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How to cite using AMA in the health sciences

This guide covers the basics of the American Medical Association's (AMA) citation style.


The information on this page comes from a discussion that took place between Elder Margaret Lavallee, Elder Charlotte Nolin, Pipe Carrier Nitanis Leary, and librarian Margaret Banka on April 29, 2024 at Ongomiizwin. The discussion resulted in two objectives:

  • to decolonize the (mis)treatment of information from Indigenous Elders and Knowledge Keepers in citation styles such as AMA;
  • and to reinforce culturally safe and respectful practices in working with Traditional Knowledge from Elders and Knowledge Keepers.1,2,3

We thank Elder Margaret, Elder Charlotte, and Pipe Carrier Nitanis for giving their knowledge, guidance, and time towards this section of the LibGuide. We are also grateful to Lorisia MacLeod for sharing their fundamental work on citing Indigenous Elders and Knowledge Keepers,4 and Kwantlen Polytechnic University for sharing their adapted template.5 The template recommended below incorporates elements from both. 

Beyond AMA and towards decolonization

Among Indigenous ways of knowing, the story that comes before the answer has great value in the process of learning and sharing information.1 Consider how this perspective aligns with the act of citation, one purpose of which is to provide the context of a researcher's knowledge. Your citations tell a greater story about what you know and how you know it, and providing these details will help the reader understand your answer better.

As a researcher, it is important to contemplate information. If a piece of information is significant enough for you to share, then it contains value. Ask yourself, do you ascribe varying levels of value to information, and how do you do this? It is critical to evaluate the forces that may be acting upon you. As the seat of Western knowledge, academia is inherently colonial and Eurocentric, and researchers working within its institutions are exposed to this implicit bias as well.

Citation guidelines such as AMA perpetuate colonialism in academic research and publishing by discounting and diminishing the value of Indigenous knowledge.6 Indigenous Peoples around the world have always had-- and continue to have-- effective and dynamic ways of communicating information. These knowledge processes are intricately tied to relational worldviews that exist in cultural conflict with the landscape of Western thought.7 Oral Tradition and Teachings are a pillar of Indigenous knowledge dissemination, and yet in AMA, the significance of this type of information shared by Elders and Knowledge Keepers is reduced to a personal communication. In essence, because personal communications do not receive a reference list entry like every other form of citation, this means that in AMA, a Facebook Post or an Instagram selfie hold more value than an Oral Tradition.

In order to move forward in Reconciliation, it is vital to decolonize citation styles by working with Indigenous communities. Supporting the creation of Indigenous spaces in academia begins by respecting the value of traditional methods of information sharing. Drawing on the work on MacLeod,4 it is recommended to cite Elders and Knowledge Keepers the same as authors in-text, in addition to a reference list entry which details the community relationships. 

Protocols for working with Elders and/or Knowledge Keepers

Engaging with Elders and Knowledge Keepers

While citing Indigenous Knowledge "properly" forms part of an inclusive research practice, great care must be taken to maintain proper cultural protocols which are in place to ensure that both you and the Elder are entering into a positive relationship (Lavallee 2024; Nolin, 2024; Leary, 2024). Additionally, if you do intend to interview any participants for your research, you must submit your request to Research Ethics and Compliance for approval.

Mutual respect and consent should form the basis for every engagement with an Elder, Knowledge Keeper, or member of an Indigenous nation. If you would like to ask something of an Elder or Knowledge Keeper, it is imperative that you familiarize yourself with the following protocols for doing so1,2,3:

  • The first gesture you must make is to offer tobacco to the Elder or Knowledge Keeper.
    • Tobacco is the First Medicine, the most sacred to Indigenous Peoples, and is offered to is offered to the Creator, grandmothers, and grandfathers by the Elder if they accept your request.
    • Ceremonial, loose tobacco is best. A good place to find some is in an Indigenous specialty store, tobacco shop, or gas station. Commercial tobacco or pipe tobacco is also acceptable if traditional tobacco is not available.
    • Tobacco can be presented in its original package.
    • A gift or honorarium is also presented to honour the Elder or Knowledge Keeper along with the tobacco. Determine how much to offer by considering the weight of your request. How much are you asking of the Elder? Is your request for your own learning, or do you plan on sharing with others? How much of the Elder's time and knowledge will you be asking for?
    • If you are unsure, ask-- not knowing allows you to learn.
  • This offering will give you the opportunity to ask the Elder or Knowledge Keeper what it is you are seeking. Remember, they can either refuse or accept, depending on if they feel that they can take on your request and help you.
  • If an Elder or Knowledge Keeper agree to help you, listen to them carefully.

Different types of knowledge

Elders and Knowledge Keepers are vital and highly regarded sources of wisdom and information in their community, and part of their role is to safeguard information which is sacred to their culture. For this reason, an Elder or Knowledge Keeper may have limitations on the way you use the information they share with you, or they may hold back some information completely.1,2,3

  • Always ask if you are able to record or write down what they say.
  • Be transparent in how you plan on using the information.
  • Before you include any Oral Teachings or Traditional Knowledge in your research, ensure that you have the permission from the Elder or Knowledge Keeper who shared it with you. 

Additional UManitoba resources

Format, example and tips - Indigenous Knowledge

Oral knowledge from Indigenous Elder, Knowledge Keeper, or community member - Elements to include and formatting

Name of person who shared information with you. (Elder, Knowledge Keeper, or other preferred title), Nation/Community. Treaty Territory if applicable. Where they live if applicable. Topic/subject of communication if applicable. Date Month Year.


  1. Nolin C. (Elder), Metis Nation. Red River Settlement. Residing in Treaty 1. Citing Indigenous Knowledge. 29 April 2024.


  • If there are additional elements which the Elder or Knowledge Keeper wishes to include that do not appear in this template, or if they would like to exclude certain details, respect their wishes. Always consult them if you are unsure!
  • Author: Provide the last name and first initial of the Elder or Knowledge Keeper. Include their role in title case and in parentheses. 
  •  If they have a traditional name they would like use, replace the last name and first initial with the traditional name.
  • Nation/Community: Provide the nation or community the Elder or Knowledge Keeper identifies with, along the treaty territory the nation belongs to, and where they currently live.
  • The nation/community element recognizes the important relationship that an Elder or Knowledge Keeper has to their nation or community. It also helps unravel the concept of pan-Indigeneity, and ensures that members of that community can find that work while searching for information about their community.
  • Treaty: Note that some Elders and Knowledge Keepers may not come from a territory that is part of a treaty, or they may not want to include it. If this is the case, omit. 
  • Where They Live: You may also omit this element if it is not applicable; it is meant to express the relationship that an Elder or Knowledge Keeper has to a place that is not the community, nation, or place of their origin.
  • Title: Make sure it is in sentence case. Consult with the Elder or Knowledge Keeper about the title to include them in the classification process.
  • Date: Use the date that the consultation occurred. Be as specific as possible, listing first day, month, and then year.


  1. Lavallee M. (Elder), Sagkeeng Anicinabe Nation. Treaty 1, 3, and 5 Territory. Residing in Treaty 1. Citing Indigenous Knowledge. 29 April 2024.
  2. Nolin C. (Elder), Metis Nation. Red River Settlement. Residing in Treaty 1. Citing Indigenous Knowledge. 29 April 2024.
  3. Leary N. (Pipe Carrier), Kinosao Sipi Cree Nation. Treaty 5 Territory. Residing in Treaty 1. Citing Indigenous Knowledge. 29 April 2024.
  4. MacLeod L. More than personal communication: Templates for citing Indigenous Elders and Knowledge Keepers. KULA: Knowledge Creation, Dissemination, and Preservation Studies 2021; 5(1).
  5. Citation and references - Indigenous Studies. Kwantlen Polytechnic University. Updated May 10, 2024. Accessed May 16, 2024.
  6. Younging G. Elements of Indigenous Style: A Guide for Writing by and About Indigenous Peoples. Brush Education; 2018. Accessed May 16, 2024.
  7. Kovach M. Indigenous Methodologies: Characteristics, Conversations, and Contexts. 2nd ed. University of Toronto Press; 2021. Accessed May 16, 2024.