SANDPOINT — The Idaho Mythweaver receives $5,000 matching grant for preservation of historic Nez Perce audio-cassette recordings.
The Idaho Mythweaver is a nonprofit, 501(c)3 tax-exempt educational organization that has for 29 years worked to record the oral histories and oral literature of the Plateau tribes in order to help present and preserve their authentic cultural traditions to the public.
The group has spent the past six months developing a major project to preserve — digitize, transcribe and copy — dozens of aging cassette tape recordings of Idaho tribal elders made between 1989-1999. These existing 60- and 90-minute recordings were the original source material for public radio documentaries and feature stories that were produced by the Mythweaver — with the support of the Idaho tribes — and broadcast during that same time period. The broadcast productions have been preserved, but the “raw” tapes have not. This new project is focused on preserving the raw tapes and is called “Native Voices: Preserve Recordings.” It is being coordinated by media director, Jane Fritz.
According to Fritz, a $5,000 matching grant has been pledged by Idaho Forest Group towards preserving the Nez Perce portion of the archive. To help meet that match, the group has launched a GoFundMe campaign, taking donations by mail, and is also anticipating financial support from the Nez Perce Tribe. Its goal is to meet that match by the end of December.
According to Diane Mallickan, Nez Perce tribal member and Mythweaver board president, this is an extremely important and vital project. “Chief Joseph once said, ‘The Earth and myself are of one mind.’ There are so many voices. If you were going to compare all those voices, put them into a bundle, they are all going to say pretty much the same thing: if we don’t protect Mother Earth, and if we don’t protect the things that are part of our body, and everything that we are, we aren’t going to be able to survive.”
She explained that tribal elders are the ones who live their history and culture, and understand the interconnections, spiritual and physical, with all of nature. But most of the elders interviewed back in the 1990s are now deceased. This is why Mallickan insists that these audio-cassette recordings are priceless treasures of history. Preserving them now would be a boon to Nez Perce scholars, and for tribal youth, they represent an irreplaceable link to their Nez Perce culture and heritage.
According to Fritz, normal shelf life of cassettes is 10-15 years, so the Mythweaver’s collection is fragile, and have far exceeded the normal life span of analog magnetic tape. “The recordings may have only one playing left,” said Fritz. “We desperately need to get these cassettes digitized, transcribed, archived and copied soon for the Nez Perce Tribe, and the other Idaho tribes, or they will be lost forever.”
Once the Nez Perce collection is preserved, then work will continue with the rest of the Mythweaver archive — the Kootenai, Kalispel, Coeur d’Alene, Shoshone-Bannock and Shoshone-Paiute tribal recordings.
The actual preservation work will begin after the holidays and continue through 2018. By then, The Idaho Mythweaver will be in its 30th year — a good time for the organization to sunset its work by coming full circle to complete its educational mission working with the Plateau tribes.
For more information about the project, contact Jane Fritz at 208-597-6123. To donate, go online to gofundme.com/native-voices-preserve-recordings or donate by mail at PO Box 2418, Sandpoint ID 83864.