Skip to main content

Storytelling for the Next Generation: Harnessing the Power of Video Games to Share and Celebrate Culture

Gloria O’Neill | January 8, 2015

Video games can be viewed as a modern iteration of the oral tradition. Cook Inlet Tribal Council (CITC), based in Anchorage, Alaska, set out to make games that leverage technology to share timeless, living stories with the world. To that end, CITC formed a strategic relationship with E-Line Media, which brought a world-class team of experienced game designers to the project, all drawn to the rich storytelling traditions of Alaska Native peoples. Never Alone (Kisima Ingitchuna) is based on traditional stories of Alaska’s Iñupiaq people. Narration is in Iñupiaq with subtitles in multiple languages. Ms. O’Neill will give an overview of how and why CITC decided to invest in video games as a means of financial self-sufficiency for the organization. She will describe how this unique game was made with the involvement of members of the Alaska Native community, in meaningful partnerships with the game designers, and the hard work of balancing cultural authenticity with the design parameters of a commercial video game. More information on the game and on the members of the Alaska Native community who participated in the project can be found at

Definitions have consequences: Taking seriously the 2003 Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage

Frank Proschan | January 27, 2015

In little more than a decade, 161 countries have ratified UNESCO’s Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage, thereby incorporating it into their national legal and policy frameworks. At the heart of the Convention is its forward-looking—indeed, revolutionary—definition of intangible cultural heritage that places communities in the central role of deciding what is and isn’t their own heritage. Where did that definition come from, and where does it lead us? What are the consequences of taking that definition seriously—as it demands—for States, public and private institutions, civil society and the communities most concerned? How can the Convention’s revolutionary potential be fully realized around the globe?

Keeping Creole: Ascendance & Resilience

Mona Lisa Saloy | February 26, 2015

The historic influence of Black Creole culture on contemporary living traditions in New Orleans can be sensed in everything from polyrhythmic music and spice blends to poetry and architecture. When infrastructure failure decimated New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina, naysayers who predicted the city’s demise must now eat crow. The city has beaten all odds to remain an international symbol of cultural resiliency. In this presentation, Dr. Mona Lisa Saloy will explore the legacy of contemporary Black Creole culture in post-Katrina New Orleans and highlight some of the enduring traditions that contribute to the city’s unique sense of community identity.

Changing our ICH Story from Loss to Potential through Audio-Visual Archives

Anthony Seeger | March 18, 2015

There is a dominant narrative of loss in discussions of intangible cultural heritage. This perception of loss can probably be traced to ideas in The Book of Genesis and before, but it became the dominant narrative of many studies and publications in folklore and the social sciences in the second half of the 19th century. “Salvage” recordings of “endangered” or “disappearing” traditions became (and continue to be) legitimate objectives for both research and the establishment of archives. But there is another story about musical traditions and also about archives, and this is the story of innovation and creativity. With a song, 25 years of experience in audiovisual archives, and examples from Brazil and Smithsonian Folkways Recordings, this paper will discuss the competing narratives of loss and gain and their interaction with ethical issues, archival policies, intellectual property laws, ideas of intangible cultural heritage, and power.

De-colonial Futures for Ethnographic Collections?”

Jane Anderson | April 29, 2015

We are at a critical time in negotiations over access and control of cultural heritage amassed during the colonial period. Still and moving images, sound recordings, and documents were produced and collected, and then positioned within contexts outside of their origin communities. In a US context, most of this material exceeds the regulative framework of the Native American Graves and Repatriation Act and there is no over-riding international or national legislative framework that offers further structured support for the negotiated return of this material. As a result, most actions taken to address these issues are local and specific in nature, as individual communities selectively engage with institutions and slowly regain control over culturally vital heritage material and belongings. This lecture is a provocation to think more deeply about the social movements around repatriation and to consider the extent to which de-colonial futures for ethnographic collections are possible. This inquiry seeks to tease out tensions that remain in these negotiations, including the historical, social, and legal entitlements put in place through the author/archive/copyright nexus.

Materializing History: The Role of Intangible Heritage in the Core Exhibition at POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews”

Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett | May 28, 2015

POLIN Museum was built on the rubble of the destroyed Warsaw ghetto and prewar Jewish neighborhood of Warsaw. The core exhibition stages the thousand-year history of Polish Jews within a theater of history. It was created from scratch, without an historic building and without a collection. The starting point was the story, rather than a collection, and our top priority was to bring that story to life. Although objects became purchased and borrowed for the core exhibition, objects alone could not tell this thousand-year story. What we lack in material heritage we make up for in intangible heritage. This presentation will explore the role of intangible heritage in materializing the history of Polish Jews.

Cultural heritage, creativity, and resiliency

A Tribe Called Red | August 7, 2015

A Tribe Called Red has become the face of an urban Native youth renaissance, championing their heritage and speaking out on aboriginal issues, while being on top of popular music, fashion, and art. Since 2010, the group – currently featuring DJ NDN, Bear Witness and 2oolman – has been mixing traditional pow-wow vocals and drumming with cutting-edge electronic music. On August 7, 2015, the Intangible Cultural Heritage project co-hosted A Tribe Called Red at the National Museum of the American Indian, where they participated in an artist’s panel and performance. In this video, you may view the artist’s panel in its entirety and hear the group’s views on cultural sustainability, innovation, representation, creativity and traditional cultural expressions.

The Malama Honua Worldwide Voyage

Kālepa Baybayan & the Polynesian Voyaging Society | May 26, 2016

The legendary Polynesian voyaging canoes Hōkūleʻa and Hikianalia are sailing across Earth’s oceans to join and grow the global movement toward a more sustainable world. Using traditional wayfinding navigation, the Mālama Honua Worldwide Voyage has been hailed as an international model for cultural revitalization and education. During the Hōkūleʻa’s port in Washington, D.C., captain and senior navigator Kālepa Baybayan gave a presentation about the voyage at the Smithsonian’s Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage.

Support the Folklife Festival, Smithsonian Folkways Recordings, Cultural Vitality Program, educational outreach, and more.