Digital Drum

I think Digital Drum, produced by the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network (APTN), is a fitting post to end my contribution to this blog on for many reasons. First, the idea of user generated content is very forward thinking and appeals to multi-media artists, particularly youth, in many ways as it a) requires no real experience to speak of b) no need to have a diverse portfolio or series of high-profile references c) requires only a little bit of ingenuity and minor technical skills to operate.  The best part of this type of content is that it allows people who have something to say to be heard without having to jump through the hoops of the massive corporate world of mainstream media. What this means in a First Nations context is that it is possible to maintain creative control of the elements of storytelling and say what you want to say how you want to say it.

Second, Digital Drum offers educational resources and encourages content that relates to First Nations values, including respect for elders and reverence for the natural world, which has the potential to have a very positive influence on aboriginal youth culture. The site describes its purpose as “a place for Aboriginal Cultural expression — for example: storytelling, media literacy, community traditions, activism and music.” The About section goes further to describe the site’s main focuses as being to “…engage youth and increase their awareness of each other. Making us all feel youth have a sense of citizenship and pride in their Aboriginal heritage – both online and in the real-world. “ All very wonderful ideas that really allow the mixing of traditional values with modern realities.

Unfortunately, Digital Drum, which in theory could be a great resource and space for research and learning related to First Nations culture, is in a state of disrepair. It has seemingly been abandoned and left un-moderated, prone to the inappropriate ramblings of zealots and sales folks mingling with (and unfortunately discrediting) content that shows great skill and insight related to First Nation issues. Perhaps this is because most people tend to post their content in mainstream sites such as YouTube and the like?  

Somehow Digital Drum reminds me of that house on the rez that has such a great view, but has been left to crumble and fade: The potential is there, but for some reason it’s been left unattended. Without the commitment to care for and nurture such spaces, they will be overrun and become irrelevant; great ideas smothered before they grow to their full potential. A little bit of paint and elbow grease, and what you have is a very powerful tool for engaging and educating. But that takes extraordinary commitment, encouragement and hard work in order to have those voices heard through the din of cyberspace. And I guess that is what our jobs are moving forward; working hard at finding a way to help aboriginal voices, filled with the pure and valuable knowledge of ancient ways, to ring loud and clear for the entire world to hear.

November 29, 2010   No Comments

Oral Tradition: A Journal


Based at the Univeristy of Missouri’s Center for Studies in Oral Tradition the Oral Tradition Journal has been in print since 1986. Recently they stopped publishing the print version and are focused primarily on the digital space, which is interesting in itself. The international focus of the journal and interdisciplinary approach makes this a treasure trove for research on oral traditions. There is a large amount of information dedicated to Judaism, Christianity and Islam but articles include studies on a wide variety of oral traditions, including those of North American First Nations. The site is extremely easy to search and some of the most relevant information I’ve found for this course come from this source.

November 28, 2010   No Comments

Stories of Our Elders

Stories of Our Elders is a website dedicated to telling both the experiential and mythological/ traditional stories of the Cree and Ojibway people. The site takes a very innovative approach to archiving 22 stories in written, digital audio, and digital video formats all provided in both English and Cree or Ojibway. There’s also a small but interesting set of historical photographs related to the stories and storytellers and a map with detailed information about the tribes involved.

 In addition to providing a very interesting set of stories told by a variety of respected elders and community members, the site also offers users tips on moving forward with similar projects. They specifically address difficulties related to embedding syllabic fonts, which would be useful for anybody working on a multilingual web project, as well as tips for acquiring funding to pursue these types of projects.

November 25, 2010   No Comments

Report on the Status of B.C. First Nations Languages

I noticed that Terri has posted a YouTube clip related to this report earlier in the semester but since I have been taking such a close look at it for my own work, I thought I would post the entire report here. There is plenty of very useful up-to-date data in the report and the findings are very relevant to the work we’ve done in the class to date. It is worth noting that as I’ve brought this up within the community I am working in, there has been plenty of skepticism about the motives for the report and the findings within. I suggest you make those judgments for yourself, as at the very least it is an interesting read filled with compelling data related to the importance of preserving First Nations languages and the specific challanges and opportunities with British Columbia.…/2010report-on-the-status-of-bcfirstnationslanguages.pdf


November 25, 2010   No Comments

UNESCO Atlas of the World’s Languages in Danger

As mentioned in the learning café, the UNESCO Atlas of the World’s Languages in Danger contains a comprehensive guide to the thousands of endangered languages around the world, including those in Canada and British Columbia.

The Atlas is described on the UNESCO site as:

“……presented on the eve of International Mother Language Day (21 February), enables searches according to several criteria, and ranks the 2,500 endangered languages that are listed according to five different levels of vitality: unsafe, definitely endangered, severely endangered, critically endangered and extinct.”

The interactive map and statistics page are easy to navigate. Most of the available information appears to rely on census data, which is in some cases dated and comes with the usual set of limitations related to census taking. However, being able to compare data on issues facing indigenous languages around the world is quite useful when discussing languages issues related to Canadian First Nations.

And who knew there was actually an International Mother Languages Day?!?!

November 25, 2010   No Comments

Aboriginal Youth Culture Links

Here’s another great resource related to aboriginal youth culture: What I think is particularly good is the links section which can be found here. There are all kinds of links to young aboriginal artists and tons of YouTube clips and interactive media. Additionally there are tons of web links and event links. Most of all though, it’s a great starting point for learning about some of the less mainstream, young aboriginal artists in Canada. I’d be really curious to see both elders reactions and opinions on this website and how also these resources might be used for educational purposes.

November 7, 2010   No Comments


Beat Nation

Thanks to the BeatNation web site for this image, among other things.

For those of you who couldn’t find it when Shirley mentioned it in the discussion form, here is the link to BeatNation. For anybody interested in a youth culture, this is a MUST SEE!/ LISTEN!! There are a bunch of tracks here and the dialogue and respect shown even in the text is absolutely fantastic. I will definitely be looking into the history of the aboriginal hip-hop movement much more closely as a result of this. And if it hasn’t been done already, I am sure there is some incredible research value in that topic. I am sure that people like Amy Metcalf and her teachers have contributed to scholarship around this, but it is definitely my first real encounter and all kinds of questions arise because of it.

For example, how many other hip-hop artists are using traditional language in their recordings? I am sure that I’ve heard Australian aboriginal hip-hop, but I don’t have any exact references to draw from. Also, how many different aboriginal languages are being used in hip-hop? And probably most importantly, how useful could hip-hop be in engaging aboriginal youth and preserving indigenous language? 

Of course when it comes to hip hop it’s very easy to compare the plight of African-Americans and the plight of First Nations people. As we learned, many aboriginal groups around the world feel and felt a kinship with African-Americans during the civil rights movement. And there’s no question that hip-hop is vitally important in African-American culture and is born from the sentiment fo the civil rights movement. So it should come as no surprise that there are First Nations artists taking the lead from African-Americans. And the thing that comes to mind for some reason when I think about hip-hop, are the Brer bear and Brer rabbit  folktales, which are extremely similar in many ways to the oral traditions of First Nations culture. Interesting stuff and at the very least a great chance to listen to Dreamwarriors again for the first time in a long-time!

November 7, 2010   No Comments

Aboriginal Healing Foundation

Aboriginal Healing Foundation

I found the Aboriginal Healing Foundation while reading several research articles by Dr. William Mussell, one titled “Cultural Pathways for Decolonization” and another called “Warrior-caregivers: Understanding the challenges and healing of First Nations men.” The title of the latter reminded me about the Fraser River Journey film and Skyler’s father’s discussion about the importance of First Nations warriors and the warrior’s transition in modern culture. Several of Dr. Mussell’s articles are housed at

The AHF has a very comprehensive and diverse board of directors and has received quite a significant amount of funding since its creation in 1998. More than $350 million in fact. Now it’s not exactly a $350 million website in terms of design and usability 😉 but the resources related to residential schools are particularly good and I recommend that anybody who is looking at residential schooling in more detail review the “residential school bibliography”in the publications section.

It is also interesting to note how important a role holism plays in mission statement of this organization. I must admit I hadn’t given much thought to the idea of holism before the start of this course but now find the idea playing a central role in my own everyday life.

Unfortunately, the foundation will be closed permanently in September 2012. Hopefully they will find a place to maintain these resources and keep them available to the general public.

November 7, 2010   No Comments

The power of the Internet is undeniably strong and tends to be a first point of reference when trying to learn about anything. Whether or not that’s a good thing I don’t know but it’s a fact. I have been looking at many band websites over the course of this course and I’m happy to say that I think is definitely on the right track. Like many websites it’s difficult to maintain especially when you’re first starting out but I think this site has great bones. You can see there’s multimedia capabilities, forum capabilities, a newsletter etc. There are also links to local artists and their work, the local Haisla-run radio station and its archives, as well as links to important documents pertaining to things like treaty negotiations. The news and events are kept up-to-date and there are specific calls to action such as youth events and Council meetings etc. It’s not perfect by any stretch but I myself think it’s wonderful to see the Haisla maintaining authority over this space in cyberspace.

November 7, 2010   No Comments

The Language Geek

As part of my research I’ve been speaking with Haisla elders in Kitimat. Unfortunately, much of what Linda Smith says about research being a dirty word seems to be true there, although I can’t say enough about how welcoming and helpful people have been with me. Unfortunately, several linguists who have worked with the Haisla do not seem to have much respect amongst the community. Much of their work has been focused around creating dictionaries, from what I understand. I decided to look into their work a little more and came across this resource called the languagegeek. It seems like it might be good for educators trying to integrate traditional language with technology although there could be issues related to intellectual property rights. Here is a brief excerpt from the about section of the site. 

“Languagegeek is dedicated to the promotion of indigenous languages – primarily those of North America. By providing the tools which speakers, educators, and learners can use to communicate on-line or in print, the realm of computers will no longer be the sole domain of a few global languages.”

November 4, 2010   No Comments