For people who may live both physically and culturally distant from the majority culture in their immediate environment, information technology can provide a boost toward accessing and documenting their own heritage. As early adopters of the Web, Native Americans began using the Internet for e-commerce and cultural outreach in the early 1990s. The University of Michigan School of Information (SI), through internships and workshop classes held since 1997, has been exploring ways that digital technology can facilitate appropriate access and greater participation in cultural heritage documentation and presentation in tribal colleges and communities across the United States.
The Cultural Heritage Preservation Institute (CHPI) and its research component, the Digital Collective, were developed by SI Professor Maurita Peterson Holland and the author working with Native American community leaders, educators, cultural experts, and SI graduate students. These efforts culminated in 2001 with an international meeting in Hilo, Hawaii, of indigenous culture and technology specialists; library, museum, and archives professionals; funders; and digital library researchers. At this three-day meeting convened by SI, issues were discussed involving the use of information technology in preserving, documenting, and participating in indigenous cultures.