Digital Harvest 2012

2012 August 14 by Nitanis Desjarlais

Digital Harvest is a community based initiative that focuses primarily upon elder and youth engagement. Through an assortment of experiential workshops, digital storytelling and interactive participation, youth and elders are provided an opportunity to share traditional knowledge and practices, engage in peer-based and intergenerational learning opportunities and produce digital stories (and other forms of multi-media) to expand the learning opportunity to further youth and communities.

Essentially, the Digital Harvest Project includes a two-part format.

Part 1

During the initial three-day stage of the project, participants (youth and elders) are gathered in a retreat setting to immerse in knowledge sharing, team-building and leadership training. Each of the days are themed to explore various aspects of First Nations health and wellness as well as impacts upon the environment and indigenous foods systems.

Day One explores the pre-colonial aspects of first nations way of life and the relationship with the natural world. Elders are given an opportunity to share teaching stories and practices emanating from ancestral times. To compliment this effort traditional foods are shared with participants throughout the day.

Day Two follows the arrival of European peoples and the process of colonialism and its impacts upon First Nations culture and foods. Participants are facilitated through an experiential workshop that illustrates an in-depth exploration of the transformations that have occurred through colonialism. Similarly to the first day, introduced foods are incorporated throughout the daily diet to enhance the learning experience for participants.

Day Three examines the current day realities that are experienced within the First Nations community and discussion leads toward potential next steps for cultural and language revitalization, preservation of knowledge and practice pertaining to traditional foods, and cross-cultural bridge building and decolonization. Upon completion of the three-day retreat participants are provided with introductory training in digital storytelling and video documentation and returned to their home communities prepared to conduct interviews with elders and other culturally knowledgeable people, develop stories, compile photos and engage with their communities.

Part 2

Digital Harvest approach reunites all of the participants from the retreat approximately one month following the event. Youth are encouraged to prepare a series of photos, script and music to produce a digital story. They are guided through a two-day technical workshop that trains them to edit their stories from start to finish. The end products are showcased at a celebration and later shared within their respective communities and online. The information shared is intended to assist communities with their efforts to preserve traditional teachings and practices and to empower the youth to emerge as leaders within their communities and to meaningfully engage with elders. Overall, this approach has enjoyed a significant amount of success and has been received very well.

Ultimately, Digital Harvest aims to strengthen the assets that already exist and to enhance the overall health and wellness of the community. This approach has integrated the interests and efforts of a diverse cross-section of community (including but not limited to: First Nations food harvesters, elders, youth workers, health care providers, academic institutes/researchers, the scientific community and many more). Also, the approach has adapted to a variety of identified themes to assist communities in addressing relevant issues that they are currently confronting (i.e. traditional foods, health-related issues, residential school healing/counseling, youth empowerment, traditional medicinal knowledge, etc.)

The Digital Harvest project is currently preparing two upcoming Digital Harvest events across Vancouver Island and is expanding to accommodate the growing levels of interest from existent and potential participants. One of the true strengths of this approach has been evident within the correlation between the traditional aspects of the oral First Nations cultural practice of storytelling and the contemporary technologies associated with digital storytelling and video production. Future efforts will incorporate additional techniques such as; theatrics, music, literature and culinary artistic expression, as well as, hands on traditional foods harvesting and preservation to tap into the youths interests and enhance their abilities to lead our communities into a healthier and more prosperous future.

For more information regarding the Digital Harvest Project please view our digital stories on YouTube by searching “viccifn” or please feel free to contact me anytime with any questions or comments that you may have.

 Respectfully,

Digital Harvest Project Coordinator

Nitanis.Desjarlais@viu.ca 

 or call me at 250-730-1098