American Journeys: Eyewitness Accounts of Early American Exploration and Settlement

American Journeys is both a fascinating and valuable resource for educators and researchers of indigenous studies, particularly first contact between indigenous peoples in America and European explorers.  This online digital library is a collaborative project of the Wisconsin Historical Society and National History Day.

The digital library contains more than 18,000 pages of eyewitness accounts of North American exploration, from the sagas of Vikings in Canada in AD1000 to the diaries of mountain men in the Rockies 800 years later.

What is most intriguing is that these texts reveal the exact insights of explorers, Indians, missionaries, traders and settlers as they lived through the founding moments of American history.  I found the digital objects to be an astounding digitization effort as I can just view, search, print, or download more than 150 rare books, original manuscripts, and classic travel narratives, directly from the library and archives of the Wisconsin Historical Society.

What I enjoyed most about this website is the fact that it shows the story of European-Indigenous/Native/Aboriginal contact from different viewpoints — that of settler and receiver.

Some of the more interesting digital documents in their original form are:

Voyage Made by M. John Hawkins Esquire, 1565

Catlin’s North American Indian Portfolio

Wabanip’s Speech to Assembled Iroquois Chiefs, April 30, 1798

Joseph Brant’s Speech to British Government Concerning Indian Land Claims, Niagara, October 22, 1796

Moravian Journals Relating to Central New York, 1745-66

Trial of the Indians of Acoma, 1598

Account of Florida, 1566-1568

September 15, 2010   No Comments

Indigenous Studies Portal the “iPortal”

Developed at the University of Saskatchewan, the the Indigenous Studies Portal (iPortal) is a fascinating project that connects faculty, students, researchers and members of the community with electronic resources: books, articles, theses, documents, photographs, archival resources, maps, among the many digital objects from the library.

The vision of the Indigenous Studies Portal is to provide one place to look to find resources for Indigenous studies.   As of March, 2010, the iPortal has more than 21,000 records, including the Our Legacy archival records recently harvested. This includes photos, anthropological field notes, diaries, correspondence and other textual documents.  In linking to the Indigenous programs and events at the University of Saskatchewan, the iPortal offers specialized tools for teaching and scholarship.

What’s most important in this posting is that it shows that technology can influence through participation.  Part of the reason is that the iPortal’s designers are interested in collaborating and/or partnering with academic and community based organizations and agencies across Canada.  For instance, its recent digitization projects collaborated with:

1. archival organizations in Saskatoon and in Northern Saskatchewan,

2. Brandon University and the digitization of nine volumes (from 1997-2005) of the Canadian Journal of Native Studies, and

3. an out-of-print book by Purich Publishing in Saskatoon, “Continuing Poundmaker and Riel’s Quest”.

I think that this reveals that culture can be created and sustained through active promotion of collaboration between organizations.  People can and do change the way culture is represented, and technology should be seen as the medium that does this.   As Marshall McLuhan once said, the medium is the message.

September 15, 2010   No Comments

What I Learned In Class Today

Aboriginal issues have become an important issue at UBC, and part of it is the work done by “What I Learned in Class Today: Aboriginal Issues in the Classroom,” which is a research project that explores difficult discussions of Aboriginal issues that take place in classrooms at UBC.  It can be said that through this project by two UBC students, Karrmen Crey and Amy Perreault, that UBC has focussed much more on the challenges of aboriginal students in university.  In 2009, it released its  Aboriginal Strategic Plan to better understand and support students of aboriginal ancestry on campus and also studies about this very important topic.   Developed in the First Nations Studies Program at UBC, this project examines the experiences of students, instructors, and administrators at the university to make these problems visible, better understand how difficulties arise, and to find ways to have more professional and productive classroom discussions.

Students frequently report troubling and sometimes traumatic discussions of cultural issues in class. These situations often affect their ability to function in their coursework, and even their ability to return to class.  Using technology as its main platform, the project looks at how the challenges around talking about race work as an educational barrier at the classroom level.  Not sufficiently addressed in educational institutions, and yet, desperately needing attention & to be discussed, video interviews of students, instructors, and reactions from viewers to the videos are carefully displayed on the website as a digital tool for study and research.   In doing so, the project works to improve the conversations around politically and culturally sensitive issues in a classroom by asking: how does cultural communication happen in a classroom, and how can it be improved?  This goes to show that technology isn’t just neutral — it can be used to create change.  For the better.

This project has generated quite a bit of public attention, including articles online at CBC and  I’m glad it has, for the better!

September 15, 2010   No Comments

Technology helping to preserve language

Bowers (2001) makes the assertion that technology is fundamentally biased toward a European way of thinking. Even if this is the case, computers are not going to go away any time soon. An elder of the Kainai people named Pete Standing Alone stated on September 14, 2010 that technology should be used to help preserve the ways of the people. At Red Crow Community College, the Kainai studies department has set up a database of Blackfoot words. The pronunciation of the words can be heard by clicking on them. While it is not a substitute for face-to-face interaction, it is a tool that has the potential to preserve the Blackfoot language.

Blackfoot Phraseology:

Bowers, C., Vasquez, M., & Roaf, M. (2000) Native people and the challenge of computers: Reservation schools, individualism, and consumerism.” American Indian. 24(2), 182-199.

September 15, 2010   No Comments