PORTLAND, Ore. - A Portland-based nonprofit group is launching a new
cultural heritage project that will initially feature profiles of American
Indians from nearly a dozen states.
The Wisdom of the Elders (WOTE) organization was founded in 1992 by the
late Martin High Bear, a Lakota spiritual leader, and Rose High Bear, an
The group, which strives to increase understanding about Indigenous peoples
through radio programs, documentaries and other educational venues, is
primarily funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the National
Endowment for the Arts, the National Park Service and its Lewis and Clark
National Historic Trail program, the Oregon Arts Commission and the Spirit
Mountain Community Fund.
WOTE's latest project is the Turtle Island Storytellers Network, which was
unveiled to the public April 24 at www.turtleislandstorytellers.net. The
new network will serve both as an online educational tool and as a way to
contact and interact with about 80 profiled tribal elders, musicians,
cultural leaders and historians for speaking and concert engagements,
training seminars and other events.
According to WOTE tribal liaison Elaine Lanegan, the first round of
profiles will come from Oregon, Idaho, Kansas, Montana, Nebraska, North
Dakota, South Dakota, Ohio, Indiana, Oklahoma and Washington state. At
least two other states will be added later in the year. In time, the
geographic range will likely be expanded even further.
"We're hoping to be adding and adding until we do the whole United States,"
Stated goals of all WOTE programs - run by a staff of four, various
volunteers, and a board of directors - is to reduce racial tensions between
Indians and non-Indians and promote reconciliation. This year and next the
group will air the radio program "Native Nations along the Lewis and Clark
Trail," aimed at expanding the base of knowledge about indigenous peoples
whom the white explorers Meriwether Lewis and William Clark encountered
during their journeys.
"Stories and song define us as human beings," organizers said. "Our
project's cultural preservation and language restoration aspect contribute
to the cultural renaissance occurring in today's Indian country. We are
discovering and documenting indigenous storytellers, oral historians and
song carriers whose gifts of wisdom and oral tradition are rapidly
diminishing and could be lost within the next decade."
Audio segments created by the organization are distributed by National
Public Radio, American Indian Radio on Satellite, the National Federation
of Community Broadcasters and the Pacific Radio Network, among other
WOTE leaders said they welcome collaboration with tribes and individual
tribal members across the country, and also with non-Indians and their
organizations. To learn more about the group and its various activities, go
to www.wisdomoftheelders.org or call (503) 777-7140.