Analysis: Looking for Indigenous history? ‘Shekon Neechie’ website recentres Indigenous perspectives

A black-and-white photo of a wampum belt made up of beads

Dish with One Spoon Wampum Belt. (Deyohaha:ge Indigenous Knowledge Centre, Six Nations Polytechnic), Author provided (no reuse)

Logo for the ConversationThis article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Shekon Neechie: An Indigenous History Site is a website created by seven established Indigenous scholars on June 21, 2018. Among our editorial board, four hold research chair positions and two direct academic units of Indigenous Studies at Canadian universities.

The name for the site comes from combining the Mohawk word for hello, ‘shekon’ (pronounced say-go) and the Cree and Ojibwe word for friend, ‘Neechie.’

The site is for Indigenous historians, but can be useful also for teachers, students, researchers or general readers who want to read and listen to Indigenous histories.

Dominant narratives of history tend to focus on national progress. This often hides or justifies the violence of colonialism and frames Indigenous history as a sub-field within national history and Indigenous people in subordinate relations to nation states. Shekon Neechie tracks and powerfully resists this tenacious version of Canadian and European imperial history.

It does this by offering accessible reading lists and oral history podcasts, and profiling Indigenous historians whose work centres Indigenous land, people and history.

Historian Alan Ojiig Corbiere discusses the underlying importance of wampum belts.


How Indigenous people are cast

As Dakelh historian Allan Downey has recently shown, there is no shortage of professional academic history writing about Indigenous people.

Over decades, he demonstrates, historians have repeatedly cast Indigenous people as peripheral, passive, prehistoric savages — and ignored Indigenous sovereignty.

On, the research and writing reframes community, regional, national and global history and demonstrates how the contributions of Indigenous people are central to the shaping of the present.

Beyond Indigenous History Month

The general public may not be familiar with spaces where Indigenous people produce knowledge other than the traditional university setting. Shekon Neechie is therefore a valuable resource for students, teachers and professors of history in general as well as scholars of Indigenous Studies.

Susan Hill speaks about the Impact of ‘God is Red’ by Vine Deloria Jr. on studies of religion, land and the environment. 


June is National Indigenous History Month in Canada and during the month, cultural and political outlets and associations celebrate Indigenous diversity, traditions, culture and achievements.

Many government or government-funded organizations — including Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs, Library and Archives Canada, the CBC and museums — build programs of events, activities and recommended readings featuring Indigenous artists, cultural workers, storytellers and fiction writers.

Shekon Neechie complements this promotion of Indigenous art and culture by introducing, profiling and showcasing Indigenous historians and their work, and providing accessible, evidence-based analysis that contributes to a more truthful telling of our past.

Profiles of historians

Each historian profile features a short biography, contact information and a bibliography of recent, accessible historical work. We share work like historians’ recorded public lectures, curated museum exhibitions, blogs, published books and articles.

These profiles aim to elevate local, national and international awareness of Indigenous historical research. This year, the website is posting its 50th Indigenous historian profile. Most profiled historians work in North America.

The profiles track the extraordinary expansion of the depth and breadth of Indigenous historians’ work within the last 20 years. Over this time we’ve seen a growth of the number of Indigenous historians working in Canada and elsewhere. This is both within universities as professional historians and elsewhere, and those who combine both kinds of work.

This year’s profiles included John Bird, Cody Groat, Elizabeth Ellis, Bayley J. Marquez, Miriam McNab, Michelle Murphy, May-Britt Öhman, Jackson Pind, Kai Pyle, and Cheryl Troupe.

Click here to view the list of Indigenous historians.

Indigenous history curriculum

We began creating the historian profiles due to frustration with a lack of public engagement in Indigenous historical scholarship.

From elementary schools to post-secondary learning, it was almost like teachers assumed Indigenous history was naturally written by non-Indigenous people, while Indigenous people produced art, craft and culture.

For example, as Indigenous historians have shown, Canadian history textbooks often only discuss Indigenous people in limited and oversimplified contexts, including sections such as before European contact, the fur trade and residential schools.

Nearly a decade ago, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission called for improvements to Canada’s K-12 Indigenous history curriculum, but education experts continue to note a need for improvements to Canadian textbooks.

This becomes especially problematic in an education setting. An assumption that Indigenous historians don’t exist precludes teachers from assigning our work — and relying on it as part of interpreting the world today.

Indigenous-led platform

As we moved into our academic careers, we noticed a lack of Indigenous historians at professional history associations conferences presenting their findings. Rather, many were invited to sit on panels to discuss Truth and Reconciliation or Indigenization while non-Indigenous historians presented their research findings on Indigenous history.

In response to the minimal and tokenized opportunities in professional history associations, we chose to create a publishing and public information alternative that is Indigenous-led and focused.

While Shekon Neechie began as a virtual place, the board members also hosted a large and successful in-person gathering in spring 2023, and have built relations with Te Pouhere Kōrero, a similar Māori historian organization in Aotearoa/New Zealand.

Indigenous historical actions

Indigenous historical scholarship is about accessing and conveying Indigenous people’s perspectives of their historical actions. Indigenous historians are contributing to this understanding with valuable new insights on the past that often illuminate contemporary Indigenous realities.

These insights are born out of their experiences as Indigenous people and lead them to ask different kinds of questions than mainstream historians. These questions and the answers to them give us glimpses into Indigenous historical methodologies and provide innovative ways to think about a past that was shaped by Indigenous people.

Shekon Neechie also features articles that provide analytic summaries of existing research and bibliographies of historical works by Indigenous scholars on Indigenous histories in North America related to over 40 topics.

The site is a place where Indigenous scholars can respond to current events in ways that are informed by our understanding the past. For example, the Shekon Neechie podcast has covered Indigenous student and faculty perspectives on the advent of mandatory Indigenous courses in Canadian undergraduate education and a response to the COVID-19 pandemic informed by Indigenous history.

Indigenous History podcast Episode 1 from Shekon Neechie: on Pandemics.Shekon Neechie editorial board members also published an open letter responding to the denial of colonial violence in Canada in a nation-wide debate about histories of genocide.

Museums, heritage sites

The group also reviews and critically engages with sites that produce knowledge about history including museums and heritage sites.

We do this to articulate the importance of quality Indigenous history, grounded in evidence and analysis, being available to the public.

Shekon Neechie traces our representation within the historical and heritage professions, documents our lived realities past and present and improves historical literacy in Canada and beyond. You can follow Shekon Neechie on Facebook and on X.

Mary Jane Logan McCallum, Professor of History, University of Winnipeg; Robert Alexander Innes, Associate Professor, Department of Indigenous Studies, McMaster University, and Susan M. Hill, Director of the Centre for Indigenous Studies; Associate Professor, Indigenous Studies and History, University of Toronto

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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