Ntsayka Ikanum: Our Story

Technologies introduced into North America during the past 500 years have certainly proved disruptive to indigenous societies and their cultures. The introduction of the horse and later the repeating rifle changed living patterns and tribal organizations significantly. Movies and television so distorted traditional values and stories that Mickey Mouse supplanted traditional Native American figures such as Hopi kachina dolls. Tribal storytelling was partially replaced by outside, for-profit storytelling. Time and again, technology has worked against the preservation of indigenous culture. Until Now. >>Full Story

Thoughts// Having worked on a number of tribal issues during my agency days in Arizona, I’ve always been fascinated and intrigued by the vivid storytelling and heritage of Native Americans. As tribal members increasingly become assimilated and lose their their tribal heritage, preserving tribal language, folktales and oral histories have become a common challenge for most, if not all tribes.

A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of being on a “Heritage on the Web” panel at the Oregon Heritage Commission in Eugene. I also had the distinct honor of listening to fellow panelist Lindy Trolan from the Grande Ronde Tribe’s Cultural Resources Department who explained the tribe’s efforts to build a “digital museum” in order to tell the tribe’s story until a time that a physical museum can be built.

A moving experience brought to life through video, audio and rich photography, the virtual museum is an immaculately designed site that gives visitors the opportunity to hear and read the words and teachings of the tribe’s ancestors. What was most interesting to hear was the meticulous planning that went into the site; they include: chronicling and photographing tribal artifacts all over the world including the Smithsonian in Washington DC and collections in London; capturing elders’ stories on video and audio; putting together a tribal alphabet teaching program online.

This Webby honored site is most definitely an inspiration for anyone looking to bring historic preservation to life through digital storytelling.

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