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Traci Sorell

Traci Sorell is the 2024 Honorary Chair of Preservation Week, April 28 – May 4. She writes inclusive, award-winning historical and contemporary fiction and nonfiction in a variety of formats for young people. She is a two-time Sibert Medal and Orbis Pictus honoree and an award-winning audiobook narrator and producer. Eight of her books have received awards from the American Indian Library Association. A former federal Indigenous law attorney and policy advocate, Traci is a Cherokee Nation citizen and lives within her tribe’s reservation in northeastern Oklahoma.

The 2023 Preservation Week theme is Preserving Identities. Cultural stewards both in and outside of libraries play an important role preserving the historical materials and knowledge that are key to understanding one’s identity. Equally important is finding ways to safeguard and share this heritage in ways that are responsive to the communities they belong to. Traci Sorell is an author whose work, experiences, and advocacy highlight the importance of this commitment.

“As a child, I enjoyed visiting my school and public libraries. But I didn’t have my Cherokee identity, or any culturally accurate reflection of Native Nations, in books offered in either one.

Later, as a first-generation college student, that changed. My campus had a library specifically for the Native American Studies department. I could not believe the literature, archival materials, and vast amount of resources I now had access to read and study. I helped an author research the use of deer toe rattles among Native Nations in what is now Southern California.

Between research assistantships and internships in graduate and law school, I deepened my experiences with libraries and archives. I loved hearing recordings of Cherokee people talking story and singing in 1927 and 1949 at the Library of Congress. While interning for the National Museum of the American Indian prior to its opening on the National Mall, I saw George Gustav Heye’s vast collection from Native Nations in this hemisphere still in his original Bronx storage facility. Looking at cultural items made by Cherokee people hundreds of years ago made me simultaneously happy and incredibly sad.

I always left with this same impression, which I continue to feel today. Caring for and maintaining these recordings, archival documents, and cultural items is critical. But equally critical is ensuring that those who descend from these “preserved identities” have easy access to the information, images, and items. Seeking and implementing creative solutions through virtual access; permanent loans to archives, museums, and libraries located in Native communities; and providing grants for those who want to visit and study collections in person must be the path moving forward. Not only does that honor those whose contributions are preserved in a collection, but it also demonstrates respect for their descendants and the sacrifices made on behalf of their community.

As honorary chair, Traci Sorell will appear in Preservation Week artwork and programming and will promote preservation activities through a range of platforms, including social media. Follow her on Instagram @tracisorellauthor. Learn more about Traci Sorell at tracisorell.com.

Preservation Week is supported by Core: Leadership, Infrastructure, Futures, a division of the American Library Association.

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