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APA Citation Style (7th ed.)

Citing Personal Communications

On the topic of citing personal communications, the APA Style website states, "Works that cannot be recovered by readers are cited in the text as personal communications. Personal communications include emails, text messages, online chats or direct messages, personal interviews, telephone conversations, live speeches, unrecorded classroom lectures, memos, letters, messages from nonarchived discussion groups or online bulletin boards, and so on."

Traditional Knowledge or Oral Traditions of Indigenous Peoples

The most current edition of the APA Publication Manual is the 7th edition. It does include advice on citing Traditional Knowledge or Oral Traditions of Indigenous Peoples in the section on Personal Communications (section 8.9).

Older editions of the APA Publication Manual did not specifically mention advice for citing Indigenous Elders or Knowledge Keepers. Lorisia McLeod, a librarian at NorQuest College in Edmonton, had designed a template to fill this gap. However, there is a minor conflict in the advice regarding citing oral knowledge from NorQuest College (which was based on the 6th edition of the APA Publication Manual) and the current guidelines in the 7th edition. For personal communications / oral traditions, while you always include an in-text citation, current APA guidelines state that you shouldn't include a citation in the reference list, as the source is not recoverable. Norquest recommends you include a reference both in-text and in the reference list.

Please consult with your instructor for advice on which option is appropriate for use in their class. 

NorQuest Library Template for Citing Indigenous Elders and Knowledge Keepers

Before the publication of the 7th edition of the APA Publication Manual, NorQuest Library had noted that the formal APA style did not have a format for Indigenous Elders and Knowledge Keepers so they had developed this citation style in the spirit of wahkôhtowin and reconciliation. 

Unlike other personal communications, Elders and Knowledge Keepers should be cited in-text and in the reference list. The in-text citation format should follow the same guidelines as noted in the paraphrase and direct quote tabs: 

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


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

The citation format for the reference list is as follows:

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.

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.

Thank you to Lorisia MacLeod, a librarian at NorQuest College in Edmonton, for developing this template and allowing us to share it.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International LicenseNorQuest details and exceptions.