Canadian Subject Headings for Indigenous Peoples


  • The Canadian Subject Headings (CSH) file includes 40 headings that use the word “Indian” to refer to Indigenous people of North America.
  • Library and Archives Canada (LAC) cataloguers apply Library of Congress Subject Headings (LCSH), CSH and Répertoire de vedettes-matière (RVM) headings to books being described.
  • LAC Published Heritage is consulting with Indigenous librarians, the Indigenous Advisory Circle, the Indigenous Matters Committee, Subject Headings working group, and the Canadian Committee on Cataloguing on a plan to stop using the LCSH heading “Indians of North America.”
  • The plan will be communicated more broadly in autumn 2019.


  • Some publishers specializing in books for, by or about Indigenous people, have refused to participate in the Legal Deposit Program until a plan has been developed to stop using the LCSH heading ”Indians of North America.”
  • Some Canadian libraries have established their own new practices for avoiding using the LCSH heading. Other Canadian libraries are expecting leadership from LAC by changing CSH and by changing how subject headings are applied.
  • Consultations with the Canadian community of Indigenous people and librarians is underway. The goal is to develop a plan elaborating the following:
    • create a list of changes to the CSH file of authority records.
    • change how CSH are applied by not using “Indians of North America”; instead, use the most specific headings for groups of people.
    • stop using “group of people” headings constructed with the qualifier (Indians); instead develop new headings with (People), (North American People), or “people –” without parentheses.
    • when LCSH headings are objectionable, propose better alternatives to the Library of Congress via the Subject Analysis Co-operative Program (SACO), but if these are refused, add the alternatives to CSH.
    • use more facets to avoid pre-coordinated strings containing multiple concepts arranged according to European ontologies and hierarchies (e.g., genre/form, demographic groups, chronological period, geographic area).

Key Public Messages

  • LAC will stop using the LCSH heading “Indians of North America”
  • Consultations with the Canadian community of Indigenous people and librarians are underway. Anticipated changes will consist of changes to the CSH subject system and changes in how LAC assigns subject headings to items being catalogued.


William Leonard, Chief, Standards and Systems
Tel: 613-716-3379

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