Back to topPROJECT SUMMARY
Voices of the Land is a digital public space that supports communities to create, share, discover, and celebrate Indigenous content online. It was developed by libraries throughout Alberta with support from the Government of Alberta’s Public Library Services Branch. This work is guided by a steering committee from libraries across the province. It is the culmination of collaboration with Elders, Knowledge Keepers, and community members.
Voices of the Land is an expansion on Voices of Amiskwaciy, which was developed by the Edmonton Public Library (EPL) in consultation and collaboration with Indigenous communities and individuals in Edmonton.
We will continue to work together to gather and showcase stories that can support learning, understanding and celebration of Indigenous Peoples throughout Alberta and beyond. This site will constantly live, grow, and change as the community deems necessary.
Back to topVALUES
The values that underpin this initiative were formed through several community discussions and consultations, including a pipe ceremony led by Elder Wilson Bearhead that began the Voices of Amiskwaciy project. These values continue to guide Voices of the Land as it expands and grows. The process has been fluid and responsive to community feedback. This includes all development aspects of the website, programming, outreach and communications with Indigenous communities. With this guidance from Indigenous communities, this digital public space provides open access, tells stories that Indigenous people choose to tell.
We have adopted the 7 Sacred Teachings, also known as the 7 Grandfather Teachings. These values provide a solid, ethical framework for Voices of the Land. The storytellers also embody the values through sharing of their stories. Described below are the values that support how Voices of the Land strives to be a safe and ethical digital space:
- Love: Engaging in relationships from a place of kindness, caring and compassion and supporting of self-determination.
- Respect: Creating a safe space where stories are valued.
- Courage: Committing to follow through on project goals.
- Honesty: Being transparent about the process and progress of the project to the public.
- Wisdom: Seeking out and including Indigenous knowledge throughout the project development.
- Humility: Working in meaningful partnerships on an equal plane and being open to learning and embracing new ways of understanding, acting and knowing.
- Truth: Creating an authentic Indigenous space where truths can be shared.
Back to topCOMMUNITY FEEDBACK
This project is just as much about process as it is the product. To create a digital space reflective of Indigenous communities, it was important to learn and understand community perspectives, hopes, concerns and visions. The Steering Committee met with community partners throughout the process to ensure everything from functionality to design were aligned with community needs and wants for a digital storytelling platform.
What we asked about:
- Sharing and Content: What kinds of content people wanted to share and see in this space and how this content should be shared and seen.
- Aesthetics: What should this space look like? How should people navigate through it? What kinds of imagery, colours and symbols should be included? How could we make the look of this site meaningful?
- Features: What kinds of features would be good to have on the site (Commenting, Tagging, Mapping Tools, Social Media Tools, etc.)?
- Impacts: What kinds of impacts and outcomes does community want to see for both Indigenous and non-Indigenous people?
- Project Name: What should this space be called? How can it reflect Indigenous cultures throughout Alberta?
- Concerns and Challenges: What concerns do communities have in creating and sharing content? What challenges and barriers might communities face in participating? How can we overcome these concerns, challenges and barriers?
What we heard:
Community members are excited about the potential of strengthening understanding of culture, history and Indigenous experience for all Canadians, and the importance of a safe space and maintaining ownership of their content. Below are several key points and overarching themes that emerged during consultations:
- Ownership of stories belongs to the storytellers and/or creators.
- Creation of a safe space and support people who may be emotionally triggered.
- Include Indigenous people in the process, connecting with and consulting with Indigenous people, especially Elders.
- Inclusion of personal stories, healing stories, family history, traditional knowledge, urban experience, arts, spirituality, reclaiming culture, language, territory.
- Stories create a sense of belonging.
- Opportunity to learn from Elders and others through stories.
- Possibility to create mutual respect, empathy and empower each other through stories.
- A space to celebrate Indigenous history, present and future, culture and achievements through stories.
- A space to educate people about important issues, community concerns and experiences.
- A place to preserve stories to be shared by future generations.
- People, place and inter-connection are important factors in imagery and aesthetics.
This project has and will continue to involve ongoing consultation and collaboration as it continues to grow and develop. We have also continued to work with and seek guidance and feedback from Elders, artists, youth, educators and the general community.
Back to topLOGO
The Voices of the Land logo represents Indigenous oral tradition. The steering committee chose to utilize the same logo as Voices of Amiskwaciy because they felt it continued to reflect the project in its new iteration.
The logo is designed in a circular pattern as circles have special and varied meaning to Indigenous groups in North America. The 4 circles at the top of the logo represent stars which also signify stories. Knowledge keepers have said that stories are associated to the stars, and have been passed down for generations. Stars are also depicted in the homepage image, above a group of people gathering. Telling stories is an important way of preserving Indigenous culture and history. Often stories are passed from an older person to a younger person so traditions carry on, the two people in the logo are united to represent the interconnection and sharing that happens through this type of knowledge transfer.
The image and creative concept of the logo was designed by Lese Skidmore. The text and logo style guide were developed by Craig Pinder, Team Lead, Design and Production Services for Edmonton Public Library.
Back to topHOMEPAGE
The Voices of the Land Steering Committee had many ideas and suggested themes for the homepage image. It was important that it reflected the diversity of Indigenous nations and cultures within Alberta and the landscapes that make up their homelands. The homepage was designed by Tashina Makokis who is a nehiyaw iskwew from the Saddle Lake First Nation in Treaty 6 Territory.
The image is multi-faceted and includes the night sky above a boreal forest with a gathering of people below, sharing tea and stories, as well as various images that translate to daylight and represent landscapes and plants found throughout the province. The figures around the fire and in the forest can be interpreted as ancestors coming to visit. A river flows down through the homepage representing the water/life that connects us all, and the waterways that flow from the Rocky Mountains. On the other side of the river are other medicines and rocks representing grandfathers. The category labels are integrated into the homepage and include starblanket designs. Many Indigenous nations in Alberta has stories about starblankets and our relationship to stars in general.
The homepage also includes a layered map from https://native-land.ca/. This map allows users to toggle between territories, languages, and treaty areas. Voices of Amiskwaciy had a map with stories plotted, but our steering committee wanted the map to be more prominent and to honour Indigenous understandings of territory and geography.
Back to topTECHNOLOGY
Mukurtu CMS (MOOK-oo-too) was selected as the platform to host and manage content for Voices of the Land. Mukurtu is an open-source content management specifically designed to manage and care for Indigenous content online. The Mukurtu project began in the Warumungu Indigenous community in Central Australia as a collaborative project to produce a safe-keeping place to store and share content online. Mukurtu is a Warumungu word meaning ‘dilly-bag’ – a community safe keeping place for sacred items.
The Mukurtu platform allows for community partners to control and curate their own collections, manage, preserve and share their content in a culturally relevant and ethically-minded way that supports a wholly collaborative process. To learn more about the Mukurtu platform and project, visit the Mukurtu site: http://mukurtu.org/.
To fit the needs of the Voices of the Land in terms of features, usability and design, Kanopi Studios, a company that specializes in website design and user experience, was contracted to help us make the site what it is today.
Kanopi Studios is a web agency focused on data-informed & human-centric solutions. Kanopi designs, builds, and supports websites for clients that want to make a positive impact and specialize in creating Mukurtu sites. Voices of the Land features several innovative additions not found on previous Mukurtu sites, including updates to the dictionary feature, the integration of the https://native-land.ca/ map, new thumbnail technology, text scanning, etc.
Back to topNATIVE-LAND.CA MAP INTEGRATION
Voices of the Land was an intentionally chosen name that emphasizes Indigenous connection to land and territory and its importance in informing storytelling. Voices of Amiskwaciy integrated google maps but we wanted to show Indigenous geographies beyond that. Native Land Digital graciously allowed us to use their mapping of territories, treaties, and languages. Users can toggle between all of these to see where a story is located within these Indigenous understandings of place.
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