International Indigenous Librarians’ Forum 1999 – 2009
Background & Outcomes from Past Fora

compiled by Wendy Sinclair-Sparvier and Hinureina Mangan, November 2008


The International Indigenous Librarians’ Forum (IILF) was formed to address ways to foster and preserve language, traditions, culture and the values of indigenous peoples from all over the world. The Forum creates an opportunity to network and exchange ideas of best practices within libraries, museums, archives and educational institutions. The results will be the improvement of indigenous information, collection management and services to indigenous clients. The Forum provides a global network for sharing information and ideas.

The Mauri Stone

The mauri stone, created especially for IILF, was carved by Bernard Makoare and formally blessed by the Taranaki elder, the late Te Ru Koriri Wharehoka. The stone is imbued with the mauri, or life principle, of the Forum and holds the essence of discussions. It will continue to spiritually bind indigenous peoples who attend each Forum. As such the mauri stone carries indigenous aspirations for a positive future. The mauri stone is presented to the hosting nation to hold in safekeeping, giving continuity to the aims and aspirations of the Forum.

Hosting Nations, Forum Themes, Outcomes

  • 1999   Aotearoa, New Zealand
    Affirming the Knowledge & Values of Indigenous Peoples in the Age of Information
    Created the vision:
    “We, as unified indigenous peoples who work with libraries and information, will ensure the appropriate care, development and management of the indigenous knowledge of generations past, present and future” (Te Rōpū Whakahau, 2001, p. 94).
  • 2001   Sweden
    Continuing to Affirm the Knowledge & Values of Indigenous Peoples in the Age of Information
    Created statements:

    1. The indigenous librarians of this forum recognise the importance of language in relation to cultural identity and will inspire progress within our professions, whilst advocating for self-determination and control of indigenous knowledge.
    2. This forum proposes that international guidelines and protocols be developed to guide libraries, archives and other information providers to assure that culturally responsive practices for indigenous people are implemented in their environment, services, programme, collections and staffing.
    3. We as indigenous librarians seek to form alliances with other international indigenous bodies committed to nurturing indigenous youth.
    4. We as indigenous librarians affirm our commitment to utilise our collective skills, values and expertise in both cultural and professional spheres to strengthen indigenous youth.
    5. As indigenous librarians, we state that the use of intellectual and cultural property in any medium, especially in light of the global instantaneous impact of the electronic environment, without the approval of all appropriate indigenous authorities is unacceptable.

    (International Indigenous Librarians’ Forum 2001, 2002, p. 15)

  • 2003   United States of America
    Closer to the Fire, Ensuring Culturally Appropriate Library Practices
    Created the manifesto:DRAFT MANIFESTO

    1. International indigenous librarians believe all library information providers are a force for cultural and intellectual survival of indigenous people and that there exists a need for policies, procedures and practices within libraries, museums, archives and educational institutions that acknowledge the value of indigenous culture. Further, that these institutions should adopt culturally responsive guidelines to assure appropriate information services are provided.
    2. International indigenous librarians support partnerships with library and information agencies in order to assure global initiatives are undertaken with emphasize the value of adopting culturally responsive guidelines for use by all library information providers. To implement these guidelines librarians and information providers must:
      1. mobilize and bring together those who can translate guidelines into action
      2. convince library information providers of the need for these guidelines
      3. assure that culturally responsive guidelines become policy and standard practice
    3. Issues faced by indigenous people are much broader than matters of policies, practices, and guidelines, however. Initiatives to exert control over their intellectual and cultural property, to retain language, to preserve cultural practices are equally important goals shared in common. Therefore, the need to understand these issues in relationship to library information services, the following set of principles apply:
      1. traditional knowledge is the intellectual property of indigenous peoples
      2. protection of their cultural heritage is the right of indigenous peoples
      3. the primary rights of the owners of a culture must be recognized by library information providers, which should adopt strategies proposed in Aboriginal and Torres Straits Islander Protocols for Libraries, Archives and Information Services.
    4. International cooperation is essential for finding solutions faced by indigenous people. The International Indigenous Librarians’ Forum should be established as a permanent Forum creating a global network for sharing information, ideas and practices. (Ongley, 2005, p. 10). Attachments to the manifesto include: Culturally Responsive Guidelines for Alaska Public Libraries; Aboriginal and Torres Straits Islander Protocols for Libraries, Archives and Information Services; and the Mataatua Declaration on Cultural and Intellectual Property Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
  • 2005   Canada
    The Keepers of Knowledge Created an action plan and rephrased the manifesto:Action Plan:
    Delegates to the 4th International Indigenous Librarians’ Forum will contribute their energies to the following efforts over the next two years.

    1. They will develop a Forum planning document to assist planners of future International Indigenous Librarians’ Forums.
    2. They will develop a strategy for continuing to include indigenous information workers from around the world in Forum gatherings.
    3. They will collaborate with International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions’ (IFLA) initiatives related to indigenous information services.
    4. They will take steps to document the history of the International Indigenous Librarians Forum.
    5. They will work to review and, if appropriate, revise the initial documents arising from previous Forums, including the Vision, Goals, and Manifesto.

    Representatives to each conference would bring with them to the next conference books about the indigenous peoples of the country that they represent. These books would be presented to the host country committee at the conference. The host country would choose which library(s) these books would go to in the host country. For example: Representatives from Alaska could bring with them books about their indigenous cultures to donate to the Australian host committee. This would help to enrich the understanding of those cultures in Australia.

    Book Acquisition:
    Conference representatives could acquire books through direct purchase, grants, tribal, corporate or personal donations or donations from the authors.

  • 2007   Australia
    Culture, Knowledge, Future
    The Forum objectives:

    1. To identify ways to improve library services for indigenous peoples
    2. To discuss best practices for library services for diverse indigenous populations
    3. To affirm the history, knowledge and values of indigenous populations
    4. To promote partnerships to create a global network for sharing information, ideas and practices
    5. To promote Aboriginal culture and heritage as an important foundation for promoting and protecting cultural lifestyles and values
    6. To incorporate strategies to encourage participation for the Aboriginal community in their libraries
  • 2009   Aotearoa New Zealand
    Mākū Anō e Hanga Tōku Nei Whare – Determining our Future
    Outcomes to be determined by delegates.


International Indigenous Librarians’ Forum 2001: Report from a seminar at Ajtte, Swedish Mountain and Sami Museum September 5-8, 2001. (2002). Jokkmokk, Sweden: Ajtee.

Ongley, D. (Ed.). (2005). International Indigenous Librarians’ Forum III proceedings 2003. United States of America: American Indian Library Association.

Sullivan, R. (Ed.). (2001). International Indigenous Librarians’ Forum proceedings. Auckland, New Zealand: Te Rōpū Whakahau.