Just the FACs

As most things in my life, I have relied on my cultural background as a Seneca to address problems I am facing. When I first became the Seneca Nation Archivist the task seemed overwhelming especially after I had read the grant that started the department. So if you are an Native/Indigenous Archivist know you are not a lone in this field of work. Whatever emotions you are feeling another Native/Indigenous Archivist is feeling or has felt similar. I know I felt scared, overwhelmed, confused, and didn't want to make a mistake when I first started. My experience is this is how I feel most of the time I start something new in my life. In the end, I figure I have to try because that is the way my family raised me. As many of you, I was raised to think about our people/community and to help make it a better place. This gave me the courage to try to figure how to start an archives. In the first 6 months I researched entities within and outside the Seneca Nation. As I researched I started to created policies and procedures because I had visited other Native archives usually before attending a Powwow in their community. I notice that people had done great work but didn't leave any introduction as to why/what they were doing. The next person who was hired had nothing to go by so they started the process all over again. I thought that I would at least start policies and procedures so people in the future would know why/what my thought process was to the archives. As I developed my skills as an archivist, I realize that archives around the world are different and just because someone outside our community says this is the way it is done doesn't mean that is the only way it is done. As sovereign people we have the right/duty to address our issues/problems in our own way and with our own cultural methods. One example that comes to mind it that Seneca Nation Archives collected materials about our spiritual way of life. The government archives outside our community usually do not address this matter so I thought about our traditional government and phrase that are used to indicate how they dealt with sensitive issues within our community. Traditional the phrases that used were one dish, in the bush, etc. One dish means that it was for everyone to share, In the bush means that it is talk just among the group. So in the end I created the space of confidentially of tobacco for spirit materials because we used tobacco of our spiritual doing. This way I relied on our traditional as to who/when one should have access to this material. For example, the dawn song is only done in the morning so if someone wished to hear a recording of it then they had to schedule an appointment for the morning. I developed policies and procedures that were based on our cultural/traditions. Just as I had my reservations about starting the Seneca Nation Archives, I have the similar feeling about moving First Archivist Circle(FAC) forward. I believe that FAC is still needed so I will do my best to move this organization forward to help other Native/Indigenous Archivists. I names the blog "Just the FACs", because First Archivist Circle is about creating a space for Native/Indigenous Archivist and this blog is an space for us to come together in the circle to help/heal each other. Asge:no' tisohe' (Live life to the best/fullest) DLGS

1.26.21  The Challenge

The one thing an Native Archivist needs to do their work is not an Archival degree but  "Trust".   Building this trust may be a challenge and it is one of the difference between Native Archivist and Non-Native Archivists.  Non-Native Archivists this trust is easily given but with Native Archives it must be work on in order to survive.  When I first started as an archivist and I went to different departments within the Seneca Nation to find out what documents needed to be archived.  I met with a lot of questions and not just from other people but myself.  I questioned a lot about everything I did and I didn't want to make mistakes or at least mistakes I couldn't undo.  First I realize that I needed to create a policy and procedure manual because as I traveled to powwow I would stop at the Native Archives if one was there.   A lot of advice from other Native Archives was write down why we are doing things so the next people can understand the reasoning and not have to re-invent the whole system.  Once I had created over a hundred pages of policies and procedures the next step was to convince Seneca Nation Council to pass this manual.  It took me six months to get this manual passed by Council.  At the time, there was not a lot of money, pre-Casino time, so finding a space to hold the documents, maps, electric formats was a big deal.  I had for months got around our territory looking at the places holding about history.  They range from basements, abandon buildings, attics, garages, under people's desk, in the closet,  storage containers, etc.  The storage container was not fun at all with the bees making a home in the container.  Once again I would have to go back to Council to request money for a building and equipment.   A lot of research and lucky New York State had workshops that were free to attend so I attended all of them.  I worked for weeks on my presentation for Council.  I even had a 3D virtual reality program that I purchased from Walmart to show in my PowerPoint.  I was already to present and I waited hours to be called to Council however an issue with New York State about taxation was the current issue of the day.  I waited in my office all day until around 7pm the Clerk informed me that Council won't hear my presentation until next Council Meeting.  I was luck that Council passed the money to rent an old warehouse and to get the equipment, shelving mostly, to start the Archives.  The equipment was ordered from archival supply company, which I will leave nameless,  in which I did the 3 bid quotes needed for the Seneca Nation Fiscal department.  The archival supply company I ordered from did give me a quote in which later I discovered was a soft quote because when the actual invoice came there was a  three ($3) dollar different in shipping.  I called the company to let them know the mistake.  You might be asking yourself $3 is not that big of a deal.  I usually would agree however in this case it did.  My uncle was Treasurer of the Seneca Nation who would have mention to my Aunt my mishandling of funds who then would have mention it to my Mother and for the next 6 months I would have heard about this $3.  I let the company know I was cancelling the order.  The woman I the other end of the line couldn't believe that I would cancel an order more then $30,000 over $3.   She asked me if I mind if someone else from the company call me about the order before they cancel it.  I said, Sure, and about 5 minutes later the person who attends to Native Government orders was on the line.  He informed me that their company had an agreement with the BIA when I came to Native Nations order products from their company at discount.  From that time on I always call him to order our supplies.  They didn't want to lose the order so he add the discount which saved us around a thousand dollars plus included an 6-Step Ladder with Extended Handrails for free.  Lesson learn was to always hold the company's to their word or deal with their competitors.  Never purchase the price in their catalogs they will deal with you if they want the order.  Once the equipment was installed, the other department started to see that we had a secure place for their records and started handing them over.  The day that the shelving company could install the shelving was a day off within the Seneca Nation.  I still came to work to get it done.   Along the way to establishing the Seneca Nation Archives I met with resistance so I worked on the things that I could do and didn't focus on the resistance.  After the Archives had survived 3 different administrations people knew it would stay as a department. We had earn our Trust.. Asge:no' tisohe' (Live life to the best/fullest) DLGS  DLGS