"Fact Up! Fact-Checking and Advanced Research" at the US Social Forum 2010

Thursday, June 24, 2010
People's Media Center, Cobo Hall, Detroit
US Social Forum

We talked about what fact-checking is and why it's necessary, taking the points from "FACT-UP: Fact Check, Research, and Thinking Critically like a Radical Librarian" (WAM 2008) and the 2010 IndyKids fact-checking and research workshop. We used as a starting point the first two paragraphs of "Detroit Indigenous Community Historical Overview," an article in the first issue (June 22, 2010) of Terra Viva, the magazine of the United States Social Forum:

Over the course of time the indigenous people in Michigan included the Potawatomi, Sauk, Fox, Kickapoo, Mascouten, Miami, Menominee, Ojibwe, and Ottawa. The coming of the French and British changed the lives of indigenous people of the Great Lakes area. During the fur trade era, both French and British forces were anxious to gain the goodwill of indigenous people of the Great Lakes in order to gain access to the abundant and luxurious beaver furs that native trappers could provide, as well as wartime alliances in the struggle between France and Great Britain.

During this period, treaties were designed to obtain land cessions in exchange for promises of goods and payments 'forever' (treaty language) to the native nations. Early treaties promised something to the Indians 'forever' in exchange for land cessions. The Treaty of July 31, 1855 concluded in the city of Detroit, the 'forever' clauses were rescinded and expiration dates set by the U.S. government to nullify the earlier promises. The practice of according full treaty status to agreements with Indian tribes was discontinued by an act of Congress of March 3, 1871 (16 Stat. 566), which forbade further recognition of Indian tribes as nations or independent powers.

We talked about how facts needing checking in the first couple of sentences included the following:

  • whether all of those nations (Potawatomi, etc.) actually had been present in current-day Michigan
  • whether both the French and the British actually had had a presence in the Great Lakes area
  • even whether Michigan is considered part of the "Great Lakes area"

We also discussed how approaching a piece of writing with a fact-checker's eyes means that you might perhaps rewrite a vague assertion like how the coming of the Europeans "changed the lives of indigenous people."

Then we moved on to the advanced research portion of the session. Here are some resources we used:

  • the advanced search technique of limiting results to a particular site or top-level domain, as in this Google search
  • INFOMINE - search directory (we used the sample searches "immigra*" and "immigra* mexico")
  • ipl2 - search directory, the merger of the Internet Public Library and the Librarians' Internet Index (we used the same sample searches as above, though the wildcard syntax didn't seem to work)
  • public library e-resource lists, specifically the Oakland Public Library and the New York Public Library
  • Scroogle Scraper - proxy search engine that uses Google results and cleans them of advertising, without leaving cookies on your computer