Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Is that Native American Encyclopedia website any good?

My answer to that question is a resounding NO.

This is a long overdue post. Some time back--years maybe--I saw an online encyclopedia called "Native American Encyclopedia." It is on Twitter, and Instagram, and no telling where else, but if you start looking carefully---and by that I mean critically---at the content, its legitimacy goes downhill fast.

Who curates the content?  Posts have personal names, like Carol, or Alice, but no last names. Who are they? What is Carol's expertise? What is Alice's expertise?

The "About" page uses "our" elders, etc., which suggests that the curators are Native. It even says that it is "Native owned and operated" but who are the Native people that own and operate it?

In a tweet earlier today, I said I thought perhaps the curator is a robot because there is SO MUCH on the site! Check out a page. You pick the page.

Maybe the "Native American Zodiac" page. Wait. Native American zodiac?! As if all 500+ tribes are the same and have a zodiac that we all use?!

Or maybe the page about naming, that tells you a naming ritual starts with "Harken!" As if Native people use words like "harken" in our rituals.

Or maybe the page about Cherokee, that is full of past tense verbs. As if the Cherokee don't exist anymore?

If you're a regular reader of American Indians in Children's Literature, you know that I recommend you visit websites of Native Nations. On this bogus Native American Encyclopedia site, the source of info on the Cherokee people is a website called "The Wild West." Not ok!

What page did you choose? Are you looking at it now? On the page you've chosen, scroll down to the bottom to see what it says about its source. The sources are definitely questionable. The one for the owl of the zodiac, for example, tells us the source is "xtraastrology." Let's pause there. Are you a teacher? A librarian? A parent? You know that source matters, right?

Scroll down a bit more. See those tiny grayed out words that say "Based on the collective work of" that are followed by the copyright symbol, saying that Native American Encyclopedia holds the copyright for the page? I wonder if The Wild West site is ok with the Native American Encyclopedia copyrighting their content?

Two big indicators that the people who create and use that site are pretty misinformed about who Native peoples are... First, the site administrator has a sidebar that lists the pages that have been "favourited" a lot. See the spelling of favorite? With that u? That's how it is spelled in Europe. Does that tell us that the curators for the site are in Europe?!  And second, the page most often favourited is the zodiac one. Selecting that page reveals the ignorance of the person choosing it as a favorite!

Please don't use this site, and if you're interested in information about Native Nations, tell others not to use the site either. Tell them why, too. And then, look for the website of a specific nation. Use Lisa Mitten's page, Native Nations, to find one. She is a mixed-blood Native who was president of the American Indian Library Association. Or, look at a credible site, with experts. A good place to start is the National Museum of the American Indian.

Good information is available. Don't be duped by sites like "The Native American Encyclopedia." Skip it.


Retired Librarian said...

I notice Lisa Mitten's page has not been updated since 2008, although some of the links I clicked on were current. Do you have any information on this? To me this would call the site into question - certainly on currency.

James Mackay said...

You might also want to check out this posting on Censored News -

It appears Native Encyclopedia are engaged in copyright infringement on a massive scale - every page I've looked at appears to be made up of text appropriated from other sites. They may be doing this for commercial purposes, to get attention for their employment and events websites, or they may simply not understand how a creative commons licence works.

I suspect that the innocent explanation can't be correct, however, as they have gone out of their way to portray the site as a Wikipedia-type user-generated project - however, there's no mechanism that I can find for actually editing or creating articles, even after I have created a user account. More, when you click on usernames you are usually sent not to a profile or external page, but to Native Encyclopedia's own Google+ page.

Debbie Reese said...

Retired Librarian - I am checking on updates.

James - I tried to figure out who Carol is but it is endless looping back to site. Interesting.

Ellen Fleischer said...

Thanks for this. Looking at the site, it occurs to me that they could be Canadian. Our official spelling rules do call for "favourite" vs "favorite," but with so many American books and magazines coming in, we get used to seeing both spellings early and don't always pay attention to how we write it. I notice that they use the American spelling for "honor" (vs "honour").

GinaB said...

No one knows who owns Native American Encyclopedia, nor who is posting on behalf of "Native People". CENSORED NEWS has an ongoing discussion among those who are investigating its legitimacy. I'm one who's been exploring their website and am appalled at much of the content and the sources they share. I have a feeling the group who runs NAE may be based in Europe, perhaps Germany.

Phil Konstantin said...

NAE used lots of my copyrighted information word-for-word without asking for permission. Then they listed themselves as the copyright holder of the material. It took me over 2 years to get all of my copyrighted material off of their pages.

I searched through a lot of their site and found they had appropriated lots of material from other people's websites. In some cases the original writer was aware, in other cases, they had not given permission.

I have tried to find out who they are for over two years. They refused to tell me. Their domain registrar said it would take a court order for them to reveal the name of the NAE website's owners.

Phil Konstantin
Cherokee Nation Citizen