Buder Center To Offer Storytelling Project, Health Seminar In Response To Pandemic | Brown School at Washington University in St. Louis
Tribal elders in ceremonial dress at the 2018 Buder Center Pow-Wow
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Buder Center Offers Storytelling Project, Health Seminar In Response To Pandemic

COVID-19; Public Health; Diversity; Community Engagement

Eleven members of the American Indian community will share stories associated with their cultural ties to Missouri as part of a project by the Brown School’s Kathryn M. Buder Center for American Indian Studies. The Digital Indigenous Storytelling Project will premiere on November 17 and highlight stories from across Missouri including Brown School’s American Indian Student Association.

Storytelling is an important tradition in Native communities across the U.S., which have been disproportionately affected by the novel coronavirus. Kellie Thompson, director of the Buder Center, said the project was a way to replace in-person events that the center had to cancel because of the pandemic, including some scheduled for November, Native American Heritage Month.

“We knew we wouldn’t be having in-person events in the fall,” she said. “This is a creative way to continue to engage our staff, students and local people to provide an event for the community.” The project is funded by the Missouri Humanities Council with federal funding from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act (CARES Act), which paid for staff to lead the project, honoraria for storytellers and technical equipment and training.

“We’ve been collecting stories from Indigenous people who have lived in Missouri or who are descended from tribes that are traditionally from the region. Their stories tie back to the land, and helps us think about how individuals stay connected to their culture,” Thompson said. “Some talk about how COVID has affected their culture. Storytelling is a way to not only share much about yourself, but often highlights lessons to be learned or knowledge that needs to be passed on to the next generation. It’s about the story, but also about the oral transmission of it.”

The stories will be posted on the Buder website on November 17; that afternoon at 4:00 p.m. the Buder Facebook page will livestream an introduction to the project. Some of the storytellers speak directly to cameras, others are the subject of interviews by Eric Pinto, the project coordinator, and two were submitted in writing and will be read by Pinto. The project hopes to continue collecting Indigenous people’s stories and will invite others to share their own.

Another response by the Buder Center to the pandemic will be a one-hour seminar that will provide culturally relevant health information for members of the Native community. The project, funded by AMB Foundation, will also disseminate health flyers and personal hygiene items such as masks and soap to help people prepare for the upcoming flu season and a second wave of COVID-19. Buder students will assist in the effort.

“The seminar will explain how to reduce the spread of the virus, what to do if you’re exposed, where to get testing, how contract tracing works and vaccine updates,” Thompson said. The seminar is open to all, but will be geared to the urban Indian community. It will be live-streamed through the Buder Center Facebook page from 12 p.m.-1 p.m. on December 2.