“Beyond Sand Creek” is a multi-media project that has been in development for four years. It began as the Wind River Virtual Reality pilot project that demonstrated how new technologies could be used to teach traditional Arapaho stories to youth.
That effort evolved and integrated the story of Fort Chambers and resulted in the “Beyond Sand Creek” documentary which will air on Wyoming PBS and stream on PBS Passport.
The story is about the Arapaho tribal efforts to reverse assimilation by teaching traditional culture and undoing negative tribal stereotypes in the Boulder Valley. Tribal elders work with youth to tie their language and culture to their traditional homelands in northern Colorado.
The Arapaho are working with public and private officials to return the Fort Chambers site to the tribe.
Chambers east of Boulder, under the command of Captain David Nichols, was where 100 soldiers were trained to fight at the Sand Creek Massacre in Southeastern Colorado.
On November 29, 1864, an Arapaho and Cheyenne encampment in southeast Colorado was surprise attacked by Colorado 3rd ending in the murder and mutilation of hundreds of tribal members, mostly women and children. The tragedy is known as the Sand Creek Massacre.
We interviewed several tribal members from Oklahoma and Wyoming over the course of several years to learn their perspectives about racial discrimination that arose from western expansion of settlers occupying tribal land.
“The Beyond Sand Creek” virtual reality project adds a digital arts aspect to traditional history – American history, World History – curricula and the arts – Creative Writing, Language Arts, and Visual Arts.
The teaching concept was piloted on the Wind River Indian Reservation in Wyoming. A small grant was received from the Wyoming Arts Council for the Wind River Virtual Reality project.
Northern Arapaho students were taught about the importance of traditional tribal stories by two tribal artists.
Students learned how to use existing programs to develop VR worlds that immerse students into past and present environments.
They were taught the basic use of VR cameras by Glenn Reese of River Cloud Media. Tribal elder and member of the Eagle Drum Society, Alison Sage, taught the students about traditional singing and drumming.
Arapaho artist Robert Martinez taught about the importance of art and its role in traditional storytelling.
BCM collaborated with the Reality Garage and a Boulder High School computer science class. A grant from the Best Buy Foundation funded VR curriculum development. Students learned how to create edit VR content into complete stories.
The four students reinterpreted a traditional story, “The Fox and the Woodtick” with VR technology. The story was handed down from Chief Yellowcalf to tribal elder Merle Haas who read the story in Arapaho. You can view it in goggles or scroll around the 2-D screen with the mouse.
The project is funded in part by the Boulder Arts Commission, Wyoming Cultural Trust Fund, Wyoming Arts Council, Wyoming Humanities Council, Best Buy Foundation.