A New York-based charitable foundation has decided to grant more than $1.6 million as part of a project to digitize and share oral stories from Native American elders collected decades ago.
“I think the movement in the last couple of years specifically has created a space where the experience of Native people is actually valued and where there’s a movement around particularly young people who are really driving that conversation,” says Lola Adedokun, program director for child-being at the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation.
The foundation granted most of the money to seven universities where 6,500 stories – from members of 150 Indigenous American cultures, and collected between 1966 and 1975 – are being translated, digitized, transcribed, and indexed. As the coordinating entity for this project, the Association of Tribal Archives Libraries and Museum will receive $300,000 over two years to oversee the care of the material and to set up a website that will act as a portal so the collections will be available to Indigenous communities, scholars, students and the public alike.
Amid the Native American activism which includes protests against the Dakota Access Pipeline and demands for sovereignty and treaty rights, the project comes as a tool to challenge stereotypes disseminated in textbooks. “The program was not only a response to the politically heightened times in which it took place, but it was also a catalyst for change,” says anthropologist Dianna Repp. According to Fawn Sharp, president of the National Congress of American Indians and president of the Quinault Indian Nation in Taholah, Washington, “this is a moment we believe that we’re finally seeing the principles that this country is built upon – equality, racial and social justice.”