Using PhotoVoice to Promote Land Conservation and Indigenous Well-Being in Oklahoma
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Indigenous ancestral teachings commonly present individual and community health as dependent upon relationships between human and nonhuman worlds. But how do persons conversant with ancestral teachings effectively convey such perspectives in contemporary contexts, and to what extent does the general tribal citizenry share them? Can media technology provide knowledge keepers with opportunities to communicate their perspectives to larger audiences? What are the implications for tribal citizens’ knowledge and views about tribal land use policies? Using a PhotoVoice approach, we collaborated with a formally constituted body of Cherokee elders who supply cultural guidance to the Cherokee Nation government in Oklahoma. We compiled photographs taken by the elders and conducted interviews with them centered on the project themes of land and health. We then developed a still-image documentary highlighting these themes and surveyed 84 Cherokee citizens before and after they viewed it. Results from the pre-survey revealed areas where citizens’ perspectives on tribal policy did not converge with the elders’ perspectives; however, the post-survey showed statistically significant changes. We conclude that PhotoVoice is an effective method to communicate elders’ perspectives, and that tribal citizens’ values about tribal land use may change as they encounter these perspectives in such novel formats.
KeywordsIndigenous Cherokee Conservation Land use Health PhotoVoice
This study was supported by a research grant from the National Institute on Aging (P30 AG015292-16) through the Native Elder Research Center, jointly administered by the Washington State University and the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus. We extend our deep gratitude to the Cherokee Nation Medicine Keepers and affiliated staff for their partnership on this project. We also thank Pat Gwin, Feather Smith, Harold Grimmett, Donna Tinnin, and Kevin Daugherty for all their help with the survey logistics. Finally, we thank Sohail Khan and Gloria Sly of the Cherokee Nation Institutional Review Board for their review and support.
Compliance with Ethical Standards
All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki Declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.
Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study. The datasets generated during and/or analyzed during the current study are not publicly available due to stipulations made by the Cherokee Nation Institutional Review Board (CNIRB), but are available from the corresponding author with approval from the CNIRB on reasonable request.
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