project in the medias.
- Create a social media group and animate the discussion.
- Host a stand during festive activities.
Wikimedia projects carried out in relation to indigenous languages and cultures
- Atikamekw knowledge, culture and language in Wikimedia projects (2016-2017): https://ca.wikimedia.org/wiki/Atikamekw_knowledge,_culture_and_language_in_Wikimedia_projects/en
- Canadian Aboriginal Languages Wikipedia Coordination: https://meta.wikimedia.org/wiki/Canadian_Aboriginal_Languages_Wikipedia_Coordination
- Wikimedia Indigenous Languages: https://meta.wikimedia.org/wiki/Wikimedia_Indigenous_Languages
- Wikipedia en Lenguas Indígenas (Spanish): https://rising.globalvoices.org/lenguas/investigacion/wikipedia-en-lenguas-indigenas/
- Wikimedians of North American Indigenous Languages User Group
Basic principles and history of the Wikimedia movement
- Mission of the Wikimedia Foundation: Mission
- Video in French explaining the five basic principles of Wikipedia: c:File:WikiMOOC - vidéo 01 - Principes fondateurs.webm
- Five pillars of the English Wikipedia: en:Wikipedia:Five pillars
- Founding principles of the Wikimedia movement: Founding principles
- List of national chapters: Wikimedia chapters
Free licenses and copyrights
- Definition of copyrights: Wikipedia:Copyrights
- Synthetic presentation of the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/deed.en
Guides to create a Wikipedia
- Create and manage a Wikipedia: Reference guide for First Nations (in French only): c:File:Créer une Wikipédia Premières Nations.pdf
- Manual for small and new Wikipedias: Manual for small and new Wikipedias
- See Ethics in First Nations Research, Assembly of First Nations, 2009.
- The project Atikamekw knowledge, culture and language in Wikimedia projects (2016-2017) was conducted as part of the initiative Indigenous Communities Outreach of Wikimedia Canada. It brought together the following partners: École secondaire Otapi of Manawan, Conseil Atikamekw de Manawan, Conseil de la Nation Atikamekw, Institut Linguistique Atikamekw, Université du Québec en Outaouais, Institut national de la recherche scientifique.
- The word Wikimedians means all contributors to Wikimedia projects.
- The contents on Wikimedia projects are published under two licenses called "Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License (CC-BY-SA 3.0)" and "GNU Free Documentation License (GFDL)".
- In particular see the resources on the page of Wikimedia Indigenous Languages: https://meta.wikimedia.org/wiki/Wikimedia_Indigenous_Languages
- Several initiatives of the Wikimedia movement aims at increasing the number of biographies about women on Wikipedia. Those initiatives' goal is to reduce the under-representation of women in the encyclopedia. In January 2018 on the English Wikipedia only 17.39% of biographies were about women. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:WikiProject_Women_in_Red.