Meet the Wishtoyo Foundation’s Archive Manager Emily Tarantini
November 10 — Archive Manager for the Indigenous Coast Narrative Project (ICNP) at the Wishtoyo Chumash Foundation, Emily Tarantini grew up as a white settler on occupied Fernandeño Tataviam and Chumash lands in the Santa Clarita Valley of Southern California, which is about a 45-minute drive east of where she now works. “I have previously worked at many different institutions including the University of Colorado Museum of Natural History, the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian, the United States Department of the Interior, and others,” Tarantini says. “Earlier this year, I earned a Museum and Field Studies M.S. degree from the University of Colorado, Boulder.”
Founded in 1997, The Wishtoyo Foundation takes a cultural-environmental approach to enhancing the wellbeing of communities by protecting the environment, educating future stewards of the land, preserving Chumash culture, and mobilizing First Nations peoples. “Our founder, Mati Waiya, recently said to me that Wishtoyo is a movement, and I like to think of it that way, too,” Tarantini says.
“When I saw the job posting for my current position, I was eager to apply because I wanted to support and learn more about one of the Indigenous communities whose land I lived on for most of my life,” Tarantini says. “More broadly, I initially learned about the ongoing misrepresentation and mistreatment of Indigenous communities in museums through my undergraduate studies, and that influenced my decision to work on repatriation efforts for several years.”
“On a more personal note, as a member of the LGBTQ+ community, I deeply believe it is my responsibility to support and uplift the voices of other underrepresented communities beyond my own however I can, especially in the cultural heritage field,” Tarantini adds. “It is my greatest hope that I can do that through my professional career.”
Tarantini is excited about the ICNP archive because it will help correct colonial narratives about the history of Indigenous people in her region. “It will also be a place for Indigenous community members to connect with and learn more about their own culture and history from materials provided by other Indigenous individuals.”
By gathering and centering important pieces of Indigenous history in their archives, Wishtoyo will be able to provide material that can be easily referenced, unlike other outdated, settler-colonial narratives that may be harmful and incorrect.
Tarantini is assisting Dr. Deana Dartt with research for an upcoming exhibit at the Autry Museum of the American West, Reclaiming the Camino, which will more accurately present the Indigenous history of the road and coastal California to a large audience who may have never considered Indigenous perspectives before.
“I’m honored to work for these Native-led organizations because both prioritize Indigenous values in all aspects of their professional work,” Tarantini says. “One of my biggest realizations in grad school was that there are many ways to Indigenize or “decolonize” cultural heritage institutions in addition to repatriation.”
In her current role as an Archive Manager, Tarantini is able to care for and provide access to objects in the collection according to cultural protocols shared with her by the communities that the objects belong to, instead of only caring for them according to western museum standards.
“Incorporating Indigenous perspectives and values into my work improves the care I provide and also helps me better understand the material itself,” Tarantini says. “Prioritizing the care of these objects in a way that their community feels is right is something I wish more museums and archives would do.”
Live Oak & the Upper Willamette Stewardship Network
September 30, 2021 — One of the collaborative partnerships that Live Oak consulting supports is its ongoing work with the Upper Willamette Stewardship Network (UWSN). Founded in 2018 with the mission to work with communities to care for land and water in the Upper Willamette valley, the UWSN members “recognize that the environmental issues we face are larger and more complex than any one organization can tackle on its own, and it’s only through collaboration based on values of generosity, mutual support, and inclusion that we can solve them” says the UWSN’s coordinator, Sydney Nilan.
Many organizations serve as tributaries that flow into the UWSN, and working with this consortium strengthens the collaborative whole.
The Network is composed of the four watershed councils that make up the headwaters of the Willamette River (Long Tom, McKenzie, Coast Fork Willamette & Middle Fork Willamette Watershed Councils), McKenzie River Trust, and Friends of Buford Park & Mt. Pisgah.
“We also work closely with partners from various agencies, utilities, local governments, and nonprofits,” Nilan says. “Together we are able to share resources and expertise in a way that wouldn’t be possible without the Network, implementing large-scale regional projects that show that we really are more than the sum of our parts.”
That’s where the partnership between UWSN and Live Oak comes into focus:
“The Network has worked closely with Live Oak over the last year or more to plan and carry out a series of learning modules as part of our Tribal Partnerships & Decolonizing Forum,” Nilan says. “We have had great success working with Deana to create a new model for learning and decolonizing our organizations which centers Native values and priorities while also trying to reduce the burden on Native people.”
Working with Deana and Live Oak, it’s not simply deliverable products, but the process, that makes the difference. Nilan explains:
“Deana provides invaluable perspective and guidance to our team of white-led organizations as we seek to chart a new path forward in both decolonizing the way we work and laying the foundational relationships for long term partnerships with Native communities and Tribes. As our lead advisor, Deana is an integral part of our team and we are so grateful for the thoughtfulness and wisdom that she brings to the work.”
One of the UWSN members, the Long Tom Watershed Council, recently celebrated its annual Watershed Awardees, including Deana Dartt. These partners, contractors, and volunteers are recognized for going above and beyond in their service to the Long Tom Watershed council’s projects, programs, and operations.
Developing Standards in Santa Fe
September 7, 2021 — Live Oak founder and principal Deana Dartt recently traveled to Santa Fe to visit the 99th annual Indian Market and to connect with the team that’s working on the American Alliance of Museum’s (AAM) Core Standards for Museums with Native American collections.
“This group of museum professionals have been meeting regularly for several years to develop a set of best practices for museums that care for and steward Native American materials,” Dartt says. “The group’s long-term goal is to have these practices be utilized as criteria for AAM accredidation.”
When the Core Standards are approved, any museum with Native materials will need to comply with this set of practices to be accredited by AAM, which will feature the guidelines on its website for the field as a whole to use in every area of museum work.
Dartt and her colleagues have been building one set of guidelines for communities that want to work with museums as well as one for museums that want to work with Native communities, a compendium that’s been developed by the School for Advanced Research Indian Arts Research Center. While previous guidelines relate to collections, these new Standards of Excellence or Core Standards guidelines relate to every area of museum operations.
“The new Standards of Excellence covers seven areas including Public Trust and Accountability, Financial Stability, Mission & Planning, Education and Outreach. “In every area of the museum, the new Standards offer a set of implementation guidelines for aligning with Native American values and outreaching and working with Native communities,” Dartt says.
Dartt’s Core Standards project partners include Cynthia Chavez Lamar, Assistant Director for Collections at the National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI), Elysia Poon, Director, Indian Arts Research Center at School for Advanced Research (SAR), Tony Chavarria, Curator of Ethnology at the Museum of Indian Arts & Culture, Janine Ledford, Executive Director of The Makah Cultural and Research Center, Stacey Halfmoon, Senior Director of the Choctaw Nation Cultural Center, and Landis Smith, an important part of the team until recently, Smith is the Projects Conservator at the Museums of New Mexico Conservation Unit and a Collaborative Conservation Programs Consultant at the Indian Arts Research Center at the School for Advanced Research, and Research Associate at the National Museum of the American Indian.
Dartt says the time is now to develop these best practices.
“There have been no real guidelines for museums that hold Native American collections. There’s been no real accountability to descending communities. Not only have Native American materials — which include Native American human remains, ancestral remains and sacred and ceremonial objects — have been treated at the discretion of the non-Native museum professionals, without oversight or guiding principles for that work,” Dartt says. “The Native professionals on the committee recognize that there needs to be a baseline standard.”
Dartt proposed the Standards of Excellence project four years ago, at the Association of Tribal Libraries, Archives and Museums, finding the encouragement there to proceed. Dartt reached out to AAM, who referred her to the Indian Research Center to make it a reality.
“Not only do Native professional recognize it’s a need, but the non-Native museum professional world recognizes that they often don’t know what those best practices are,” Dartt says.
Since the passage of the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA) in 1990, there’s been more collaboration and consulation with tribal communities among museums with Native materials, but only relating to collections.
“We recognize as museum professionals from all areas of the museum that there are needs and shortcomings in all areas of museum work,” Dartt says. “In development, for example, when fundraising occurs, the kinds of needs of the communities, or needs of the particular collections, aren’t always considered. Communications around Native American exhibits or programs may lack the correct vocabulary — And may be offensive.”
Dartt and her partners are developing this document for museums of every size, encouraging and empowering them to integrate Native perspectives into the overall operations of the organization. With a rollout slated for late 2022, Dartt and team presented about the document at the most recent AAM conference, they’ll present in November at the Association of Tribal Libraries and Museums — And right now, they’re meeting with Native and allied museum professionals to vet the document.
Collaborating on the Standards of Excellence, while enjoying the sights and surrounds of Santa Fe, inspired Dartt. “Santa Fe is dreamy” she says. “For me, the highlight of the weekend was the Fashion Show, featuring four of my favorite designers, who were involved in Native Fashion Now show that we hosted at the Portland Art Museum in 2016 — Jamie Okuma, Orlando Dugi, Pamela Baker, and Lauren Good Day — Native HipHop while these Native models strutted the runway? — It was incredible.”
Follow this blog for more information about the Standards of Excellence tools as they develop.
Artist and environmental educator Nancy Judd of Recycle Runway creates couture fashion from trash as an innovative way to provide education about conservation.
This sculpture was created in Indigenous Cultural Sensitivity trainings offered through Live Oak Consulting, a Native owned business, and facilitated by Deana Dartt, PhD and Nancy Judd. It examines the many privileges that non-native people have that are often invisible.
Native peoples who have lived in North America for thousands of years cared meticulously for the Earth. Settlers, not so much. In fact, non-Native ideas and attitudes about unlimited wealth and waste have fueled a crisis that affects us all.
The same people who settled and exploited the land have ignored the people who had cared for it and simultaneously benefited through unexamined privilege.
This suit is fashioned after one worn by Nancy’s grandfather, while working as the Treasure of Standard Oil, who profited from some of the many Settler Privileges written between the lines of this suit. These sometimes very subtle benefits are reserved for those who have historically and continue today to benefit from the erasure and land theft of Indigenous people. Examples include the following (we request that you speak them and feel the weight of them):
- I do not worry that when I die my language will die with me;
- I am not confronted with comments that express surprise that my group is still living;
- I am never asked to prove my legitimacy based on government-imposed definitions of “bloodquantum” and identity;
- My ethnic group is usually represented in the media and statistical findings.
- Images, symbols, or names of people of my ethnicity are not used as sports mascots, Halloween costumes, or marketing logos.