Virtual Museum of Metis History and Culture

Founded in 1976 in order to serve the educational and cultural needs of Saskatchewan’s Métis, the Virtual Museum of Metis History and Culture is an exceptionally well designed and built web portal of useful online digital learning tools about Metis Culture and traditions.   In traditional Métis and Aboriginal peoples’ society, education was informal and was passed down to youth from the Elders.  This form of education centred on resource extraction and how to make a living off of the land.

Since bison were at the centre of the Métis economy during the golden age of the Métis Nation (1816-1869), this hardy animal is a fitting symbol of traditional Métis education. Métis youth would have learned from their Elders the many useful and lifesaving applications, which this one animal provided to their entire society.  This section contains all learning resources commissioned for the Virtual Museum, in addition to many of the Gabriel Dumont Institute’s proven educational resources from the past.  The Gabriel Dumont Institute of Native Studies and Applied Research (GDI) was founded in 1976 in order to serve the educational and cultural needs of Saskatchewan’s Métis. GDI is the official educational affiliate of the Métis Nation – Saskatchewan.

In these oral history sessions, where stories are passed down “digitally,” one session I think particularly interesting and expressive of the essence of these online resources is the Michif storytelling circle that would occur one day prior to the opening of the National Michif Language Conference held in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan.   The Storytellers told their own stories and answered questions prepared by the Institute. The entire proceedings of the workshop are in Michif-Cree. All told, there is approximately six hours of discussion in Michif-Cree relating to stories, traditional lifeways and families.

Web portal link:

November 2, 2010   No Comments

FirstVoices Language Archive

A suite of web-based tools and services designed to support Aboriginal people engaged in language archiving, language teaching & culture revitalization, the FirstVoices Language Archive contains thousands of text entries in many diverse Aboriginal writing systems, imbedded with learning tools such as sounds, pictures and videos.   In addition, a companion set of interactive online games is designed to present the archived FirstVoices language data in creative learning activities.   What is intriguing is that there is a great deal of respect in this process of teaching, as some language archives at FirstVoices are publicly accessible, while others are password protected at the request of the language community.  As Linda Smith argues in her noteworthy book, Decolonizing Methodologies: Research and Indigenous “research” as a concept is still hurtful and resonates with imperialistic connotations of taking and leaving without benefitting those indigenous peoples who have been researched.


November 2, 2010   No Comments

BC Lillooet Public Library – Digital Collection Initiative

Inspired by two other similar innovative online digital projects, namely the Aboriginal Youth Network and Aboriginal Digital Opportunities, Aboriginal stories were collected and then displayed on the Aboriginal Cultures and Traditions Storytelling website in both digital audio and text forms.

In 2005, the Lillooet Public Library began recording stories and songs for the library’s digital collection initiative.  Seven stories written by elementary school students about Lillooet, and two preschool songs with St’át’imc translations by Ms. Lémya7, were recorded and added to the library’s website in mp3 format. The library continues to add more stories and songs in the future in order to build a digital collection.  The stories and songs can either be streamed by clicking on the play button on the player, or downloaded onto the  computer.

This type of oral histories and songs captures the essence of First Nations’ storytelling, which is a powerful and traditional way of passing down knowledge to younger generations and preserving culture and heritage.   As Ms. Lémya7 teaches St’át’imc at the elementary schools in Lillooet, she often provides the library with her own translations of the preschool songs, such as The Itsy Bitsy Spider and If You’re Happy and You Know It, as well as singing them so they could be put on the website. Ms. Lémya7’s translations are less literal and instead capture the basic concepts of the original English versions of the songs.

In using these songs to help teach St’át’imc vocabulary to her students, the goal is to make them available on the internet so that more parents will be able to share them with their children.

November 2, 2010   No Comments

Making Collective Memories with Computers

The Mashantucket Pequot Museum and Research Center is a tribally owned-and-operated, state-of-the-art complex located in Mashantucket, Conn.  Opened on August 11, 1998, it presents the history of the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation, the histories and cultures of other tribes, and the region’s natural history through a series of innovative presentations — both physically on-site and also virtually online.

Utilizing the latest in exhibit design and technology, the 85,000-square-foot permanent indoor exhibits present four types of interpretation to the visitor: dioramas, text panels, interactive computer programs, and a series of films. Evolving Mashantucket Pequot life is conveyed through dioramas and exhibits, films and videos, interactive programs, archival materials, ethnographic and archaeological collections, and commissioned works of art and traditional crafts by Native artisans.  Seven computer interactives, including more than three hours of original documentary video, have been created. A total of 13 films and video programs are on view throughout the permanent exhibit space in 10 locations. The visually impaired are able to move through the exhibits utilizing an infrared communications system and access audio interpretation, with selected replica artifacts available for all to touch in specially designated areas, including spearheads, fur clothing and tools.

Its online resources I believe compliment the exhibits very well.  In particular, its online audio archives, “Listen Up! Online Audio,” offer some of the interesting, and free, audio content currently available online that is relevant to the scope of its collections — a podcast is a series of audio programs in MP3 format that can be downloaded individually.

Website link:

November 1, 2010   No Comments

Global Voices

Global Voices is an fascinating “web community” that is supported by more than 300 bloggers and translators around the world who work together to bring you reports from blogs and citizen media everywhere. This web community emphasizes on voices that are not ordinarily heard in international mainstream media.

By being able to “aggregate, curate, and amplify the global conversation online” this website highlights places and people other media often ignore — and that is often the indigenous peoples hidden from the mainstream colonial mainstream society (and their accompanying media).  This website portal is an example of the web 2.0 technologies afforded to us, which allow literally mllions of people around the world who are blogging, podcasting, and uploading photos, videos, and information across the globe.    Amazingly, this team of volunteer authors and part-time editors are active participants in the blogospheres they write about on Global Voices that work as a virtual community across multiple time zones.

This is an example of citizen journalism.  But more importantly, it is about giving voice to where none is given.

Website link:

November 1, 2010   No Comments

First Nations Programs IVT

I think the First Nations Program at UBC is one of the best, if not the most cutting edge in terms of its use of educational pedagogies and especially technology. Each year, the First Nations Studies Program is involved in a number of special projects and initiatives in addition to the student projects that occur within our course work.

For example, Political Science 406, Aboriginal Politics in Canada, was one of the first programs to use this an interactive video technology called IVT. The UBC First Nations Studies IVT Viewer gives you a whole new way to view and work with the videos and transcripts of the 2005 Internet Speakers Series.

This innovative prototype program has been developed by FNSP to allow you to see both the videos and transcripts of the sessions simultaneously and move in them easily. It also allows you to search the transcripts for words or phrases and go directly to the video segment of the passages you have found, allowing you to search through hours of video in minutes to find relevant information, as well as providing you with text for reference and citation. The IVT Viewer is a useful multimedia tool for assisting educators, academics, students, and the public alike in research and accessing information.

Website about IVT uses in the Landclaims project series:

October 22, 2010   No Comments

Indigenous Peoples’ Issues Resources Online

Indigenous Peoples Issues & Resources is a online web resource that concentrates information, news, articles, videos, and resources for those concerned about, and for, indigenous peoples around the world.  As the website reveals, as globalization affects indigenous peoples in all parts of the world with such consequences as water diversion and hydroelectric energy projects, militarization, global and national events, consolidation of natural resource access, the website attempts to rectify with a call for social justice through information technologies, using Google Maps and RSS feeds to update and alert us about indigenous news and resources.

Through cross-cultural communication, cooperation, and understanding – as well as easily accessible information and resources – the website maintains that it can be one of the keys to helping indigenous peoples maintain their language, culture, and identity.

As a History Buff, what I enjoy about this website is its “On This Day in Indigenous History”

On This Day on October 7, 1763 – the Royal Proclamation of 1763 was issued by King George III following Great Britain’s acquisition of French territory in North America after the end of the French and Indian War/Seven Years’ War. The purpose of the proclamation was to organize Great Britain’s new North American empire and to stabilize relations with Native North Americans through regulation of trade, settlement, and land purchases on the western frontier. The proclamation created a boundary line (often called the proclamation line) between the British colonies on the Atlantic coast and American Indian lands (called the Indian Reserve) west of the Appalachian Mountains. The proclamation line was not intended to be a permanent boundary between white and American Indian lands, but rather a temporary boundary which could be extended further west in an orderly, lawful manner. The Royal Proclamation continues to be of legal importance to First Nations in Canada.

October 19, 2010   No Comments

Pygmies Web Resource

A website dedicated to the hunter-gatherer peoples living in Central African rainforests, commonly called Pygmies, this is an excellent resource about an often mysterious and little understood indigenous peoples of Africa.

Presenting hundreds of photos and other material collected during his fieldwork among the Baka of Cameroon and Gabon and among other pygmy groups in Central Africa, this website reveals life and traditional activities of these peoples, the Central African rainforest biodiversity, and the increasingly rapid disappearance of this world.

I think this is an important general resource for indigenous peoples research, especially in a time when migration to Africa has endangered its indigenous peoples, very similar in nature to indigenous peoples all over the world.  This website presents ethnographic descriptions serving as introduction to pygmy cultures and commentary on the photos.   Impressively, the technology translates into an excellent multimedia-rich experience that each internal page also includes sound or music recordings relative to the soundscape of the rainforest and pygmy camps.

The purpose of this web resource is to “ultimately provide an introduction to the cultures of pygmy peoples and to promote their protection, documenting their richness and showing some of the factors that increasingly threaten their survival.” In a way, the methodologies presented by this website almost reverses the colonial paradigms of “research” so prominent in the 19th and 20th centuries. Luis Devin, an ethnomusicologist, lives among the Pygmy in Central Africa, conducting anthropological and ethnomusicological fieldwork in Central Africa, studying in particular the music and rituals of the Baka and other pygmy groups.

What strikes me the most is that during an expedition in the rainforest of Cameroon, he took part into the male initiation rite that marks the transition to adulthood of the young Baka boys, a secret rite conducted by the Spirit of the Forest and by elderly members of the group. After a week of rituals he was accepted in a Baka patrilinear clan.   Since Baka male initiation is an almost completely secret rite (occurring in secret places of the African rainforest), Devin respected the Pygmy peoples, and only published only those images and sounds concerning the “public” ceremonies.  In fact, as he puts it, it is

“essential to respect the Baka traditions and cultural secrets. After all, they let me be part of a rite which has always been forbidden to foreigners. Even the other African peoples can seldom assist to these ceremonies. Besides, they did not want anything in exchange.”

October 19, 2010   No Comments

Canadian Museum of Civilization

Canadian Museum of Civilization Corporation (CMCC) as a national institution responsible for preserving and promoting the heritage of Canada, and contributing to the collective memory and sense of identity of all Canadians. I think what impressed me is that the The Canadian Museum of Civilization has an online exhibition component as well that explores the thousands of objects, papers and other items in its collections representing Aboriginal heritage, immigration history and French Canadian culture. Yet, there seems to be quite a heavy component of Aboriginal Peoples in Canada.

In particular, the First Peoples of Canada page is an interesting resource.    As a virtual exhibition that looks at different perspectives of the history of Canada’s Aboriginal peoples, “underlining their fight for cultural survival and indicating the wealth of their modern-day contributions,” the website draws on information and artifacts presented in the First Peoples Hall of the Canadian Museum of Civilization.   It doesn’t try to be a comprehensive presentation of the history of all the Native groups in Canada; instead, aspects of cultural identity are explored through four themes: (a) the diversity of Aboriginal cultural expression; (b) how the Aboriginal presence manifests itself within present-day Canada; (c) the adaptation of traditional lifestyles to different environments across Canada; and (d) the impact of the arrival and settlement of Europeans over the last 500 years.

I think this website provides an important “national” recognition of aboriginal peoples of Canada.   Certainly, there is still a colonial theme to the history presented, but it does try to balance this out with important historical artefacts from an Aboriginal peoples’ perspective.

October 19, 2010   No Comments

Introducing Izuma TV

This is a website which excited me a lot.  Perhaps the most interesting of the links I’ve provided so far. This particular video is a video very much in theme with “March Point.” IsumaTV is an independent interactive network of Inuit and Indigenous multimedia. IsumaTV uses the power and immediacy of the Web to bring people together to tell stories and support change.

In particular, the tools of this web portal allows Indigenous peoples to express reality in their own voices: views of the past, anxieties about the present and hopes for a more decent and honorable future.  The goal is simply to assist people to listen to one another, “to recognize and respect diverse ways of experiencing our world, and honor those differences as a human strength.”  As this module 3’s goal is decolonization and indigenous intellectual property rights, I think IsumaTV’s uses of new networking technology to build a new era of communication and exchange among Indigenous and non-Indigenous people and communities around the globe is one way to break down the brick and mortar approach of Western imperialist research methodologies of researchers “invading” territories of indigenous peoples’ and gathering and categorizing information for their own needs and leaving abruptly.

October 19, 2010   No Comments