Ditidaht Elders’ Oral Histories Preserved

This piece was originally published in Giving the Land a Voice: Mapping Our Home Places, edited by Sheila Harrington, LTA Land Trust Alliance of British Columbia, copyright 1999.

The Ditidaht Nation and the Heritage Conservation Branch of the B.C. provincial government decided in 1993 to explore ways of gathering, storing and accessing cultural information that would affect resource management in the Ditidaht Traditional Territory. A process was set up to interview and record information from Elders of the Nation about past and present land use by their people. This information was stored on audio cassette and transcribed into text files. The text files were then coded and input into a database. A Geographical Information System (PAMAP) is used to manage linkage of the database information to its spatial coordinates on a detailed topographic computer map.

As well as the visual information presented by the GIS through the link to the database, the audio files were edited and input into the computer as well. These are linked through the GIS to a media player that allows the user to select a site and hear the Elder tell a story, sing a song or pronounce the name of the site. Further linkages will be to video files of the Elder walking about the site.

This information will be sorted and managed at the First Nation’s office at their home village. Through a protocol agreement the Heritage Conservation Branch and others in the government will have access to the information at different levels of detail and sensitivity. The audio files and a map viewer program will be used in the First Nation’s schools to bring the oral history into the curriculum.

Excerpted from Cultural Survival Quarterly, Vol. 18, No. 4.

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