The members of this organization are among those that seek to give a voice to those that experienced history just by living their lives . . .
My name is Teagan Dreyer, a graduate student at Northeastern State University in Tahlequah, Oklahoma, and my involvement with SOHA was completely by chance. At NSU I took a class taught by Dr. Farina King and one of the texts for this course was her book Earth Memory Compass. This text looked at the boarding school experiences of Navajo Peoples, and included a lot of oral history, focusing on the individuals that went through a journey that was complex and not as simple as had been presented to me in the past. Being from Oklahoma, a Native American, and my father having worked at a boarding school that still serves Native American students, I connected with Dr. King’s research. She allowed me to accompany her on an excursion to the Navajo Reservation and gave me the opportunity to meet community members who had personal ties to more research and oral history she continued to do. Seeing my interest she introduced me to SOHA, and from her encouragement I was voted the Student Representative and was able to be put on a panel in the upcoming conference with her talking about this experience, along with how it inspired me in the direction of my thesis.
Image above: Jennifer Keil and Cindy Keil at SOHA at OHA 2019
Jennifer Keil, how did you become involved in SOHA?
I presented at the 2013 Oral History Association meeting in Oklahoma City organized by Cora Granata at the Center for Oral and Public History with a panel of graduate students chaired by Alessandro Portelli. Karen Harper, SOHA Past-President, invited our panel to present at Tempe, Arizona the following spring. During these years, I realized my passion for the spoken work and preservation techniques to make it accessible to communities online. As a graduate student, I instituted a community oral history project at the Balboa Island Museum with Cindy Keil, SOHA California Delegate. We founded 70 Degrees in order to facilitate historical consulting and conduct oral history interviews. We led a workshop at the 2017 Tempe SOHA conference.
Mary Gordon has been interviewing interesting people since a National Park Service anthropologist, Phil Holmes, suggested she interview Charlie Cooke, who some considered a hereditary Chumash chief. Phil referred to that work as oral tradition. In the same time frame, she interviewed many people on her cable TV show and as part of her responsibilities for a major corporation. Looking back, she wondered , Was this oral history? Well, aspects were. One day, Linda Valois, then managing archives for the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area, suggested she attend a SOHA conference. She did, found it welcoming and certainly worthwhile. One of her first reactions was, Am I an oral historian? She enjoyed meeting SOHA members, listening to their presentations, and talking with them at lunch and dinners out. Well, she said to herself, Maybe I am an oral historian. With her published biography about Charlie Cooke and all the lessons learned from that project, she began giving presentations herself. The first was a dramatization from Charlie’s story working with Julie Little Thunder. That punctuated the fact for her that not all historians are the same, that we all have much to learn from each other, and that she could fit in. Next she wrote a family business history and started giving workshops based on that experience from venues as diverse as an NPS amphitheater, to bookstores, to community center classroom settings.
Ryan Morini, SOHA 2020 Conference Co-Chair, describes his involvement with SOHA and oral history:
I was drawn to oral history before knowing much about it formally; shortly after I started grad school at the University of Florida, I started learning about Black history in Gainesville from people in the historic 5th Avenue/Pleasant Street neighborhood. When Paul Ortiz arrived at the University of Florida (UF) and became director of the Samuel Proctor Oral History Program (SPOHP), I continued my work more formally through SPOHP’s African American History Project. Around the same time, I started my dissertation research with Western Shoshone communities in Nevada, and it was again impossible to know meaningful histories or really work with communities without listening directly both to people’s firsthand experiences and the oral traditions passed down through families.
Midge Dellinger became a SOHA member in 2017, during her first year as a graduate student. She received her Master of Arts degree in American Studies with an emphasis in Native American Studies from Northeastern State University, located in Tahlequah, Oklahoma, in May of 2019. From 2017 to 2019, Midge served on the SOHA Board of Directors as the Student Representative. It was also in 2017 that she received the SOHA Eva Tuelene Watt Award.
Here is a message from Midge:
Hello everyone, this is Midge Dellinger from Tulsa, Oklahoma! Well, since the last time I saw many of you in Salt Lake City, Utah, for the annual Oral History Association conference, I have experienced great change in my life. As many of you know, it has been my goal and ambition since becoming introduced to the Southwest Oral History Association (SOHA), in 2017, to engage Muscogee peoples with the practice of oral history. Today, I am very proud to tell all of you that beginning on January 6, 2020, I became the Oral Historian for the Muscogee (Creek) Nation. It is a great honor to be given the responsibility of revitalizing oral history in the Muscogee Nation and creating what I hope will be a very successful oral history program for my fellow Muscogee citizens. I have been busy re-organizing our current online oral history archive, ordering new recording equipment, writing a procedure manual, and preparing for a project on traditional Muscogee foodways.
Leaders: John Fenn (American Folklife Center) and Andy Kolovos (Vermont Folklife Center)
This interactive webinar will provide beginning and seasoned fieldworkers alike with strategies and approaches for integrating digital audio capture technologies into their cultural documentation efforts. Given the rapid rate at which digital technologies and equipment change in the consumer world, it can be challenging to figure out what you want versus what you need. From complex jargon to varying definitions of “quality” and “resolution,” there can be a lot to know—and it is easy to get lost in the world of audio recording options.The webinar leaders will emphasize some of the key factors to be aware of when planning for the use of digital fieldwork equipment, and will offer a range of tips and questions to consider. We hope to demystify the process of choosing and using digital audio equipment for ethnographic fieldwork and oral history interviewing, so in addition to discussing some of the basic technological aspects we will discuss a few recording scenarios common to this type of work.
Social distancing complicates face-to-face interviewing and fieldwork activity that involves audio recording, so in light of the risks posed by the coronavirus/COVID-19 to fieldworkers and participants alike we will explore options for remote audio capture. We will try to account for smartphone-based options as well as those available via personal computers, including both asynchronous and real-time interviewing.
Free to OHA and AFS members. Nonmember fee is $75.
Jo Overton is a Mormon Feminist Sicangu Lakota who is leading an effort to get supplies directly to on-the-ground health care workers at Navajo, which has been disproportionately impacted by this pandemic. She is sourcing PPE, sanitizer, and other needed medical supplies.
SOHA is featuring our members and presenters of SOHA 2020. This week, our spotlight is on Sarah Moorhead, who wrote the following piece about her experiences with SOHA. Sarah has been a dedicated SOHA member for about 20 Years. She has served as the SOHA President (2008-2009), and she received the SOHA Life Achievement Award (2013).
“SOHA AND ME”
By: Sarah Moorhead
In the 1980’s and 1990’s SOHA would send experienced oral historians to other cities to provide workshops. Sylvia Arden and Rose Diaz gave two workshops in Arizona which I attended, but it wasn’t until the Museum Guild President and retired Assistant Librarian, Mary Olive Mott, asked me to restart the Mesa Historical Society’s (MHS) oral history program, which had been in hiatus since 1985, that I actually began oral history work in 1998.