The Doris Duke Charitable Foundation (DDCF) in New York has announced that it is providing more than $1.6 million in grants through the Doris Duke Native Oral History Revitalization Project to enhance the accessibility of Native American oral histories to students and the public.

The organization is awarding grants to The Association of Tribal Archives, Libraries, and Museums (ATALM) as well as seven universities to assist in the translation, transcription, and digitization of previously collected recordings of Native American leaders and culture bearers.

The main objective is to create a website that provides easy access to resources such as reel-to-reel tapes, cassettes, and typed transcripts from interviews with Apache, Navajo, Pima, Tohono O’odham, and Yaqui tribal members, among others. There are also plans to update the materials by adding modern perspectives.

“The Native oral history collections housed at these universities represent a rich repository of the diverse lived experiences and cultural traditions of Native peoples across the country,” explained DDCF Program Director Lola Adedokun. “We are thrilled to fund this effort to preserve and amplify the reach of these stories.”

Reviving the Project

Having witnessed the devastating impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on Native American communities, specifically the high death rates among tribal elders, spurred the foundation to revive the project. 

“We thought now more than ever is it not only important to update and upgrade this collection but also to give it the national visibility that it deserves and then encourage more young people to contribute their stories to keep it moving over the next several decades,” Adedokun said.

Participating schools include the University of Arizona’s Arizona State Museum, University of South Dakota, University of Florida, University of New Mexico, University of Oklahoma, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, and the University of Utah with ATALM as the national coordinator. 

“On behalf of the 150 Native cultures represented in the collections, we thank the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation for recognizing the importance of preserving the narratives of Indigenous peoples,” said ATALM President Susan Feller.