TikTok is a popular social media platform launched in 2016, where users are able to post 15 to 60 second clips of self-created video content. Underrepresented groups have often used social media as a tool for community building and storytelling, and TikTok is no different. Besides featuring trending challenges and comedic enjoyment, the platform also functions as a space of social activism and knowledge sharing, highlighting community voices and inviting cultural discourse and connection. Indigenous TikTok or “#NDNTikTok” is a realm of TikTok that already utilizes frameworks of Traditional Indigenous Storytelling and adapts them to a digital medium. The Social Media & Indigenous Programming Toolkit aims to support public libraries and library staff in engaging and incorporating TikTok into library programming, with a focus on Indigenous Storytelling. This toolkit features an introduction to TikTok as a platform for building awareness and celebrating Indigenous Knowledges and Resilience in public library programming. While this toolkit is aimed at the use of TikTok, there are tools that can be adapted for incorporating other forms of social media in Storytelling programming.
We are both students living in amiskwaciwâskahikan, colonially known as Edmonton, on Treaty 6 territory, but want to note we are uninvited guests. Treaty 6 Territory is the Land of nêhiyawak/cree, Siksikaitsitapi/blackfoot, Nakota, Anishšināpēk/anishinaabe, Dakota, Saulteaux, Dene, and Métis/Michif Peoples. We would like to acknowledge that the University of Alberta is situated on stolen Papaschase Cree territory and recognize both the historical and ongoing violence that settler colonialism has and continues to perpetuate in this place. We would also like to acknowledge that while the internet is the “technical “custodian” of the platform on which we gather, this makes us no less occupants of the multiple territories on which we are all physically located.” (Feminist Media Studio)
Indigenous Social Media is a virtual landscape filled with nuanced expressions of joy, laughter, trauma, healing, spirituality, respect and community. From Twitter to Instagram, Youtube to TikTok, social media is a tool that has been well-used for Indigenous representation, relationship building, and “information discovery” (Ithaka S&R, 2019). Digital mediums provide a platform for diverse and nuanced representations of individuals, communities, beliefs, art and histories. The population of Indigenous youth has steadily increased in Canada and Indigenous youth use social media more than any other group. There is an increasing importance for libraries to incorporate social media within Indigenous programming, ensuring that the programs fit the needs of the community. Social media can provide community connections and a sense of belonging, particularly to Indigenous Peoples who have been relocated and feel isolated particularly in urban settings. Libraries have the opportunity to create spaces that reflect and amplify Indigenous culture building and sharing, and can do so by incorporating tools already being used by Indigenous Peoples (Woroniak, 2014).
Social responsibility, or a dedication to commit good toward our societies at large, is an incredibly important part of many underrepresented group’s experiences with social media. Indigenous TikTok is diverse, but there is a clear dedication to social justice and activism within the work of TikToker’s.
Whether they are standing in solidarity with Land and Water Protectors, or raising awareness surrounding Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls: Indigenous TikToker’s are already doing the work.
This begs the question, what are we as allies and as future librarians doing? Institutionally, Indigenous-led information services within libraries already intersect with social responsibilities and create a structure for libraries to create useable and relevant experiences and resources for community members. Therefore it is not too drastic of a suggestion to incorporate social media as a tool for libraries to continue that type of work.
What does Indigenizing Library Programming Mean?
Indigenizing library programming means focusing on Indigenous Values and Knowledges, and committing to institutional and social change (Doyle, Lawson, & Dupont, 2015). Indigenizing programming involves naturalizing place based knowledge sharing and Indigenous Worldviews into library program structures. Furthermore, an integral part of Indigenizing Library Programming is avoiding pan-Indigenous generalizations and embracing relationality with Indigenous Peoples within local communities.
Indigenous Programming & Storytelling
Within this toolkit we wanted to focus on deconstructing how libraries think of programming and suggests transitioning to models that emphasize “the power and beauty of Indigenous stories” (Archibald, 2008, p. 12) and storytelling. Public library services, historically and as they currently stand, serve and prioritize privilege, based on the accessibility of resources and programming. The literature suggests that Indigenous-led information services and programs intersect with a social responsibility to consider historical and ongoing traumas, and to enter into relationships with local Indigenous communities to create meaningful resources (Woroniak, 2006; Breu, 2003; Government of Alberta, 2018; Cavanagh & Aboriginal Library Services Working Group, 2009).
Indigenous programming, particularly Storytelling and skill-sharing, presents opportunities to amplify and celebrate Indigenous communities. Ethical care in Indigenous Storytelling develops through relationships, therefore Indigenous-led and informed programming relies on pluralistic and community-centred practices. Library programs can easily appropriate or displace Indigenous Peoples from the conversation; therefore the resources included in this toolkit offer a small number of recommendations based on Indigenous Literatures and Perspectives but are not prescriptive. Indigenous Library Programming should always be centering the voices of Indigenous Peoples, especially in Storytelling.
How to TikTok
Using TikTok for programming requires some basic knowledge of how the app functions. While it is not necessary to be experienced with the app to use it for programming, it is useful to know about the trends on the app and the ways in which individuals are already using the app. After the app has been downloaded onto your device and an account has been created, it is a fairly user friendly platform to create basic video content. Below is a TikTok to illustrate how to create a simple video:
Some Themes to Explore
Themes are part of the TikTok world in general, but Indigenous Storytelling is present in TikTok in a variety of ways. Here are some examples of themes to explore in programming with TikTok:
– Indigenous Joy and Resilience
– Indigenous Traditional Knowledges (beadwork, hair braiding, food preparation/preservation, language revitalization)
– Indigenous Land (ecological preservation, place naming)
– Indigenous Social Activism (Mi’kma’q fisherman organizing; Wet’su’wet’en, MMIW&G, Canadian School Curriculum)
Library Program Guidelines
We have provided here a program guideline that utilizes Archibald’s (2008) seven principles of Indigenous Storywork (respect, responsibility, reverence, reciprocity, wholism, interrelatedness, and synergy) to connect youth with TikTok as a storytelling medium. This guideline, and the toolkit as a whole, aim to share “sound practices”, which Cavanagh & Aboriginal Library Services Working Group define as “an examination or exchange of ideas” (2009, p.4-5), as opposed to more prescriptive or hierarchical ‘best’ recommendations. We are also learners, and acknowledging our own limitations allows us to share these practices, while still identifying our knowledge gaps in this area.
This guideline can be explored and centered around different types of storytelling or skill-sharing, depending on context. That means that while this guideline is flexible in its application, your chosen topic requires specific attention to the community of that particular story or practice.
The Indigenous TikTok community is an invaluable resource to learn from and connect with in order to build the vitality of your Storytelling program. The following is a non-exhaustive list of Indigenous TikTok creators, but it is important to note that regardless of following there are so many innovative and creative TikTokers that will unfortunately be missed in this list. This list can and should be contributed to!
References Used & Recommended Further Reading
Archibald, J. (2008). An Indigenous Storywork Methodology. In Handbook of the Arts in Qualitative Research: Perspectives, Methodologies, Examples, and Issues (pp. 371-385). SAGE Publications, Inc.
Breu, R. D. (2003). Band and tribal libraries: What mainstream public libraries can learn from them. Feliciter, 49(5), 254-257.
Cavanagh, M., & Aboriginal Library Services Working Group. (2009, August). Sound practices in library services to Aboriginal Peoples: Integrating relationships, resources and realities.
Cooper, D., Ball, T., Boyer-Kelly, M. N., Carr-Wiggin, A., Cornelius, C., Cox, J. W., Dupont, S., et al. (2019, April 11). When Research is Relational: Supporting the Research Practices of Indigenous Studies Scholars. Ithaka S+R.
Doyle, A. M., Lawson, K., & Dupont, S. (2015). Indigenization of knowledge organization at the Xwi7xwa library. Journal of Library and Information Studies, 13(2), 107-134.
Government of Alberta. (2018, July). Best practices for public libraries in Alberta.
Jensen, K. (2020). What Makes These Librarians TikTok? School Library Journal, 66(8), 32–34.
Loyer, J. (2020, April 23rd). Indigenous TikTok is Transforming Cultural Knowledge. Canadian Art.
Toulouse, P. R. (2018). Truth and reconciliation in Canadian schools. Portage & Main Press.
Woroniak, M. (2006). Public libraries as aids to sense making in urban Aboriginal populations. Dalhousie Journal of Interdisciplinary Management, 2, 1-16.
Woroniak, M. (2014). “The Danger of a Single Story” Readers’ Advisory Work and Indigenous Peoples. Reference and User Services Quarterly, 54(1), 20-23.