Valoree S. Gagnon, Environmental and Energy Policy PhD candidate, will present on “Ethnography and Oral History in the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community: Collecting Oral Histories as a Social Experience with Tribal Narrators”
Several scholars have documented additional considerations for doing research in and for tribal communities to ensure cultural needs and protocols are honored. These guidelines include expanding legal and ethical responsibilities, understandings of memory and storytelling, and knowledge of power dynamics between researchers and tribal communities. This paper shares lessons from the field while currently engaged in ethnography and oral history projects with the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community, offering an alternative framework for teaching and doing Oral History within and for tribal communities. In the practice of collecting oral histories with tribal narrators, challenges to traditional oral history methods are overcome by using novel approaches. Collecting oral histories as a social experience—sharing stories while cooking, crafting, ‘visiting’, and harvesting together—has been employed. These experiences have the potential to transform and contribute to narrators’ comfort, enriched stories, strong memories, relationship building, and knowledge sharing in more traditional ways for tribal members. Like many other tribal communities, the foundation for protecting Keweenaw Bay Indian Community lifeways and culture depends on revitalizing the nation’s history. Thus, oral history as a social experience can significantly enhance the power of story for tribal nations.