For the third week of TLAM, we looked at the topics of Wisconsin tribal histories, media, and storytelling. Class began with a continuation of the discussion from the panel at last week’s screening of “Reel Injun.” Like the panelists, many of us were concerned with the issue of how to present depictions of Native Americans in Hollywood movies and TV to children in a way that can create a positive learning experience. We liked that the documentary ended on a positive note by showing that more Native actors and filmmakers were beginning to tell their own stories, using media as a positive force. This discussion provided a good set-up for our guest of the week, Patty Loew, whose book Indian Nations of Wisconsin we had just finished reading.
Patty had just recently returned from a trip to Mozambique, where she been helping to train community-based journalists. She made an insightful parallel between Native American cultures and the people of Mozambique regarding challenges they face not only in acquiring and transmitting information because of the widening digital divide, but also in how to educate the next generation in traditional culture.
For the rest of the class we learned about how the Tribal Youth Media camp at Lac Courte Orielles, which Patty helped to create, helps Ojibwe children learn about science in ways that integrates with their culture’s traditional methods of learning. A major problem that Patty sees is the tremendous disconnect between Native children and the field of science, partly due to the fact that the way science is taught in ways that aren’t compatible with traditional Native American culture and worldviews. The lack of Native people with a scientific background is especially problematic because today there is a great need for tribes to have scientists that can help them protect their natural resources. At the camp Patty told us about, Native culture leads science, including ethics and values with the other information the kids learned.
The Tribal Youth Media program linked well to the chapter from Donald Lee Fixico’s The American Indian Mind in a Linear World that we read for class this week. Fixico explains the important role of oral tradition and traditional knowledge in teaching Native American history and culture. Storytelling conveys “values, ideas, beliefs [and] insights about the community,” and also serves a relational purpose, connecting people and places. I could easily see how this idea of storytelling and traditional knowledge was integrated into the experience of the science camp at LCO.
Finally, the class went to the Tribal Youth Media website where we watched one of the videos created by the kids, which incorporated both scientific research and interviews with tribal elders. They did an amazing job! Thanks again to Patty Loew for sharing this with us.