Whitehorse volunteers learn how to 'Indigenize' Wikipedia

A group in Yukon wants to Indigenize one of the most visited websites in the world.

Group creates Wikipedia pages dedicated to important Yukon Indigenous figures, events

Heather Steinhagen is the organizer for the Indigenize Wikipedia meetup in Yukon. The first workshop happened over the weekend. (Jane Sponagle/CBC)

A group of Whitehorse volunteers learned to create Wikipedia pages about Yukon First Nations people, events and culture to ensure more Indigenous content was available on one of the most visited websites in the world.

The Indigenize Wikipedia meetup at the Kwanlin Dun Cultural Centre this weekend was the first of its kind in the North, according to organizer Heather Steinhagen.

The program was run in partnership with the Yukon Arts Centre and Kwanlin Dun Cultural Centre, and funding came from the Canada Council's New Chapter grant.

No Wikipedia experience was required. The event included everything from how to make a Wikipedia account to what information to include.

"The world is in need of this information. It exists elsewhere but the first thing we do is go to Google and search up a name and if that name doesn't show up on Google, we're probably going to toss that idea out the window and research someone else," said Steinhagen.

The Indigenize Wikipedia meetup page has a list of topics suggestions for Wikipedia pages, like late Yukon trapper Alex Van Bibber, the Dakhká Khwáan Dancers, and the document Together Today for Our Children Tomorrow. Most are highlighted red, which means there isn't an article currently on Wikipedia.

Some really awesome people who live up here and everybody should know about them.- Sara Andrade, participant

"Our mission is to turn all the red topics into blue, which indicates there is an article," said Jacqui Usiskin, a participant.

Usiskin worked on a page about Adeline Webber, the Teslin Tlingit woman who played a role in creating the Whitehorse Aboriginal Women's Circle and raised awareness about Indigenous women's rights.

"I think it's a minimum that we can do," said participant Sara Andrade, about creating pages featuring Indigenous people and issues in Yukon.

Andrade worked on a page about the Umbrella Final Agreement, the overall Yukon First Nations land claims agreement.

"Wikipedia is huge and every time you look for something, it's always one of the first pages that comes up on your phone or computer," said Andrade.

"[There are/were] some really awesome people who live up here and everybody should know about them."

Elder knowledge not 'valid resource' yet

Contrary to popular belief, Wikipedia users can't write whatever they like on the site. Information should be cited from reliable sources and must be verifiable, according to the site's guidelines.

Saturday's meetup included research resources like books from the Whitehorse library, online resources and scholarly articles.

But the meetup hit a roadblock that might make it difficult to fully Indigenize Wikipedia — elder knowledge.

"Right now, Wikipedia is combating systematic biases," said Steinhagen.

"Elder knowledge is all kept in the head. Wikipedia might not necessarily find this as a valid resource."

Steinhagen said she wants to look for ways to make ways to make elder knowledge a valid resource.