Indigenous Everyday Life in Chatman’s Small World Theories


  • Loriene Roy University of Texas at Austin, School of Information
  • Kristina M. Shiroma University of Texas at Austin, School of Information



Indigenous communities are connected through their worldview or commonly held way of seeing everyday life. In this article we will describe the intersection, match, and mismatch of Chatman’s theories of information poverty, and life in the round and how these theories might be incorporated—or not—in understanding contemporary indigenous living. Within the theory of information poverty, we will consider Chatman’s four notions defining an impoverished lifeworld: secrecy, deception, risk taking, and situational relevance. Secrecy and deception might be interpreted as negatives by outsiders when boundaries are maintained around access to traditional cultural knowledge and its expression. Within the community, though, such behaviors are observances of protocol or expected behavior. Risk taking may be welcomed and applauded but might also result in the individual Native risk taker stepping into the interface frame of being an outsider, or someone who is now separated from their trial community. Relevance is contextual and is interpreted by indigenous peoples in terms of its ability to support tribal sovereignty.

Chatman’s Theory of Life in the Round presents how individuals find fulfillment in their lives as understood through the concepts of worldview, societal norms, small worlds or settings, and the roles or social types to which people are assigned. These concepts can be seen in indigenous life as the connection to the land and clan kinship models. Our article will close within the framework of Cajete’s model of a fulfilled indigenous life as one where someone can find their true face, heart, and foundation.

In this article we refer to the first or original peoples of the land as Native or Indigenous. We refer to first peoples living within the borders of the United States as American Indian or Indian. Indian Country is where Native people live and includes indigenous homeland areas including lands referred to as reservations. That said, Native people consider all land indigenous land. Together, our writing is based on decades of direct interaction with and observation of indigenous peoples from numerous tribal communities, our personal writing and review of the literature, as well as our own cultural affiliations and life backgrounds.

Pre-print first published online 6/22/2021

Author Biographies

Loriene Roy, University of Texas at Austin, School of Information

Dr. Loriene Roy is Anishinabe, enrolled on the White Earth Reservation, a member of the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe. She is a Professor in the School of Information at the University of Texas at Austin (UT-Austin), teaching public libraries, reference, and library instruction/information literacy graduate courses. She is an adjunct for the University of Hawai’i at Manoa (UH-Manoa) where she teaches a graduate course on “Indigenous Librarianship.” She serves on boards for a number of projects including the Library of Congress Literacy Awards and the National Native American Boarding School Healing Coalition. She was President of the American Indian Library Association (AILA) (1997-1998) and the American Library Association (2007-2008).

She received the AILA 2015 Distinguished Service Award; 2014 Distinguished Alumnus Award, The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign; UH-Manoa 2014 Sarah Vann Award; 2009 Leadership Award, the Association of Tribal Archives, Libraries, and Museums; 2007 Library Journal Mover & Shaker; two Texas Exes Teaching Awards; two James W. Vick Texas Excellence Awards for Academic Advisors; and is an inaugural member of the UT-Austin Distinguished Service Academy. She has given over 600 presentations and has over 200 publications including 10 co-edited books.

Kristina M. Shiroma, University of Texas at Austin, School of Information

Kristina Shiroma is a doctoral student in the School of Information at the University of Texas at Austin. Her research interests includes information seeking as it applies to cross-cultural gerontology and socio-cultural aspects of health. Kristina received her Master's degree in Library Studies at Texas Woman's University.