- American Indian Oral History Manual: Making Many Voices Heard
The American Indian Oral History Manual: Making Many Voices Heard is a practical guide for Indigenous groups to collect oral history materials within their own communities. This book addresses the significance of Indigenous oral history, legal and ethical issues, project planning, repositories, equipment and budgets, and the interview process. Not only does it validate oral history as a form of Indigenous education, whereby Indigenous knowledge is orally transferred to younger generations, but it also identifies oral tradition as a crucial tool to language preservation, cultural identity, and creating a space for Indigenous knowledge within the “official storyline” (105).
Legal and ethical issues are addressed, such as intellectual property rights, respect and protection of participants, informed consent, tribal and/or cultural protocol, and training for interviewers. Special attention is given to informing participants of the purpose of the project, their rights (to confidentiality, a copy of materials collected, etc.), the risks involved with the project, and the repository background information. The American Indian Law Center’s Model Tribal [End Page 265] Research Code, the Oral History Association, and tribal college institutional review boards are referenced as resources to addressing legal and ethical issues.
A chapter on project planning provides a guide to developing a mission statement, creating a protocol and ethics statement, constructing an advisory board, managing records, and establishing a repository to house oral history materials (i.e., transcriptions, audio, and/or video). The section on repositories addresses the importance of selecting a safe place for the oral history materials prior to the collection process. This decision is significant to preserving and protecting oral history materials, making the materials accessible to interview participants and community members, and establishing policies and procedures for the long-term use of materials. Multiple questions are presented throughout the manual to assist communities in establishing themes and planning beneficial projects for the community. In addition, the appendix includes sample oral history forms and oral history evaluation guidelines that address project responsibilities to the interviewees (narrators), the public, and sponsoring institutions, including project guidelines, consent forms, project logs, inventory forms, and correspondence.
A chapter on equipment and budget issues reviews the importance of selecting equipment that collects the highest quality interview, has an extended natural life span, and is accessible to the community. Additionally, a checklist of budget items is listed to plan and prepare for project expenses.
The chapters on interview process provide a clear and concise guide to establishing a rapport with the narrator, collecting background information, formatting and conducting interviews, cultural considerations, the role of technology, and the preservation of oral history materials. A particularly useful tool is a sample training workshop agenda to provide training for interviewers. The agenda outlines an introduction to Indigenous knowledge, a detailed explanation of the project and its goals, a dialogue of legal and ethical issues, a workshop on the use of equipment and project forms, and a discussion of interviewer responsibilities.
Although this book does not explicitly address theory, it contributes to the practice of American Indian research and reflects the philosophy of Indigenous methodology, which is rooted in Indigenous knowledge and has been informed by the work of many Indigenous scholars. Sandy Grande (Red Pedagogy), Bryan Brayboy (Tribal Critical Race Theory), and Linda Tuhiwai Smith (Decolonizing Methodologies) draw on Indigenous methodologies to embrace traditional knowledge and wisdom of ancestors, apply critical theories of education, promote an education for decolonization, address the needs of tribal people, validate tribal beliefs and philosophies, acknowledge oral history as complex sources of knowledge, and reclaim control over Indigenous ways of knowing by planning and implementing research strategies. This book contributes to this body of [End Page 266] work and is unique in that it is a manual that has been developed to assist tribal communities in collecting oral history from their own community members. It encourages tribal control of research projects, emphasizes tribal needs and protocol, and provides a practical guide to...