Putting Our Stories on the Map (working title) is a toolkit that assists native and tribal communities in using storytelling and mapping for cultural preservation. Many native and tribal communities across the US constantly struggle to protect their land, cultural resources, and sacred sites against development and resource extraction. The toolkit provides detailed guides on how to gather stories and combine them with digitally mapped locations of sacred sites. It details research planning processes, how to conduct interviews, and how to create maps using Global Positioning Systems (GPS) and Geographic Information System (GIS). It features popular education style exercises and easily replicable templates for important project components like data security protocols.
“I have worked in our community for decades in differing capacities, and your [toolkit] brought a dimension into focus in ways that I had never considered prior to your introduction of the program. I certainly appreciate the tracking of sacred sites and other indigenous signatures as a wonderful application of the software…. All participants from DataCenter were like advocates and family. In these urban environments those relationships become the core of very real change. DataCenter is quite an inspiration.”– Paul Kealoha-Blake, participant in Putting Our Storied on the Map pilot workshop
The methods and exercises found in Putting Our Stories on the Map are largely based on our recent collaborative project with Winnemem Wintu, an indigenous tribe in Northern California. The Winnemem have ancestral roots in the McCloud River Basin going back at least 8,000 years. Recently, the basin has been threatened by plans to expand the nearby Shasta dam. The expansion would mean the partial or complete submersion of 36 sacred sites on the tribe’s remaining lands, and endangerment of 15 others.
With all sides gearing up for an intense legal battle, the Winnemem Wintu, with help from DataCenter, used mapping technology to document the extent of the impending cultural site destruction. Equipped with the data to support their claims, the Winnemem are organizing to fight for the preservation of their land and culture.
For years, we’ve worked to reposition research as an essential tool for supporting ground-up organizing for social change. With the release of the Putting Our Stories on the Map toolkit in late 2014, many indigenous communities across the country will have the tools they need to connect traditional knowledge with technology to achieve self-determination.
Read more about the Winnemem Wintu and their struggle: www.winnememwintu.us