Over the past two years, dozens of students from Little Wound High School on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation have led the creation of a seven-part audio series focusing on Lakota oral history and storytelling.
This nearly 10 hour project includes origin stories, words of encouragement for future generations, and journeys through many important stories and events in between.
The project brings back “the importance of our culture and history to current and future generations of Lakota youth,” said Tionna Pourier, a student at Little Wound High School.
The “Heart of All Oral History Project” will be presented on Wednesday, March 16, 2022 at 5 p.m. MT on KILI Radio, 90.1 FM locally, 88.7 in Rapid City or streaming online at www.kiliradio.org. The following episodes will air every Wednesday at 5 p.m. MT until May 11. After the West River episodes air locally, they will be available on Apple Podcasts and Spotify.
Their work includes editing over 100 hours of interviews with 44 former locals and members of the reservation community, filming over 50 hours, and hundreds of segments for the 7-episode audio series.
And Pourier said it has already drawn attention because of what the Lakota people have endured with federal colonization and assimilation policies.
“The stories that have been passed down from our ancestors to their descendants are important because, by keeping them alive, we remember all the sacrifices our ancestors made so that we are still here today,” Pourier said.
The group of nearly 50 students worked in consultation with local elders, audio and video professionals and school staff on the project. They learned more about interview techniques, editing and production during the process.
Elder Jada Good Crow enjoyed working with classmates “who are like family” and learning more about their people’s history together. There was so much to think about when working on a project of this size, Good Crow said.
One of the things that Little Wound High School senior Ohiyesawin Ramirez learned during the filmmaking process was more about “the importance of honoring and upholding the sanctity of spirituality that binds today’s Lakota individuals to our history,” Ramirez said.
“The past comes alive when the kids of our generation listen,” Ramirez added. “We have the power to carry the greatness of our knowledge and our values into the future by understanding that there is unity among all living beings.”
Each episode has a particular period and combines the stories of the elders with music and discussion. In “The Beginning: Origin Stories,” the first episode tells creation stories, which can vary depending on where a family or community lives.
Subsequent episodes cover the Buffalo Nation era, European contact, colonization and assimilation, the 1973 occupation of Wounded Knee, and policy changes. The last episode is “Walking Together: Past, Present and Future”.
The project is vital not only for Indigenous youth, but for education as a whole, said Tara Rouillard, Little Wound senior, because each episode tells the story of the Lakota from an insider’s perspective.
“Generally, the current education system is dominated by an outside perspective, but we believe that our perspective matters just as much,” Rouillard said. “Also, as more and more Indigenous history is removed from textbooks, we believe it is important that the truth be preserved. For example… not only did we survive, but we thrived here before the Europeans arrived.
The student project also includes several short films featuring the elders who spoke about the oral history project.
Movies and other episodes and resources are available at heartofallohp.com.