Working with Indigenous Community Partners: Abenakis at Odanak

Mar 21, 2023

As part of the work of the Advancing Pathways project, members of the grant team and others at Dartmouth are working closely with Native and Indigenous community partners. In relation to the cultural heritage we house, we are continuing to build our relationships with partners at Odanak to foster ongoing collaborative programming, educational materials, and guidance on implementation of Indigenous protocols.

Advancing Pathways’ ongoing work with Mali Obomsawin’s community at Odanak and with the Gordon Day Papers involves efforts to implement an instance of Mukurtu for the Musée de Abénakis and the creation of a potential archival center. Gordon Day was a 20th century anthropologist employed by Dartmouth in the 1960’s and 1970’s to research members of Obomsawin’s community. Mukurtu allows Indigenous communities to create digital archives and collections of their cultural heritage, such as stories, songs, photos, and other materials, while also providing a range of tools to manage and control access to these materials according to their cultural protocols and values. This includes the ability to set permissions and restrictions on who can access, view, and use specific cultural materials, as well as how they can be shared. Additionally, Mukurtu has the functionality to implement Traditional Knowledge labels, and include feedback and comments from community members who may have additional information to help contextualize the cultural heritage.

Demo Mukurtu Sample Site

The Advancing Pathways grant has also provided funding for server space, hosting ArchivesSpace for the Musée de Abénakis through Atlas Systems. This software platform will allow their staff to enter collection metadata and make collection descriptions available online to patrons and researchers, as well as community members. This is a critical step for the Musée as it will allow them to seek additional collections and will be a step toward formalizing their archives. Photographs and language recordings from the Gordon Day collection have also been shared directly with the Odanak community, where they have hosted picture parties to identify relatives and build on the linguistic knowledge already shared between members of their First Nation.

The Library recently completed the digital scanning of the 29 Gordon Day notebooks which contain extensive notes related to Abenaki language. The scans were sent to our partners at the University of Sherbrooke who have begun the complicated process of training a transcription AI tool to read the handwritten notebook contents. 

As we continue collaborating with our community partners, we hope to gain new insights into how to best utilize and present our current collections of Indigenous cultural heritage materials.