Northeastern State University and the Symposium of the American Indian hosted a Mapping Tahlequah History Workshop on April 4, the first day of the annual event.
The workshop featured presentations and conversation regarding digital mapping of local history in Green Country, in addition to other areas around the United States.
The local project, “Mapping Tahlequah History,” is facilitated by Dr. Farina King and Dr. John McIntosh, and enables students to apply their learning in historical interpretation and design to a digital mapping history project.
The project also serves the community by providing a publicly accessible location that houses local histories, while featuring NSU students' original research on area historic sites. The website includes an interactive digital map, information on how the public can get involved, and basic information about the project and what it means for the community.
King, an associate professor of history and co-director of mapping project, described it as a collaboration between university and the surrounding community.
“It’s an effort to map and add to an interactive archive and digital website that features historic sites and places in the Tahlequah area and highlights their significance and meanings to diverse communities and peoples who have dwelled and navigated these spaces over time,” said King. “We initially started [the project] in 2018 as a part of history club and co-curricular activities with our history and geography students.”
King added that the students became vital to this project due to the mapping technologies and aspects. The idea of other interactive digital ideas and mapping is one she thought could be a real benefit to this community due to its long-developed history and cultural aspects and the need to develop and focus on engagement and connection.
“We’ve had several students who are from this area. It’s a lightbulb for this and eye-opening, realizing that ‘oh yeah, I do know about this place,’ but I can learn about it on another level,” she said. “It’s almost like an online exhibit.
King, a Navajo Nation citizen, has always wanted to work in Native American communities and in education.
“We’re trying to put Tahlequah on the map, along with the intricate stories and histories here. There are things that people want private, and they want to keep to themselves, and we respect that. And also, it’s important that people know we exist and there is always a public face to people as well,” King said. “That is a part of being recognized for resources, so people know about the legacy and the importance of these places. When a place isn’t on a map they often are seen as easy to control or manipulate people to make decisions for that place. Or they won’t invest in it or respect it. So that is what I thought was so important about this.”
The Mapping Tahlequah History project is in progress and ongoing, King said. It can be viewed online at http://www.mappingtahlequahhistory.org. According to the site, it traces historic sites of Tahlequah and contiguous regions in Green Country to underscore the significance of their intricate histories, relying on reading place and research with the Special Collections and Archives at NSU.
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