Voices of Amiskwaciy project creates digital realm for Indigenous stories
Stories have the power to inspire change, creativity, and discovery. Earlier this month, The Edmonton Public Library (EPL) took this message and introduced Voices of Amiskwaciy, a site that provides a digital public platform for members of the Indigenous community to share their stories.
The project’s name comes from the Cree translation of “amiskwaciy-wâskahikan,” which means “Beaver Hills” and refers to the Edmonton region.
The project was also guided by the values of ongoing collaboration and consultation with the Indigenous community.
“Our team started with a pipe ceremony with our Elder in residence, Wilson Bearhead, to ensure it would go forward in a good way,” says EPL digital public spaces librarian, Raquel Mann. “We formed a team and spent four months doing Indigenous community consultations. We spoke with artists, organization leaders and members of the public.”
The result produced a site that reflected the principles and beliefs of Edmonton’s Indigenous community.
“The library was very mindful of doing it in the right way,” says Indigenous digital storytelling assistant, Christopher White. “Everything from the visual styling of the site has been informed by these community consultations. An example is that we had Indigenous and non-Indigenous members on the team work with Elders to determine what visual icon would represent the kind of stories.”
Currently, the site has 10 categories: personal stories, current issues, history, rights laws and treaty, arts and recreation, education, leadership, place and territory, reconciliation and traditional knowledge.
“We have a very broad definition of what constitutes a story. It can be anything from a personal anecdote to something more historical. Basically, any way they define a story,” White says.
His role in the project was to facilitate workshops and aid individuals in compiling their stories, particularly through audiovisual and digital tools.
“Whether it was with video or a narration accompanied with photos,” White adds. “The hope is that they can take those skills and pass them on to other people in the community. Even if they don’t end up creating anything for the site, the ability to pass on this knowledge has been very rewarding.”
The Voices of Amiskwaciy site uses Murkutu, an open-source content management program designed specifically for curating and protecting Indigenous content.
“It began in the Warumungu Indigenous community in Australia,” Mann says. “It offers community groups the ability to control the content that is uploaded. Anyone from the public can create a profile and upload, but the community administers and controls the content.”
The types of stories on the site are diverse, spanning from the untold history of the Michel First Nation, to an individual’s experiences going to residential school.”
“There’s also one about a young woman talking about how culture defined who she is as a person,” White says. “It’s been an honour to work with these people and help share their stories.”
The upcoming event at Citadel Theatre will also give some of the storytellers an opportunity to share their digital stories live, but also provide context on what it means to them.
“The site had a soft launch in November, but the goal of the event is to celebrate these stories,” White says. “We’re hoping that this will lead to more content, stories and awareness of what we are doing for the Indigenous community.”
Wed., Dec. 6 (7 pm)
Voices of Amiskwaciy: Our Stories
Citadel Theatre, Zeidler Hall