Skip to Main Content
University of Oregon
UO Libraries

UO REU site guide: Increasing American Indian/Alaska Natives perspectives in field and experimental linguistics

Citing Tradtional Knowledge

If your research includes traditional or biocultural knowledge, you should consider how to indicate this to give full acknowledgement, and to help your readers know how to respectfully use what you share.

This page has some resources to help with citing your sources, especially when you are working directly with the knowledge of Indigenous people. This section offers a few more ways to indicate permissions and protocols around traditional knowledge, as developed by Local Contexts. Many of these labels will be specific to particular groups of people and how they approach their knowledge. If you do not identify as part of the group you are citing, be sure to consult with the people whose information you are sharing, about what types of labels best represent their information, or if they would prefer to develop a new label that represents their knowledge better.

Thank you to NorQuest College Library and X̱wi7x̱wa Library at the University of British Columbia for sharing much of the content for the citation and evaluation section of this guide.

Traditional Knowledge Labels

The Provenance Labels include:

  • TK Attribution  (TK A)
  • TK Clan  (TK CL)
  • TK Family  (TK F)
  • TK Multiple Communities  (TK MC)
  • TK Community Voice  (TK CV)
  • TK Creative  (TK CR)

The Protocol Labels include:

  • TK Verified  (TK V)
  • TK Non-Verified  (TK NV)
  • TK Seasonal  (TK S)
  • TK Women General  (TK WG)
  • TK Men General  (TK MG)
  • TK Men Restricted  (TK MR)
  • TK Women Restricted  (TK WR)
  • TK Culturally Sensitive  (TK CS)
  • TK Secret / Sacred  (TK SS)

The Permission Labels include:

  • TK Open to Commercialization  (TK OC)
  • TK Non-Commercial  (TK NC)
  • TK Community Use Only  (TK CO)
  • TK Outreach  (TK O)
  • TK Open to Collaboration  (TK CB)

Local Contexts is an organization founded in 2010 by Jane Anderson and Kim Christen. The site states "The primary objectives of Local Contexts are to enhance and legitimize locally based decision-making and Indigenous governance frameworks for determining ownership, access, and culturally appropriate conditions for sharing historical, contemporary and future collections of cultural heritage and Indigenous data. Local Contexts is focused on increasing Indigenous involvement in data governance through the integration of Indigenous values into data systems. Local Contexts offers digital strategies for Indigenous communities, cultural institutions and researchers through the TK (Traditional Knowledge) & BC (Biocultural) Labels and Notices. Together they function as a practical mechanism to advance aspirations for Indigenous data sovereignty and Indigenous innovation."

Citing Elders & Knowledge Keepers


The official MLA and APA citation style guides do not have guidelines for citing Indigenous Elders and Knowledge Keepers. 

NorQuest College has developed the following templates for citing Indigenous Elders and Knowledge Keepers (CC BY-NC 4.0) in the spirit of wahkôhtowin and reconciliation, and we thank them for sharing their template.

For information on the development of these templates and how to use them in practice, please see:

Lorisia MacLeod. "More Than Personal Communication: Templates for Citing Indigenous Elders and Knowledge Keepers." KULA: Knowledge Creation, Dissemination, and Preservation Studies 5, no. 1 (2021).

APA Style

Unlike other personal communications, Elders and Knowledge Keepers should be cited in-text and in the References list.

In-text citation:

The in-text citation should follow APA guidelines for formatting in-text citations for paraphrasing and direct quotes. Include the Elder or Knowledge Keeper's last name and the year of communication. For example: 

Delores Cardinal described the nature of the... (2004).


The nature of the place was... (Cardinal, 2004).

Corresponding References list entry format:

Last name, First initial., Nation/Community. Treaty Territory if applicable. Where they live if applicable. Topic/subject of communication if applicable. personal communication. Month Date, Year.

For example: Cardinal, D., Goodfish Lake Cree Nation. Treaty 6. Lives in Edmonton. Oral teaching. personal communication. April 4, 2004.

MLA Style

Unlike most other personal communications, Elders and Knowledge Keepers should be cited in-text and in the Works Cited list. 


The in-text citation should follow MLA guidelines for formatting in-text citations for paraphrasing and direct quotes. Include the Elder or Knowledge Keeper's last name. For example:

Delores Cardinal described the nature of the...


The nature of the place was... (Cardinal).

Corresponding Works Cited list entry:

Last name, First name., Nation/Community. Treaty Territory if applicable. City/Community they live in if applicable. Topic/subject of communication if applicable. Date Month Year. 

For Example: Cardinal, Delores., Goodfish Lake Cree Nation. Treaty 6. Lives in Edmonton. Oral teaching. 4 April 2004.

Note: If you would like to approach an Elder or Knowledge Keeper for teachings, remember to follow protocol or if you are unsure what their protocol is, please ask them ahead of time.

Chicago Manual of Style

Work is underway to develop guidelines for citing Elders and Knowledge Keepers with Chicago Manual of Style. Please check back for updates.

Biocultural Labels

The Provenance Labels include:

  • BC Provenance  (BC P)
  • BC Multiple Communities  (BC MC)
  • BC Clan  (BC CL)

The Protocol Labels include:

  • BC Consent Verified  (BC CV)
  • BC Consent Non-Verified  (BC CNV)

The Permission Labels include:

  • BC Research Use  (BC R)
  • BC Open to Collaboration  (BC CB)
  • BC Open to Commercialization  (BC OC)
  • BC Outreach  (BC O)
  • BC Non-Commercial  (BC NC)

Traditional Knowledge Licenses

Similar to Creative Commons Licenses, Traditional Knowledge Licenses allow authors to indicate rights and reuse information when negotiating and managing cultural heritage material where Indigenous individuals or communities do not hold the copyright. These are actively in development by Local Contexts. There are four license types currently:

  • TK Attribution (TK A)
  • TK Outreach (TK O)
  • TK Commercial (TK C)
  • TK Non-Commercial (TK NC)