What motivated you to join WikiProject Indigenous Peoples of North America? Are you related to any of the continent's native inhabitants?
Montanabw: I live in Montana which is home to seven reservations, and I also have some educational background in this area. I don't have a drop of Native ancestry, but I am cognizant of some of the issues facing Native People today.
CJLippert: I live in Minnesota, which is a cross-road of where the Indian Removal Policy ended and Reservation Policy began, and where the old and small Reserve system and the new and large Reservation system intersects. I work for a Native American tribal government, though not Native but also not "White", I have the privilege of participating as the 3rd party between the two. But this also means I get to see both the strengths and weaknesses of both in the relations between the Native Americans and the majority population. As that 3rd party, trying to help to close some gaps in understanding is what led me to participate in Wikipedia, and then to join the WikiProject Indigenous Peoples of North America (WP:IPNA).
RadioKAOS: I live in the vicinity of Fairbanks, Alaska. Fairbanks is an intersecting point for a variety of distinct groups of Alaska Natives due to its status as the state's second-largest community, a commercial center for a vast trading area and the home of the University of Alaska Fairbanks, the historic center of higher education in Alaska. I am white, but have a young daughter who is Gwich'in on her mother's side. I have near-daily contact with a great many Natives who live not only in Fairbanks, but surrounding villages, primarily Athabaskan and Inupiat people.
Maunus: I am a linguist and anthropologist specializing in the indigenous peoples and languages in Mexico. I am related to American native people through my wife and children. Not that it matters.
Have you contributed to any of the project's Featured or Good Articles? What unique challenges does the project face when promoting articles to FA or GA status?
Montanabw: I have contributed a minimal bit to Ex parte Crow Dog, and some other articles on legal cases; legal articles appear to be a significant number of the GA and FA-class articles in this project. The number one problem facing this project is that on articles related to culture a lot of material that would fit the normal criteria of WP:V and WP:RS is flat out wrong, often failing to understand the actual culture of the people that are discussed, and loaded with systemic bias. A lot of material that IS accurate exists either in hardcopy books of limited distribution, or in forms unacceptable to Wikipedia, such as chat forums and blogs.
CJLippert: I have contributed to several FA and GA articles. The main challenge has been to support the primary contributor's excellent presentation, but finding time-relevant sources, as too many WP:IPNA-related sources are either buried in academic journals or are horribly out-dated by a century!
RadioKAOS: I am more interested in what is called WikiGnome-type work than in seeing that articles become GAs or FAs. Most of what I've tried to contribute to the project is in filling in gaps in coverage and seeing that relevant articles are tagged for the project.
Maunus: I have contributed to two FAs about indigenous languages, one about the Natchez revolt, and to some GAs related to indigenous history and language. The main challenges I have had is that some sources are hard to come by even with access to university libraries, and that some reviewers consider that if a topic has few sources, old sources, or sources of low quality, written about it that topic doesnt deserve to be an FA regardless of the quality of the article.
Are some tribes or nations better covered than others by Wikipedia? How does coverage of the First Nations of Canada compare to Native Americans in the United States, Mexico, and elsewhere? What can be done to improve coverage of all indigenous peoples of North America?
Montanabw: I think that while there are probably more articles in sheer numbers about Native People in the United States, the First Nations articles may be of overall more consistent quality. Articles on the people whose tribal groups became well-known due to the Indian Wars of the post-Civil War area tend to be better-covered, possibly because they have interest to the Military History WikiProject. Coverage of Native People of Mexico is quite poor, and those of Central America even worse.
CJLippert: Definitely some tribes or nations are better covered than others on Wikipedia. Part of this is due to the availability of free reference contents on the internet, though many of those are about a century out-of-date, but it often serves as a starting point. Additionally, in both US and Canada, larger tribal groups are well covered, but smaller tribal groups are not. Additionally, due to many more US contributors, US tribal groups are far better represented than the Canadian First Nation groups. Additionally, due to references available for English-speaking communities generally focus in tribal groups in the US and Canada, other indigenous peoples of the Americas, especially North America (the focus of WP:IPNA), are missed, leaving us with substantially less information for tribal groups in Mexico and rest of Central America. WP:IPNA members have been slowly working on improving coverage in Canada. However, for Canadian First Nations related articles, repeatedly the Tribal Group, Tribal Government, Tribal Reserve, Tribal Community, and Tribal Organisation information are not clearly distinguished, causing some articles to muddle them all into a single article, and even in those articles, the distinctions are not made, giving a false impression of the group, government, reserve, community and organisation to be one and the same. It will take more editors to systematically go through First Nation articles to clean them up. As for Mexico and Central American tribal groups, what may help facilitate better coverage would be to have a dedicated Spanish to English translation, even if initially bot-populated. Then, there are non-Status tribal groups or communities in Canada and the State-recognized and non-recognized tribal groups in the US, where some are legitimate tribal groups for whatever reason do not have Federal-recognition, but these become more difficult as there are also many groups that claim as being a tribal group but without anything to substantiate their claim, and even some of them have made enough noise that among the Native American community, would be considered notable though not truly tribal.
Maunus: I am one of the only people doing dedicated work on Mexican indigenous groups, but I have been focusing on languages and I agree that Mexican indigenous people require much improved coverage compared to their Northern neighbors. I dont think however that translating from Spanish would be a good idea, there are some articles in the Spanish wiki with very high quality, mainly because of the work of one editor, but a lot of other articles about indigenous people are of very poor quality with either romanticizing or discriminatory undertones. They also tend to use very low quality sources.
Do you specialize in any particular aspects of native history and culture? Are there any resources that are hard to access but would be especially beneficial to your endeavors?
Montanabw: I have the best ability to work on articles related to the people of the Great Plains and Pacific Northwest Cultures, in part due to access to resources that are local to me or nearly so. I wish material from the Library of Congress was easier to access online, as there exist some decent resources there.
RadioKAOS: As far as this project's content is concerned, I focus on Alaska Natives almost exclusively. Because a large part of what constitutes sourcing on Wikipedia is web-based and/or corporate media-based, coverage is hamstrung by the lack of any media outlets in scores of small, rural communities throughout Alaska. Look at the "coverage" of many of these communities and you'll see that the articles are little more than a dumping ground for Census Bureau and other US-PD data, and/or are hijacked by the agendas of other WikiProjects, and provide little or no insight as to what life there is like. To give an example, you can see that WP:AIRPORTS has been busy the past few years creating articles on rural airports in Alaska. First off, by maintaining them as separate articles, it belies the fact that in the case of communities unconnected to the contiguous highway system, the airport is a crucial part of the community's fabric. Second, by inserting the same language in these articles as with urban airports, you see cluelessness such as "located one nautical mile (1.85 km) southwest of the central business district of (community name)", when in fact a great many of these communities don't have a central business district. In some cases, there are communities which don't even have businesses, aside from a "store" operated out of a room of someone's house, or business activities which are illegal in nature (read: bootlegging) and therefore are not going to attract mainstream attention aside from what is filtered through law enforcement agencies. Most attempts to provide factual insights of rural Alaska wind up deleted due to lack of reliable sources. There does exist a vast body of reliably-sourced material pertaining to general, legal and political issues surrounding Alaska Natives, but much of this exists in books and journals. The hangup of "no URL = no verifiability" that many Wikipedians have, not to mention the extra time it may take to find and cite an offline source versus one on the web, has stood in the way of properly covering the subject.
Maunus: I specialize in linguistics and ethnohistory topics. Even though I am an anthropologist I am not very much into writing the ethnographic side because it is very complicated to write about peoples in a way that does not stereotype or judge. Especially when many of the sources are written in periods where as creating stereotypes was almost the aim of anthropology. Today anthropology focuses much more on indigenous rights and on how public cultural representations of indigenous peoples perpetuate political inequalities. That is something that I have contributed a little about, but as I say I am more interested in ethnohistory and language which is easier to write about in many cases. There is also some tensions among the editors regarding the relative value of academic sources relative to indigenous oral accounts or the use of internet sources published by different indigenous groups. I tend to stand on the side of not compromising with our sourcing policy, because it is usually the case that there are reliably published sources that represent indigenous viewpoints that can be used without having to recur to hearsay, personal experience or low quality sources. I think we must accept that for some topics we have a choice about either waiting to write about the topic untill better research is published or to find a way to write about it using dated research, for example by making sure that data collected in 1890 by a European explorer is not presented as if it represents facts about whatever culture he reported about, but rather to make sure that the text attributes the text to the specific conditions of its collection.
Djembayz: I add resources for people interested in learning Native American languages, and expand biographies and stubs.
How difficult has it been to find images and audio to illustrate articles about indigenous peoples of North America? What can be done to collect multimedia materials from museums, reservations, and families for use on Wikipedia?
Montanabw: Get the various state historical societies to digitize their photo collections and release them under a free license. Also encourage the tribes themselves to make resources available in the same manner; many have tribal colleges or other centers of education that might be interested in such a project.
CJLippert: It has been very difficult to find appropriate media. However, due to past media collections by ethnographers, use of Federal and State media can pose intellectual property problems with Tribes. A better input (contribution) on what the Tribes what represented, from the past to the contemporary, would be helpful to ensure Self-determination while education the general public through Wikipedia.
Djembayz: More GLAM projects with cultural institutions and tribal organizations for images.
Does the project collaborate with any WikiProjects covering other ethnic groups or geographic regions? What can be done to encourage more cooperation along these lines?
Montanabw: A little bit of cross-pollination occurs with the state wikiproject, WikiProject Old West and some of the military history folks, though minimal actual collaboration, probably due to lack of numbers.
CJLippert: There has been collaborations, with many projects, but none have been strong. Probably it is due to lack of knowledgeable and encouraging editors.
Maunus: When Wikiproject Mesoamerica was active there was quite a bit of collaboration regarding Mexican indigenous topics, but that project is almost defunct now. There is also some collaboration with editors from WP:Languages, although sometimes that have led to minor conflicts due to different norms for nomenclature and perspectives on what is the most important aspects of describing indigenous groups.
What are the project's most urgent needs? How can a new contributor help today?
Montanabw: Eliminating systemic bias in existing articles and providing better sources and references. My first concern is use of language and phrasing that treats Native People like they are merely interesting historic figures instead of a living, modern people with current issues and current leaders. My second concern is uninformed and at times inadvertently insulting use of terminology in articles. For example, not all Native leaders are called "chief," yet many biographies so labeled certain people this way even though it was not an appropriate title for that person.
CJLippert: Funny that you ask this. Recently at the Native American Literature Symposium, this very issue was brought up to the forefront. The project's most urgent needs are to have articles that are relevant and accurate without bogging down the reader. This becomes a challenge when readily available sources are over a century out-of-date, have extinctionist language, have relevant information buried in not readily available journal articles, have verification process biased towards the dominant society's opinions to the detriment of tribal groups, etc. Then there are tribally-appropriate focus on an article topic that is not considered appropriate focus by the general public, such as in the case of Maple syrup, where from a tribal perspective tree sugar from maples, regardless of form, is considered appropriate but the non-tribal editors focus was exclusively on the syrup form of the sugar, gutting out the historical relevance of this sugar product.
Maunus: Better sourcing and references all over. And better use of low quality sources by writing in a way that shows the reader where the information comes from and how its provenance may impinge on its interpretation.
As in all WikiProjects, pitching in with infoboxes and article assessment improves quality, and frees up the subject specialists for the more complex articles.
Anything else you'd like to add?
Montanabw: Respect for a living culture and living people is not "political correctness," and it is frustrating to run across that attitude.
CJLippert: I agree with Montanabw. And this becomes even more frustrating when search engines such as Google or Bing heavily relies on Wikipedia, for quick information access, thus even more quickly present that unwanted attitude.