BIG CYPRESS — After months of work, a few Ahfachkee high school students can finally see their high-tech artwork displayed on the walls and iPads at Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum.
The “Are We There Yet?” exhibit, which opened Aug. 28 with a reception that included all Ahfachkee high school students, features story maps that showcase Native American subjects close to the students’ hearts.
The interactive exhibit is a collaboration between the Ahfachkee School, Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki and the Tribal Historic Preservation Office.
Last spring, the school gave THPO the time to teach story mapping to a history class so the museum could display the students’ work.
Story maps are a way to present information digitally using mapping information, images, videos and other media to tell a story.
“We work with culture to connect people,” said Juan Cancel, THPO chief data analyst. “This project was education, technology and culture. It was the epitome of what our section does.”
Students chose the subjects they wanted to explore, learned how to do the research and incorporated it into THPO’s Geographic Information Systems (GIS) software.
THPO’s archeological science team, comprised of Cancel, THPO Community Engagement Coordinator Quenton Cypress and THPO Geospatial Analyst Lacee Cofer, worked with the students and created a story map of their own, which outlined the process, goals and objectives of the project.
The project was designed to teach the students some college prep skills, remind them of their Seminole heritage and give them a voice to tell stories that are important to them. Participants were Emmitt Arroyo-Osceola, Thomlynn Billie, Mya Cypress, Crystal Garcia, Leslie Gopher, Bradin Jim, Janessa Jones, Romeo Jumper-Garcia, Carlos Romero and A.J. Tigertail.
Some of the story maps are focused on all of Indian Country.
Emmitt’s story map is about Native Americans in music and includes YouTube videos of five musicians from the past, present and future.
Emmitt includes his own aspirations in hip-hop.
Bradin focuses on Native Americans in film and highlights seven actors from around the U.S. and Canada. Most are familiar from their roles in movies and on TV.
Leslie chose Native American basketball tournaments and showcases three Seminole and two national tournaments. Crystal focuses her story map on Native Americans in all sports including volleyball, football, soccer, baseball and mixed martial arts.
Thomlynn’s project outlines the history of Miss Florida Seminole from its inception to today. A.J.’s describes the Tribe’s involvement in the cattle industry from when they first received cattle in 1936 to present time.
The THPO team believes the students got a lot out of the project. Cancel said one of the main reasons for its success was teacher involvement and buy-in to the program.
“The kids were introduced to new technology,” Cofer said, “and they got a better taste of what the museum is doing to engage the community and preserve their culture.”
Cypress believes it was good for students to see the museum from the inside, not just as a tourist.
“They had fun doing the project, but it was a little difficult at times because it was a different kind of assignment for them,” he said.
“After they saw it on the wall in the museum, Emmitt couldn’t stop smiling when he saw it. He said ‘I know I don’t look happy, but I’m happy on the inside.’”
The THPO team presented the project at a GIS mapping conference in San Diego in July. The presentation was part of the Tribal education and engagement session, at which 60 GIS professionals attended.
The “Are We There Yet?” exhibit runs until Jan. 24, 2019.