Each year at the Family Reunion Festival, the Cultural Heritage Center hopes to add to its collection of heritage interviews with Tribal members. This year, staff at the CHC is also implementing a new tech incentive program for members to conduct interviews online.

The heritage interviews project originally sought to capture the experiences of Tribal veterans and elders on video. It is now open to all Tribal members. Tribal Chairman John “Rocky” Barrett expressed a wish to get every Tribal member on camera at some point.

“We literally have hundreds of videos, but not nearly enough,” Heritage Interview Clerk Christopher Lenggenhager said. “We have less than 1 percent of our Tribe. We’d appreciate more participation.”

Interviews can be scheduled at portal.potawatomi.org under the Festival Interviews tab. The Cultural Heritage Center will also have signage around the Festival grounds and at registration with information about how to participate.

Interviews can be scheduled during Family Reunion Festival from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Thursday and Friday and from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday. Staff lunch breaks are scheduled daily from noon to 1 p.m. Interviews can be scheduled in time slots of 30, 45 or 60 minutes.

Interviews often start with basic information, such as the Tribal member’s name and age, before transitioning into a more fluid discussion that allows the interviewee to talk about whatever they feel they want to discuss. One thing participants are often asked is for thoughts they would like to pass on to their future self or to future generations.

Each interview is unique to the person or persons on camera. Some interviews are solo, and others include family members young and old. Some interviews capture historical or cultural insights, and some simply paint a picture of Tribal members sharing something about themselves and their lives in their own words.

Those who are interviewed have the option to put restrictions on the use of the interview, though that rarely happens. Participants can request a video not be shown to the public or to family, or even request it not be shown until a certain amount of time has passed.

CHC to roll out technology incentive program

The CHC is also in the process of trying to roll out an incentive program to encourage online interviews by sending a technology incentive package to interested parties.

“The technology package will include an HD computer camera, microphone, tripod, headphones and smartphone stand,” CHC Director Blake Norton said. “Our hope for the package is to mitigate any issues related to travel, cost, time, interview apprehension, etc. that have proven to be interview hindrances in the past.”

With the package, CHC staff hope to be able to offer a chance for Tribal members to conduct interviews free of charge in the comfort of their own homes.

The CHC plans to start with interested parties completing an application to be part of a control group.

“Our major goal for the technology incentive is to create an open door of communication with every potential interviewee that will result in not just one interview, but many conducted over years,” Norton said. “Rather than preserving a single interview, we have the opportunity to collect an entire biography.”

In the past two years, the CHC has captured 73 interviews. The hope with the new technology incentive is to increase those numbers.

In addition to giving Tribal members an easy way of communicating with CHC staff and sharing records and photos, Norton believes the platform will also help CHC staff to manage, catalog and store the interviews.

“For our veteran participants, the online platform will also provide links and information to programs and services available for veterans (mental health, child care, career help, housing, food assistance, etc.),” Norton said.

Look for more information at registration and on signs located around the Festival.