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DDCF Announces the Doris Duke Native Oral History Revitalization Project Skip to main content

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DDCF Announces the Doris Duke Native Oral History Revitalization Project

The Foundation Is Granting More Than $1.6 Million to the Association of Tribal Archives, Libraries and Museums and Seven Universities to Increase Access to, Use of and Visibility of a Vast Collection of Native American Oral Histories Spanning 150 Indigenous Cultures.

New York, Feb. 9, 2021 – The Doris Duke Charitable Foundation (DDCF) today announced more than $1.6 million in grants to launch the Doris Duke Native Oral History Revitalization Project, an initiative to increase access to, use of and visibility of the Doris Duke Native American Oral History Collections. The Association of Tribal Archives, Libraries and Museums (ATALM) is receiving $300,000 over two years to serve as the national coordinator for the project and to create a website that will act as a central hub where visitors can access archived materials. Additionally, seven universities are receiving a collective total of $1.359 million in DDCF funding over two years to digitize, translate and index recordings and materials spanning 150 Indigenous cultures; improve their accessibility and utility to Native communities, tribal colleges and the wider public; expand the collections to include contemporary voices; and develop related curriculums and educational resources for students and visitors. The universities participating in the project include Arizona State Museum at the University of Arizona, University of Florida, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, University of New Mexico, University of Oklahoma, University of South Dakota and University of Utah. Further, ATALM has contracted Washington State University’s Center for Digital Scholarship and Curation to provide support and training to the beforementioned universities in Mukurtu, an open source content management system created with Indigenous communities to digitize and share digital cultural heritage.

The project stems from a philanthropic endeavor funded by Doris Duke during her life. In 1966, Duke began awarding grants to universities, including those above, to collect a robust collection of oral histories from Native leaders and culture bearers around the country and to return these stories to the tribes and communities that provided them. Each university identified faculty, graduate students and/or researchers to interview Native leaders and community members. Those interviewed were asked to reflect on their experiences living on reservations and attending Native schools, and for their knowledge on Native traditions. By 2010, more than 6,500 recordings were collected and archived at the participating universities.

“The Native oral history collections housed at these universities represent a rich repository of the diverse lived experiences and cultural traditions of Native peoples across the country as told in their own voices,” said Lola Adedokun, program director for child well-being at the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation. “We recognize their importance, both in providing Native communities with a continuing connection to elders and longstanding traditions, and as educational resources and authentic representations of Native American history for us all. We are thrilled to fund this effort to preserve and amplify the reach of these stories.”

“On behalf of the 150 Native cultures represented in the collections, we thank the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation for recognizing the importance of preserving the narratives of Indigenous peoples,” says Susan Feller, president of the Association of Tribal Archives, Libraries and Museums. “The recordings, now over 50 years old, represent a treasure trove of unique stories told in the voices of our ancestors. The university repositories entrusted with the collections have been good stewards and are now working diligently to provide access to the originating communities. We are honored to be entrusted with overseeing the project on behalf of the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation and applaud its commitment to ensuring the cultural continuity of Native peoples.”

This funding effort to the Doris Duke Native Oral History Revitalization Project reflects DDCF’s ongoing commitment to supporting work that benefits the well-being of Native families and communities. Previous DDCF grants to Native-centered and -led grantees include First Peoples Fund, IllumiNative, Kōkua Kalihi Valley Comprehensive Family Services, National Indian Child Welfare Association, the NDN Collective, Standing Rock Community Development Corporation and Thunder Valley Community Development Corporation, among others.

About the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation
The mission of the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation is to improve the quality of people’s lives through grants supporting the performing arts, environmental conservation, child well-being and medical research, and through preservation of the cultural and environmental legacy of Doris Duke’s properties. The mission of the foundation’s Child Well-being Program is to promote children’s healthy development and protect them from abuse and neglect. To that end, DDCF takes a funding approach that centers on intergenerational work that bolsters culturally, geographically and locally relevant programs with and for communities to foster the longterm well-being of families. To learn more, visit

About the Association of Tribal Archives, Libraries and Museums
The Association of Tribal Archives, Libraries, and Museums (ATALM) is an international association dedicated to preserving and advancing the language, history, culture and lifeways of Indigenous peoples. Founded in 2010, ATALM maintains a network of support for Indigenous cultural programs, provides professional development training, enables collaboration among tribal and non-tribal cultural institutions, and advocates for programs and funding to sustain the cultural sovereignty of Native Nations. To learn more, visit