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Improving Subject Headings for Iowa Indigenous Peoples

Heather M. Campbell, Christopher S. Dieckman, Wesley Teal, Harriet E. Wintermute


By authorizing outdated terms for North American Indigenous peoples, the Library of Congress Subject Headings (LCSH) vocabulary deprioritizes or ignores the preferred names of the peoples being described. As a result, cataloging and metadata professionals constrained by LCSH often must apply names imposed during colonization. For example, in many library catalogs, works about people of the Meskwaki Nation in Iowa are labeled with “Fox Indians--Iowa” and “Sauk Indians--Iowa,” and Ioway peoples are described as “Iowa Indians.” As part of a diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) initiative at Iowa State University Library, a working group in the Metadata Services department undertook a project to build, publish, and use a controlled vocabulary of preferred terms for Indigenous communities with ties to land that is now part of the state of Iowa. This paper describes the working group’s research, outreach efforts, published vocabulary, and process for adding the preferred subject headings to library metadata.


Diversity, equity, and inclusion; Cataloging; Metadata; Indigenous communities; Outreach

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