A big chunk of the beginning of my semester was consumed by election preparation. Now that the election has been over for a few weeks I’ve been able to focus more on other things within and aside from the fellowship, although the political work is most certainly not over.
An ongoing project for my tribal service learning class has been in my mind a lot in the past few weeks as I prepare to write my final paper. For our project we chose an issue impacting our tribe and were assigned to come up with a solution. As a tribal citizen who has grown up outside of my tribal community, yet also values civic engagement, I always felt bad about how hard I thought it was to be engaged and involved with my tribe while not physically being there. It was very encouraging and reassuring to read about how so many other urban tribal citizens around the country desire for greater engagement with their tribe but struggle.
Through my research, I found that my longing for more involvement was shared by many and that a common barrier to that involvement was simply the lack of communication and outreach from our tribe. I learned that the lack of engagement isn’t the sole fault of the disengaged citizen, but that engagement must be a two-way street and that the tribe also has a role in reaching out and providing opportunities for people to get involved. The solution that I’ve come up with involves creating a nonresident citizen liaison for citizens like myself who live away from the tribe but still want to be connected.
I still have to finish writing my final essay and preparing a presentation on my proposed solution, but the research that I’ve done over the past few weeks has provided me with a new perspective that allows me to give myself some grace when it comes to the lower level of tribal engagement than I would prefer because I know now that I’m not alone.
As for my work with the fellowship, the past weeks have also been valuable learning experiences. Since the last time I gave an update on my project I have largely moved on from purely collecting and researching, and I’ve begun the phase of uploading our materials onto the website. I personally have not had to struggle with the inner workings of Mukurtu. Dr. Minks and the rest of the team have been hard at work figuring out most of the technical kinks of the website whereas my work has mostly consisted of uploading all of the materials that we have collected from the beginning of the semester.
Dr. Minks has been incredibly helpful and supportive when it comes to learning the website. She has test run all of the uploading processes and has provided me with guides on how to successfully upload the many different types of materials onto the site. I’ve been able to upload oral histories from both the Indian Pioneer Papers and the Doris Duke collections, and I’ve also begun trying my hand at uploading some audio clips from the Indians for Indians Hour Radio Show and some pictures that we have selected from the Western History Collections. I’ve also had a little experience using the program ExpressScribe to transcribe some of the audio clips from the Indians for Indians Hour Show as well.
While I’ve been doing more uploading than researching in the past few weeks, I have still been doing some research. I will still regularly meet with Dr. Minks at the western history collection to look at more photographs and select which ones we would like to get scanned to upload onto the website. Looking through the old photographs it’s a really neat experience that I’ve never had the opportunity to do before. Plus, I have enjoyed just the act of going to the Western History Collections to work. It’s such a beautiful building and I always enjoy getting an opportunity to spend some time there.
In addition, we have started to make some efforts at diversifying the tribes that are represented on the website. So far my contributions have been on the Seminole and Muscogee Creek tribes, while Dr. Minks has focused mostly on southern plains tribes. Now that we feel like we’ve got a good start on uploading some materials, we’ve started thinking about adding more from other tribes that haven’t been represented yet. For example, Dr. Minks recently found a picture of two Wichita women in front of a grass house, and I found an oral history from a Miami woman.
As we close out the semester, I feel like I have learned a lot while working on this project. Both the project itself and the different workshops and conferences I’ve attended have provided me with lots of new information and experiences, and I’m glad I’ve had this opportunity. I’m excited to continue next semester!