17 Sep

Long Lamai, a case study of a smart village

The following is an excerpt from the recently published post “It is not a village but people: Long Lamai, a case study of a smart village” on the e4sv.org website (September 15th, 2016) by Tariq Zaman, University of Malaysia Sarawak.


Long Lamai is a Penan village in upper Baram, northern Sarawak, of Malaysian Borneo. Travelling to the settlement from the nearest town Miri takes eight hours on rough logging roads and an hour of hiking through the dense rainforest. Alternately, it is reachable by flying from Miri to Long Banga by an hour’s flight via a 19-seater Twin Otter and then taking a one-and-half hour boat ride to Long Lamai. It has been a partner in numerous research and community projects over the past Nine years, and it is gradually developing into a “smart village”.

long-lamaiLong Lamai is a very lively, gender and generation balanced village of approximately 598 individuals and 116 households. It is next to the river, consisting of individual (long) houses on poles, surrounded by the rainforest. Due to its isolation, the people of Long Lamai live a subsistence focused agrarian lifestyle. Most people build their own houses and engage in rice and other farming, supporting a semi-sustainable life with everyone depending on the jungle, their immediate environment, as a source of food. Before Long Lamai was established, the Penan of this area were nomadic and survived by a rich culture of hunting and gathering. As a community they have established an egalitarian system, guiding decision making processes through community consensus.

Long Lamai has achieved major infrastructural successes, evidenced by the construction of new houses, rice agriculture, and electricity generated through hydropower and solar power. A telecentre was established in 2009, equipped with 5 PCs, several 12V200 solar-powered batteries, a modem, a wireless router, and a five-year subscription to internet service, provided through Maxis Communications Berhad. Long Lamai is probably one of the most advanced Penan communities having adopted Information and Communication Technology (ICT) into economic, social, institutional, and environmental activities, thereby providing a competitive edge and access to outside resources.

From 2009-2014, the telecentre provided full internet connection and Wi-Fi within the village. Since 2014 a mobile tower, which is also located in the village, has been the only access point for communication with the outside world. A number of households own their own laptops, with children spending a substantial number of hours playing games and religious songs but adults also use them for preparing speeches and letters for community meetings. Since 2009 the Long Lamai community has used internet, computers and laptops, tablets, and mobile phones effectively for communication with fellow villagers in town, with external partners for educational purposes, marketing of touristic activities and the preservation of indigenous knowledge, as well as research and health related issues.

However, challenges to the community persisted in the forms of water insecurity, inadequate energy generation, minimum opportunities of cash income, and unreliable access to ICT.

The community leaders show their concern on some of the recent unorthodox development efforts, which are imposed by outside sources and minimize community input. For example, the installation of the mobile tower, an event which was repeatedly described as sudden and executed by an uncommunicative approach, provides one such example of minimal community input into development efforts.

While Long Lamai villagers have shown great interest in most projects, not all projects could be maintained. In our recent visits we engaged the community elders to reflect and share their experience with development projects and to identify the key success factors for a smart and sustainable village. From a community perspective three major learnings have been expressed by the headman Wilson Bian Bilaré, namely long term prior agreements of projects, concurrent training, as well as preservation of unity in community.

Continue reading the post on e4sv.org


I have followed the work of Dr. Tariq Zaman with interest for a number years. He has written many papers focusing on issues surrounding indigenous knowledge management, indigenous knowledge governance, and cultural preservation among the indigenous peoples of Sarawak, Malaysia. See a selection of his papers in the Ethnos Project Resources Database:

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22 Aug

Visualizing world languages with the Glottolog Data Explorer and other language maps

For the language lovers out there…

Just added two items to the Ethnos Project Resources Database: a recent (2016) paper titled, “The Glottolog Data Explorer: Mapping the world’s languages,” authored by Andrew Caines, Christian Bentz, Dimitrios Alikaniotis, Fridah Katushemererwe, and Paula Buttery – and the Glottolog Data Explorer web application that the paper discusses.


A while back, I compiled a list of Indigenous Language Apps & Online Indigenous Language Dictionaries in the Ethnos Project Resources Database, and now there is a growing list of language maps to found there as well:

Let me know if you are aware of others and I’ll add them to the collection. In the meantime, enjoy the…

Glottolog Data Explorer


17 Aug

Joseph Bruchac and the Lasting Power of Oral Traditions

Note: I had the pleasure of working with Joe Bruchac and his family while serving as the Education Director of the Ndakinna Education Center (a cultural arts non-profit in Upstate New York). His stories have played a notable role in my own family – my sons were raised listening to the Abenaki and Adirondack stories told by Joe and his son Jim. — Mark Oppenneer

Excerpt from “The lasting power of oral traditions”

Source: The Guardian website, July 29, 2010.

Are oral traditions still relevant? Are they slowly being replaced with technology? In 1992 my son Jesse, the anthropologist Robert Bruce and I drove 400 miles in Robert’s beat-up VW van across the dry landscape of southern Mexico into the Chiapas. In the Lacandon jungle, where the first rain we’d seen in two days fell on the heavy vegetation, we came to our destination – the village of Naha. Darkness had fallen as we ducked our heads to enter the main building in the village. A sight that might have been from a 1,000 years ago greeted our eyes. Everyone in the village, all clad in white cotton xikuls (tunics), sat around a fire as the 100-year-old village elder Chan K’in told stories in the peninsular Mayan language.

#ccc; margin: 0px 0px 15px 15px; padding: 20px; font-size: 19px; float: right;">This is not to say that technology and the oral tradition are separated by a deep divide. Technology is neither good nor bad. It just depends on who’s using it and how it’s used.

Later that same year, my other son James and I were in Tireli, a village deep in northern Mali. There we listened raptly to Meninu and Asama, two venerated Dogon elders chosen by the village to share the epic tales of how their people came to be. Their job, they explained, was to teach anyone eager to learn.

Whenever I think of oral tradition, those moments come to mind. I also remember Maurice Dennis, an Abenaki elder who worked for decades at a tourist attraction in Old Forge, NY. Cars roared by on the highway as he carved the figure of a turtle into a basswood log while relating to me the meaning of the 13 plates on its back. I remember Dewasentah, the Onondaga’s head clan mother, teaching me stories “to pass on to my grandchildren who are not listening to me right now” as we drank tea in her trading post on the reservation. Then there was Duncan Williamson, pulling me aside at the British Storytelling Festival in London to explain how similar his Scottish traveller clan animals were to those of my own Abenaki Indian people.

Questions about the relevance and persistence of oral traditions are not new. In the late 19th century, trained ethnologists – not just white men and women, but also educated members of indigenous communities – began writing down “vanishing” oral traditions. In the early 20th century, further native stories were captured by wire recorders, then movie cameras. Books and recordings, they assumed, were destined to take the place of storytellers.

But oral traditions have not disappeared. Their settings may change, but their power and use remain. The image of an oral telling may be caught on paper, film or in digital format, but recordings are not the word shared live. The presence of teller and audience, and the immediacy of the moment are not fully captured by any form of technology. Unlike the insect frozen in amber, a told story is alive. It always changes from one telling to the next depending on the voice and mood of the storyteller, the place of its telling, the response of the audience. The story breathes with the teller’s breath.

Joseph Bruchac telling a story

There’s a similarity of intent within oral traditions around the world. In American Indian traditions, a story has at least two purposes. The first is to entertain, ensuring it will be heard. This requires awareness and knowledge of the audience – an awareness lacking in any form of recording. Secondly, a story must convey a lesson, one directly appropriate to the needs of the listener. If an Abenaki child was behaving in a selfish manner, for example, one of our traditional tellers might decide to share with that child the story of the monster that tried to keep all of the waters for its own use, was defeated by Gluskonba and turned into a bullfrog.

This is not to say that technology and the oral tradition are separated by a deep divide. Technology is neither good nor bad. It just depends on who’s using it and how it’s used. Humans have employed technology to hold on to stories for as long as we’ve had speech. Early on we carved shapes into wood or stone to create mnemonic devices. Here in the north-eastern woodlands of the US we made wampum, shell beads strung in patterns to record events. Now we have books and digital recorders.

Finish reading the article on the Guardian website

04 Jul

IRCA & the National Remote Indigenous Media Festival


The 2015 Festival was hosted by IRCA in partnership with PAW Media and Communications and the Lajamanu community with key partner Indigenous Community Television.

For 5 days remote media workers and industry guests visited Gurindji and Warlpiri Country for an exciting industry program with skills workshops, roundtables, video screenings, live radio and TV coverage, music and cultural events.

Lajamanu (formerly known as Hooker Creek) is a Warlpiri community located 560 kilometres SW of Katherine on the northern edge of the Tanami Desert in the Northern Territory. With a population of around 700 people Lajamanu sits midway between Alice Springs and Darwin on the traditional country of the Gurindji people.

Learn more about the 2015 festival


The 2016 18th National Remote Indigenous Media Festival will be held in the community of Yirrkala in the Northern Territory. Yirrkala is on the east coast of the Gove peninsula in north-east Arnhem Land, 18 km south of Nhulunbuy with a population of around 687 – 700 people.

Learn about the 2016 festival

28 Jun

Documenting Endangered Languages – NSF Grants


Funding Opportunity

Expected Number of Awards: 30
Posted Date: Jun 28, 2016
Closing Date for Applications: Sep 15, 2016

Estimated Total Program Funding: $4,000,000


This funding partnership between the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) supports projects to develop and advance knowledge concerning endangered human languages. Made urgent by the imminent death of roughly half of the approximately 7000 currently used languages, this effort aims to exploit advances in information technology to build computational infrastructure for endangered language research.

The program supports projects that contribute to data management and archiving, and to the development of the next generation of researchers. Funding can support fieldwork and other activities relevant to the digital recording, documenting, and archiving of endangered languages, including the preparation of lexicons, grammars, text samples, and databases. Funding will be available in the form of one- to three-year senior research grants as well as fellowships for up to twelve months and doctoral dissertation research improvement grants for up to 24 months.

View the full grant opportunity

Thanks to Bethany de Barros with Excelsior College for the grant tip!

27 May

Tahltan Language Conservation Initiative Project


Tahltan Language Conservation Initiative Project (TLCIP) is a grassroots conservation effort that will focus on the preservation of the severely endangered Tahltan Language. There are only 16 fluent native Tahltan speakers alive today and all but two are over the age of seventy.

TLCIP will work with the remaining speakers in an effort to digitally archive the language in both audio and printed formats and in the process develop interactive digital resources (Apps, iBooks etc) in the Tahltan Language. The Tahltan language is at risk of extinction within the next few years unless vigorous preservation measures are taken. We have the local technical capacity to save our dying language, all that’s needed is your financial contribution – your contribution will keep our language from disappearing.

The Tahltan Language Conservation Initiative Project is seeking to raise $35,000 to work on the preservation of the Tahltan Language. The net proceeds from this campaign will enable us to expand our conservation efforts/research in the Tahltan Communities and allow us to archive the language and develop digital resource material for the children and young people.

The project will purchase digital recording devices, computers, cameras, digital miscellaneous items (external drives, discs etc.), and pay researchers and technical team to continue working on the conservation of the Endangered Language.

Learn more about the project and how you can support it…

Visit their campaign on Indiegogo

26 May

Digital Native American & Indigenous Studies Project

The Digital Native American and Indigenous Studies (dNAIS) Project will offer three three-day workshops to educate participants on issues of digital humanities research and methodology in the context of Native American Studies. Native American Studies, an interdisciplinary field of study exploring the history, culture, politics, issues, and contemporary experience of indigenous peoples of America, intersects with a number of issues related to access, preservation, and methodology that are problematized through the development and deployment of digital tools and methods and the conduct of digital research. These workshops seek to pay attention to the ways in which digital objects, practices, and methods function within Native communities and through Native American Studies scholarship.

Where and When

Tentative schedule:

Workshop 1: June 29- July 1, 2016 at Yale University, New Haven, CT. The deadline to apply for workshop 1 has passed. Notifications of acceptances have been made.

Workshop one, hosted by the Yale Indian Papers, will focus on issues of access, preservation, and methodology related to the use of digitized cultural heritage materials in the context of tribal communities and cultures from the territories east of the Mississippi River.

Workshop 2: October 13-16, 2016, Northern Arizona University, Flagstaff, AZ. The deadline to apply for workshop 2 is August 1, 2016. Notifications will be made by August 15, 2016.

Workshop two, hosted by Northern Arizona University, will focus on issues of access, preservation, and methodology related to the use of digitized cultural heritage materials in the context of tribal communities and cultures located west of the Mississippi River.

Workshop 3: Spring 2017, Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, Indianapolis, IN

Workshop three, hosted by Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, will focus on issues of pedagogy and the application of Digital Native Studies research and method in the undergraduate, graduate, and extracurricular classrooms regardless of geographical context.

For more information about the dNAIS workshops, please visit their website.

Visit dNAIS on the web

p.s. If you are attending the first workshop, I look forward to meeting you there! Cheers, Mark

12 Oct

Oaxaca Workshops: Digital Tools for the Preservation and Dissemination of Traditional Knowledge

I am honored to be returning to Mexico next week to facilitate a workshop on WordPress and Other Open Source Technologies for the Preservation and Dissemination of Traditional Knowledge. The workshops (mine is one of four) will take place throughout the week in Oaxaca City.

If you’re in that neck of the woods, let me know – we can share great ideas under the spell of beautiful Oaxaca (and perhaps some mezcal). Cheers, Mark

The National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH, Mexico City) under the Second International Congress for Cultural Heritage and New Technologies presents:

Application Workshops: Digital Tools for the Preservation and Dissemination of Traditional Knowledge


The National Institute of Anthropology and History invites you to participate in the workshops. They are aimed at all those interested in the implementation of digital tools for traditional knowledge preservation. These workshops will be facilitated by national and international experts from October 19-23, 2015, in the city of Oaxaca, Mexico.


  • To train participants in the use of digital tools for the preservation of traditional knowledge and intangible heritage.
  • Establish a fruitful dialogue among participants to build collaborative networks.
  • Create a precedent in the use of digital tools within communities on issues related to indigenous traditional knowledge and intangible heritage.


The workshops will cover free software, content creation, networking through a variety of tools: blogs, video blogs, podcasts, web pages and WordPress.

Workshop Facilitators

Mark Oppenneer, Ethnos Project (http://www.ethnosproject.org/)
Rodrigo Perez, Tecno-etnias.net (http://tecno-etnias.net/)
Yasnaya Aguilar, Library Juan de Cordova (http://larutaayuujk.blogspot.mx/)
Juan Garcia, Ojo de Agua Comunicación (http://ojodeaguacomunicacion.org/)

You may also read the workshop information sheet in its original Spanish…

Download the document (PDF)

01 Sep

Digital Memory Toolkit – a free resource to assist community projects

Recently, Niall McNulty (of McNulty Consulting) and Brigitte Doellgast (of the Goethe-Institut) were awarded Best Poster at the 2015 IFLA World Library and Information Congress in Cape Town, South Africa.

Click on the poster image below to see it full size…


Congratulations to Brigitte and Niall!

You can find Niall and Grant McNulty’s book Digital Memory Toolkit listed in the Ethnos Project Resources Database:

#ccc; padding: 15px; background-color: #e1ead5">digital-memory-toolkit-coverThe Digital Memory Toolkit aims to address a lack of digital literacy in community memory projects by giving project teams the insight and tools necessary to undertake digital memory projects. Projects of this nature commonly have twofold relevance – helping to preserve local knowledge and also empowering community members through skills training and engagement. This digital toolkit therefore takes the form of an introductory training manual that serves as a knowledge resource, providing information on how to set up a digital memory project, including sections on project planning and management, which software to use, training, oral history methodology and digital resource management.

The sections in this toolkit provide information for African NGOs, libraries, archives, museums and schools to initiate and run their own digital memory projects, using free, open-source technology and community volunteers.

More about the Toolkit (including download information)

I’ve been following the McNulty’s work for a few years now (see other items for Niall and Grant in the Ethnos Project Resources Database). I encourage you to check out the projects they have worked on in South Africa – some very good stuff there involving social technologies and their use in preserving and sustaining local knowledge and cultural resources.

Visit the McNulty Consulting website

18 Jun

CFP: 2nd Int’l Congress on Cultural Heritage and New Technologies

The National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH) in Mexico City, in its mission to safeguard cultural heritage, seeks to stay ahead in the application of new technologies for the conservation, research and dissemination of heritage. In this effort it convenes the Second International Congress on Cultural Heritage and new technologies.

You are invited to submit papers focused on research in any of the areas of archeology, anthropology, history, preservation, restoration, linguistic, ethno-history, library science, architecture, design, animation, communication, engineering systems, geography, museums, archives, broadcasting, heritage intervention and related disciplines to work with new technologies to expand the scope of these investigations.

The papers will be accepted until June 30, the conference will take place from 12 to 16 October at INAH.

Visit the event website

Click the image below to see a larger version of it…