Leech Lake Tribal College Explores Digital Archives

Feb 15th, 2011 | By | Category: 22-3: Food Sovereignty, Spring 2011, Tribal College News

In mid-October 2010, President Ginny Carney, Instructor Elaine Fleming, and Librarian Melissa Pond of Leech Lake Tribal College (LLTC, Cass Lake, MN) met with Dr. Timothy Powell, director of Native American Projects at the American Philosophical Society (APS) and an anthropologist at the University of Pennsylvania Museum. Together, they explored the possibility of creating a digital archive at LLTC.

The project is in partnership with the Minnesota Historical Society, the Newberry Library, the APS, and the Penn Museum. These museums, archives, and libraries are working with various tribes to explore ways to repatriate digital copies of photographs, maps, ethnographic materials, and audio recordings to the Native American communities where these materials originated.

The previous spring, President Carney attended a conference at the APS in Philadelphia entitled “Building Bridges Between Archives and Indian Communities.” This conference included scholars from 10 Native American tribes, including Ojibwe linguists and administrators from northern Manitoba and Ontario. Representatives from leading archives including the Library of Congress, National Museum of the American Indian, National Anthropological Archives, and Newberry Library also attended the conference.

This summer, Fleming also traveled to the APS to examine materials related to the Leech Lake community. She was particularly interested in a copy of an Ojibwe migration map tracing the journey of the Anishinaabe from the east coast of North America to Leech Lake. The collection also contains photographs, songs, language materials, and stories related to Ojibwe culture.

These efforts to encourage digital repatriation inspired LLTC, APS, the Penn Museum, and the Newberry Library to join together and submit an application for a National Endowment for the Humanities grant to support humanities initiatives at tribal colleges. If the application is approved, the grant would allow Fleming and LLTC students to travel to various archives around the country to digitize materials related to Ojibwe culture at Leech Lake, which could then be housed at the LLTC library.

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