The Northern Arapaho Tribe has a tribal priority to reintroduce and preserve the Arapaho language.
Even though the language is taught in school, students spend the majority of their time at home or in the community interacting with family and friends where there is inconsistent reinforcement of cultural cues learned in the classroom since there are many levels of cultural knowledge and experience.
How can a traditionally oral language be made relevant to young people who are digitally connected to games, and other mass media screens?
To answer this question, Wyoming Community Media and it’s producers Alan O’Hashi and Glenn Reese teamed up with Lorre Hoffman and the Maker Space 307 summer youth service learning program, based in Fort Washakie on the Wind River Reservation.
Four students participated during the three-day class and production project.
Northern Arapaho elder and story teller Merle Haas wrote down a short story passed down to her from her great grandfather, Chief Yellow Calf.
“The Fox and the Woodtick” teaches a lesson about “thinking outside the box.”
Northern Arapaho Eagle Drum Society singer and drummer Alison Sage spoke about the traditional importance and healing properties of making music.
Artist Robert Martinez gave a presentation about how tribal artwork has evolved over the years and continues to be an important means of storytelling.
We worked closely with Bob Ottinger and the Reality Garage in Boulder, Colorado who loaned us a Vuze virtual reality camera, a Samsung 360 camera and a high speed computer.
When it was all said and done, the youth combined their self-composed music and original art to tell Merle’s folk tale in two dimensions and 360 degree virtual reality on location at the historic Arapaho Ranch Mansion north of Thermopolis, Wyoming.
This is a pilot project that demonstrates an efficient way for tribes to present traditional language and cultural preservation efforts in a not-so-traditional format to tribal and non-tribal cultures.