Monday, December 15, 2008

Digital Storytelling, Digital Mythology Offers New Opportunities for Embodied Cultural Learning

Garry Oker

Ancient Mythology Meets Digital Technologies

posted by: Cheryl McLean
Canadian Creative Arts in Health, Training and Education Journal

Digital Mythology Progressive New form of Cultural Education, Dreamer's Stories Live for Future Generations

We recently heard from Garry Oker who is a member and past Chief of the Doig River First Nation near Fort St. John, BC.. Garry works in both traditional and modern settings and can speak the Dane-zaa language, facilitating communication between First Nations and an international business audience regarding complex land issues.

He is also a musician and artist who uses digital storytelling and narrative methods in action and practice as a form of embodied cultural learning in education.

In his new collaboration with music producers, video game developers, and animators he will be animating traditional mythological characters into a video game that will teach tribal stories and songs to future generations.

Garry was one of the leaders involved in the Dane Wajich, Dane-zaa Stories and Songs: Dreamers of the Land project which brought together elders, youth and leaders who worked collaboratively with ethnographers, linguists, videographers and web designers to document the history, stories and songs that connect the Dane-zaa people to the land.The theme for this exhibit, “Dreamers and the Land,” was inspired by the return of a Dreamer's drum to the community.

Quotes from the website: “On June 28th, 2005, a group of Dane-zaa elders, young people, linguists, and anthropologists met at our Doig River First Nation's Cultural Centre to plan a website. Chief Garry Oker came to the meeting carrying a drum skin that had been in safe storage in his home for many years.”

“Some of the elders at the meeting recognized the drum as one made by the Dreamer, Gaayea, who lived in the late 19th and early 20th centuries and who was a teacher for Charlie Yahey. They remembered stories about Gaayęą's life, and the story of his death. Dane-zaa Dreamers like Gaayęą received songs from Heaven in their dreams and often drew maps of their visions on tanned moose hides and on the skins of their drums. “

Garry’s work, sharing the stories of the Dreamer’s songs, continues today through digital technologies.

In our recent communication he reports, “I have recomposed traditional Dreamer’s songs while maintaining the original structure, melody and rhythm as narrative melodies to encapsulate the essence of the Dreamer’s Story. The Dreamer’s songs will be retold through animated characters (swan people) transported from ancient times into a video game to develop a multicultural perspective while simultaneously respecting traditions and shaping the future. These animated swan people will help others imagine, observe, imitate and practice Dreamer’s melodies in future ceremonies. . Dr. Gregory Cajete has written in his book “Look to the Mountain” that “tribal myths contain tremendous potential for illuminating the education of both the individual and the community through creative, linguistic and visual forms that are emotionally affective for members of a tribe.” (1994, pg. 115) I believe my research and development work in digital mythology will help traditional people to continue to learn about themselves through a critical analysis of the sharing of tribal knowledge.”

“I have many stories that require translation and I am willing to work with educators who want to push the boundary of learning using multiple disciplines. My goal is to transport ancient characters from stories and make them come alive through interactive learning workshops.”

Garry Oker recently presented his research “Digital Mythology” at the World Indigenous Education Conference in Melbourne Australia.

Visit his website