Storytelling school

Salem Indigenous Farmland Grant for Video Storytelling Project

On a small two-acre farm south of Salem, a nonprofit organization is working to give young Native American adults a path to their roots.

Elderberry Wisdom Farm is run by Rose High Bear and strives to help younger generations carry Indigenous traditions – from ecological knowledge to oral storytelling – into the future.

“I ran a nonprofit in Portland for 30 years,” High Bear said. “I took the projects I was doing in the metro area and just expanded them here.”

Elderberry Wisdom Farm was founded three years ago.

The work is currently divided into three projects: Aboriginal adult internships in horticulture and agriculture through a partnership with Chemeketa Community College; a partnership with the University of Washington’s Indigenous Wellness Research Institute for the Chemawa Journey of Transformation – a five-year research project that documents the ecology curriculum created for freshmen; and a biography of Martin High Bear, a Lakota healer.

A fourth project has just been funded by the Oregon Cultural Trust.

“We’re doing a short film,” High Bear said. “We will train Native youth in their culture by restoring traditional Native American stories.”

Between four and eight young adults will be chosen to learn how to use the multimedia equipment to record the elders and create the film.

The grant amounts to $28,485 and will be used to give the filmmakers $500 each for equipment, money to pay seniors for their participation, money for travel and a small retainer.

Finding people from the culture who can both mentor developing filmmakers and have multimedia skills is a challenge and the funds would help make that happen, according to the grant application.

The film will showcase the cultural traditions of their tribal community and the filmmakers will also be trained in traditional tribal stories, songs and oral traditions.

“They won’t just learn video production and post-production editing when they produce their first documentary film showcasing their own traditional heritage,” the grant application reads. “We also support them in learning to dream and see their own future. We ask them to share the wisdom and stories they find most essential to the cultural restoration of their tribe.

A 12-month timeline for the pilot program would also give staff time to prepare to train and mentor filmmakers.

“The valuable contributions of our project would trickle down to the participating Native American youth,” High Bear said. “It would be an investment in their own future and reinforce the positive contributions they could make to society. We believe this will increase their resilience for health and well-being, including their cultural identity and positive self-esteem.

No decision on how many or who will attend has been made, which will come in the fall, according to High Bear.

The grant was part of a larger award this week of $3.4 million to 138 cultural organizations across Oregon, including eight others in the Salem area that raised about $160,000 combined.

Contact reporter Caitlyn May at [email protected].

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