Goucher College MA in Cultural Sustainability

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In this era of increasing homogeneity and globalization, local history, traditions, and ways of life are among our most endangered resources and precious assets. By strengthening and building on the foundations of these resources-whether artistic, linguistic, musical, economic, or environmental-we can begin to counter the powerful forces that endanger communities around the world. Our M.A. in Cultural Sustainability brings together knowledge from anthropology, history, folklore, ethnomusicology, communications, business and management, linguistics, and activism to teach students how to effect positive, community-driven change in the cultures they care about most-whether it be an African village, an American inner-city neighborhood, a remote tribe in Asia, or a threatened public space just down the street. The discipline of cultural sustainability can be and will be applied wherever valued ways-of-life are at risk.


Recent Submissions

Now showing 1 - 20 of 94
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    (2023-12-06) Prudente Gustavo; Skillman Amy; Turner Rory; Walker Thomas; de Soysa Lilamani; MA in Cultural Sustainability
    The Art of Community-Building is a book for leaders and group facilitators with reflections on how to develop culturally sustainable community-building. It was carefully crafted based on three pillars: the author's personal and professional experience, recollected as auto-ethnographic notes that are used as research data; interviews with leaders who have other experiences with communities that converge with and diverge from the author's; and the readings the author has have done independently and during the Master of Arts in Cultural Sustainability at Goucher College. The combination of these pillars resulted in six chapters. In chapter one, the author delineates the positive impact of becoming more awake to what communities are and how they affect our lives. In chapter two, the author describes several political agendas behind how we use, or erase, the word “community”, and proposes we make this use in an intentional and generative way; the author also elaborates on his definition of community, so we can find community dynamics in any group we are part of, including our families and work teams, amongst others. In chapter three, the author explains what he believes are the three pillars of a culturally sustainable community culture—authenticity, authority, and sense of place—and how we can identify the multiple ways in which they could be expressed or repressed. In chapter four, the author details three roles we can perform in a community—member, leader, and facilitator—and how we can use them to create positive change in our lives and those of others; this chapter is enriched by the unique ways in which five inspiring people perform those roles. In chapter five, the author shares the needs, beliefs, and strategies map, which is the framework he uses to facilitate community-building initiatives. Though the author does not offer a step-by-step methodology, they serve as an open guide for those searching for something a bit more concrete on which to base their own action. In chapter six, the author explains his journey to becoming an active member of a cultural sustainability community and offer his reasons why he thinks readers should also join or be more active in this community.
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    Agroecocultural Sustainability: Intercultural Land Stewardship in Auroville, India
    (2023-05-19) Wittelsberger, Morgan; Skillman, Amy; Baron, Robert; Eleuterio, Susan; MA in Cultural Sustainability
    The objective of this capstone is to explore how intercultural influences and dynamics shape land stewardship models within the international intentional community of Auroville, India. This research specifically attempts to delineate how culturally diverse agriculture and reforestation practices have contributed to both the sustainability and regeneration of Auroville's ecosystem and the development of a sense of community among its members. The overarching goal of this research is to examine how intercultural land stewardship contributes to the creation of ecocultural civilizations. This work draws from twenty interviews conducted with various land stewards in Auroville and is informed by six months of participant observation research collected while living in the community and volunteering on farms/reforestation projects. This project is presented as an ethnography that elevates the lived experiences of land stewardship embodied by co-collaborators who shared their knowledge, belief, and practices through reciprocal ethnography. The analysis examines the complex sociocultural environment of Auroville and the multitude of sustainability ideations shared with me by participants. Cultural collaborations and conflicts are engaged through a lens that explores Auroville within its regional context and history. Cultural Sustainability as a field is engaged through multiple interpretations, including how cultures can be sustained in an intercultural utopian project as well as how cultures of sustainability can be formed through alternative societal structures. This capstone concludes with recommendations that suggest ways the community might resolve internal issues and deviations from its original values. The conclusion also provides insights into how the information gathered during this research project can be applied to the development of urban agricultural models in Baltimore, Maryland.
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    Cultural Sustainability on Campus: An Exploration of the Visiting Artist and Residency Program “Arts Transcending Borders” at the College of the Holy Cross
    (2022-12) Beyer, Marta; MA in Cultural Sustainability
    This capstone thesis examined the visiting artist and residency program Arts Transcending Borders (ATB) at the College of the Holy Cross to better understand how this initiative, which has an eight-year history, contributes to sustaining and supporting culture on campus and beyond. Interviews, a focus group, and a survey were used in September and October 2022 to hear from ATB directors, Holy Cross students employed by the program, faculty and staff who had taken part in ATB residencies, local partners, and ATB artists. Findings showed that ATB has enhanced the arts scene on campus by bringing diverse artists and issues to the fore, offering opportunities for intellectual engagement and participation in the arts, and contributing a unique interdisciplinary focus. Student employees noted specific ways their awareness of the arts, connections to campus, and career skills had been increased. Artists emphasized the value of residency opportunities to develop art work and engage with students. Additionally, partners highlighted ATB’s positive impact on Worcester constituents. Participants felt some of the challenges for ATB included raising the visibility of the program, involving more of the campus community, and addressing venue concerns and staff support needs. They saw ATB as a vital program which can encourage and sustain arts engagement into the future. These findings led to a list of considerations for ATB and other college visiting artist and residency programs. As assistant director of ATB, I hope to use the study’s insights to support this vibrant program.
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    A Rooted Reflection: A Cultural Report on a Weekend for Community
    (2022-05-22) Kristoffersen, Mallorie; Baron, Robert; MA in Cultural Sustainability
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    Exploring the Necessity for Alternative Perinatal Care for Black Women in the United States
    (2022-05-22) Burke, Velesha; Eleuterio, Sue; Cultural Sustainability; MA in Cultural Sustainability
    The Capstone reflection explores the need for alternative perinatal care for black women in the United States.
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    Ethical Considerations and Methodology for Documenting Deaf Cultural Data
    (2022-05-03) Brockway, Kathleen; Eleuterio, Susan; Gerhart, Heather; MA in Cultural Sustainability
    For years, documentary research methods have focused on hearing-world-centric techniques. There has been very little research up till now on identifying problematic and in some cases, unethical practices in documenting deaf culture by researchers who lack knowledge of deaf culture. This paper makes the case for developing culturally responsive methods for documenting deaf culture, and seeks to break new ground by developing a deaf-world centric course that reflects the ethical considerations for documenting deaf culture and using appropriate interview technology. This paper primarily focuses on documenting name signs through signed narratives, and uses Lantz Mills deaf village as a case study for using a multi-sited ethnographic approach to responsible data collection. it includes a syllabus and a sample module for an online course which will introduce researchers to appropriate methodologies
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    Culture Sustaining Arts Economies
    (2022-05-13) Kurtz, Asiyah; Morales, Selina; MA in Cultural Sustainability
    Since the 1980s cities across the United States have discovered the potential of using art as an economic driver for community development. In fact, the U.S. Department of Commerce's Bureau of Economic Analysis tracks cultural commodities and found that arts and cultural production accounted for $877.8B of gross domestic product in 2017. Because cultural industries and the economy are intertwined, any serious economic development work must incorporate culture as an asset to be identified and strengthened. A review of arts economy reports shows that current indicators to define economic impact include quantitative data such as number of full-time jobs, dollars spent in the arts and tourism industries, household income, and local and state revenues. However, no current assessment tool exists that uses a cultural sustainability lens to measure a community’s economic viability. Nor do current tools include independent artist perspectives in their assessments. The risk in only relying on myopic quantitative data is that it can negatively reinforce data and perspectives that are decidedly wealthy and white. This capstone explores the inequity of arts economy tools in assessing the vitality of the arts in communities with fewer financial resources. One such place is Camden, New Jersey, a post-industrial town described as a city “past the point of no return”. Communities like Camden that seek to understand and contextualize the lived experience of artists can begin to engage their own neighborhoods with a simple question: In what ways are the arts and artists here thriving? Using a black feminist epistemology from Patricia Hill Collins, this paper uses personal reflexivity to offer a new tool called Culture Sustaining Arts Economies (CSAE). CSAE identifies gaps in economic indicators where culture is omitted but also highlights the places where culturally-specific indicators should be
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    Side Hustle-Main Hustle
    (2022-05) Korenstra, Christina; MA in Cultural Sustainability
    Communities on every level in the United States have been plagued by racism for two and a half centuries. The systems in place in our country perpetuate the racial injustice which continues to this day. Because the injustice and inequities in our country are rooted in our very structures and systems of functioning, systemic change is required. Ultimately, it would be ideal to maximize resources and provide education as to how to secure and access resources that have historically been unattainable for African American communities. Furthermore, identifying community networks of Black-owned owned businesses that can rely on each other for cohesion and support can in turn strengthen communities and aid them in becoming more sustainable and self-reliant. Understanding the dynamics of racial disparities becomes essential to finding solutions and achieving equality. Funding leaders of color then becomes an essential factor as African American leaders bring strategies that offer an intimate understanding of the racial experiences of communities of color and the associated issues these communities face. I have documented Black-owned side businesses, conducting ethnographic research through photographic and video documentation of some of the businesses and interviews. Due to the impact of COVID-19, observation and documentation of locations was modified to observe the current health and safety protocols of the business and community. It was preferable to interview as well as to actively observe the businesses but in some cases the only option was to rely solely on proprietor interview. The result has been the development of a comprehensive business plan for a resource center that will pool resources for business owners and offer networking support for mentorship to aid leaders of color to follow a trajectory for success to develop businesses, grow businesses or make their side hustle their main hustle.
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    Afro Amelioration Introspection
    (2021-12-10) Hopkins, Khamar; Catera, Damian; Skillman, Amy; Forloney, Robert; MA in Cultural Sustainability
    Afro Amelioration Introspection is a projected video artwork, abstract sound piece, and solo art exhibition with a digitally interactive component focused on the topic of Black mental health. Using ethnographic methods, I conducted a series of six interviews where I questioned participants on their personal feelings and narratives covering but not limited to the issues of COVID, family, police brutality, racism, intergenerational trauma, and the stigma on the subject of mental health in the Black community. I video documented the conversations and transmogrified them into nonrepresentational art using the programming language, Processing. Next, I produced a conceptual soundtrack using the audio from the interviews. Finally, I organized a synergistic art show in Baltimore to showcase the project and create a safe space for conversation on the topic. The purpose of Afro Amelioration Introspection is to reflect the type of work I want to do in the future, let the African American community know they’re not alone even if they’re struggling with addressing the concept of mental health, sustaining culture by approaching an issue that harms a community, and make the topic less taboo so people can have a better quality of life.
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    Reimagining Resistance: Rest as Reparations
    (2021) Turk, Jasmine; MA in Cultural Sustainability
    This project explores "How rest could serve as a mode of resistance and reparations for Black people in American". By providing readers with a review of relevant literature, social media analysis, and reflexive writing this research peers into the topics of the nuanced relationship that Black people in American have with rest and the resource and opportunity gaps that follow as a result. Furthermore, this project explores the concept of how the recognition of where this nation has been could possibly inform where we go. Throughout this project, the researcher suggests that recognition of harm and racially charged inequities, paired with the enacting of rest could potentially lead towards Black healing and repair, ideally serving as an effective cultural and community-based healing instrument and reparations for Black people in America.
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    New Directions in Tourism in Guanajuato
    (2021-03-15) Aguirre Oliver, Klaudia; Baron, Robert; MA in Cultural Sustainability
    Post-Covid, an opportunity that presents itself is, the ability not to reset, but to significantly upgrade tourism from mass tourism to culturally sustainable and beneficial tourism in what Anna Pollock (2020) of Conscious Travels says is "not different software but a whole new operating system." This paper peers through the cracks, revealing small pockets of passion, resilience, and collaboration necessary for survival and upgrade to the emerging tourism model. The paper achieves this by discussing and providing recommendations for a regenerative tourism model in Guanajuato centered on local traditions, with educational and experiential experiences in areas of the state where tourism has not yet been developed. I will examine emergent locally-generated micro-initiatives that began during the pandemic, and which have generated benefits that will remain in the community.
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    Cultural Sustainability: Neighborhood Planning Toolkit
    (2021-05) Panetta, Daniela; Rathje, Elizabeth; MA in Cultural Sustainability
    This paper offers a Cultural Sustainability-focused toolkit that can be used as a blueprint for future redevelopment community-based work. This toolkit is based on an 18-month summary of a 2-year neighborhood redevelopment plan project in the Prairie Creek Run neighborhood in Indiana. It looks at the researcher’s self in work; how to recognize your own bias as a researcher and how to avoid having your bias interfere with the research itself, how to build a mindful rapport with community members, knowing what research and information is needed, and through what lens are you viewing the community you are working with. The toolkit also looks at partnerships; how to define what success looks like among stakeholders, how to recognize a shared vision, and how this has led to collaborative planning. Lastly the toolkit looks at engagement; what ways can you build social capital and what infrastructure needs to exist to make this work more sustainable. Throughout my research I found, ● Being aware of self in the work or research not only helps you create a practice of learning and recognizing personal bias, but it also protects against potential harm to the community. ● The research process takes many different forms as the engagement with community grows deeper. The researcher moves from learning and interpreting, to building an analysis of that interpretation. ● Building a mindful rapport with the community is essential in this work and the approach to building that relationship is just as important as it can determine the kind of relationship that will be constructed. ● Be mindful of what lens you as the researcher are viewing the community through because the lens can either blind you or enlighten you about the assets and gifts the community holds. ● Assess and recognize what stakeholders are bringing to the project and partnership. Items that require particular attention may include: What are the multiple visions that people may be bringing, what are their power/resources, how they define success, and how all of these points can lead to a collaborative planning space? ● Sustainable engagement includes building social capital for residents and appropriate infrastructure for residents or other stakeholders.
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    Seymour In My Shoes: Challenging Invisible Power & Bringing Plurality of Voice to Children's Media
    (2021-02) Reed, Cody; Dornfeld, Barry; Gerhart, Heather; Morales, Selina; MA in Cultural Sustainability
    Through the summer of 2020, I worked with 16 Baltimore City high school students to create a pitch for a new kind of cultural learning show for kids. This project reflects on that work and examines how we can use the tools of audio/visual media to build capacity with local communities, open a wider platform for people to tell their own stories, and create a more human-centered learning for audiences to ultimately increase the representation of marginalized groups in the media.
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    The Public Park as Liminal Space: A Study of Spontaneous and Intentional Behavior and the Impact on Community
    (2020-12) Millin, Amy S.; Rathje, Lisa; Forloney, Rob; Gerhart, Heather; MA in Cultural Sustainability
    Public spaces, such as parks, provide a space and time that exists outside of the familiar. They are set apart from the everyday, thus providing opportunity for engagement in activities, exploration of behaviors, and interactions with others. They are temporal spaces - ones that are intentionally entered and left. I posit that parks are liminal spaces which provide opportunities – expected and the unexpected. Felix Rosch states that “it is in these liminal spaces that societal changes are being triggered and new collective identities can emerge” (Rosch 2017, 290). The thesis strives to answer the question “how do we encourage cultural health and equity in a diverse and unequal world through the use of public space?” Furthermore, I begin to explore what this means for surrounding communities. Field documentation in Patterson Park (Baltimore, MD) provides current data to augment academic research. The data will be used to support academic research and conclusions. An historical overview of the intended purpose and actual use of public parks is included. Observing happenchance intersections, or avoidance, of park participants begins to inform and answer questions related to whether public parks fulfill their missions, hints to how they could adapt, and provide information about the impact on communities. The Capstone Project serves to further my growth as an academic researcher and strengthen my skills in the application of theory. Extending my skills of being a thoughtful listener and ability to lean into silence is especially important for this project. I envision the outcomes of the Capstone Project to be considered for multiple types of public spaces. This is not an ethnographic report of Patterson Park. Instead, it uses data observed in Patterson Park in partnership with conclusions drawn from academic research. The thesis may be used to inform future programming and approaches of engaging community. Academically, the research will support the development of the field of cultural sustainability by striving to build understanding within and among cultural groups in public spaces. The research will further support the study of whether public spaces, which provide opportunity for spontaneous and intentional intersection, ultimately fulfill their stated missions.
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    Investigating Cultural Sustainability and Identity by Analyzing my St. Thomian Family through Autoethnography
    (2020-07-28) Corley, Alaysia; Kymaani, Dr. Roxanne J.; MA in Cultural Sustainability
    This capstone explores what aspects of culture, if any, have been sustained, lost, or transformed within my St. Thomian family. This paper is split into two sections, themes from literature and takeaways from dialogues. “Themes from Literature” highlights commons topics from St. Thomas’s history that have possible implications on my family. The paper further analyzes how each theme was sustained, lost, or transformed within my family based off the dialogues conducted. My work incorporates interviews with my mother, grandmother, two great-aunts, and five cousins. “Takeaways from Dialogues” are significant concepts centering around community and the difficulties of sustaining culture that were discovered and developed during and after having conversations with my family. Lastly, my reflection ends by me discussing how I plan on sustaining my family’s culture.
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    Dérive: 2021-2025 Business Plan and S.W.O.T. Analysis
    (2020-06) Schmillen, Michael; Skillman, Amy E.; MA in Cultural Sustainability
    The following capstone project saw the completion of a comprehensive 5-year strategic business plan and S.W.O.T. analysis for a cultural exchange business and organization. In order to create such a plan, an intense amount of research was done in order to inform business planning decisions. Twenty detailed annotations on cultural exchange businesses and organizations were completed prior to the creation of the strategic plan. This research focused on each organization’s business model, Mission, Vision, Objectives, and their current cultural exchange initiatives and programs. Some of the prominent thinkers that influenced and inspired this project included Guy Debord, Chiamanda Ngozi Adichi, Claude Levi-Strauss, Richard A. Rogers, Pierre Bourdieu, and Robert Putnam. By pulling from a canon of sources relating to the field of Cultural Sustainability, this was viewed through a variety of lenses such as: Identity, Cultural Appropriation, Cultural Competency, Cultural Commodification, Cultural Capital, Social Capital, Cultural Dominance, Cultural Exploitation, Transculturation and the Bridging and Bonding of Community. The end result was the creation of a strategic plan or manifesto for a future cultural exchange business grounded in Cultural Sustainability named Dérive. The multi-phased plan begins with Dérive’s genesis, moves toward fostering creative community efforts, and ultimately culminates in the creation of 501c(3) organization. Above all else, the Dérive 5-year manifesto is a product and reflection of one person’s desire to effect change in the world by supporting meaningful cultural exchange and cultural sustainability. Forged during a time of a global pandemic, social and political unrest, growing international tensions, and an economic crisis, Dérive reflects a growing need for more community, empathy, and meaningful exchange.
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    Go-Go Community Sustainability Report: Impact Investments and Policy Recommendations
    (2020-05-18) Glee, Maleke; Baron, Robert; Yoon, Jason; Hopkinson, Natalie; MA in Cultural Sustainability
    The Go-Go Community Sustainability Report documents the current challenges of the go-go cultural economy and produces public-private policy and investment recommendations. The impetus for the report is the desired sustainability and growth of this cultural asset. Go-go is a distinct part of the Washingtonian experience, retaining a regional cultural capital since the 1970s. Amid the current changes in the District, go-go's relevance, particularly with younger audiences, is jeoparded. In 2019 the city released a cultural plan that produced recommendations to aid the growing cultural sector. However, tangible recommendations for D.C.'s now official music were absent. At this moment, D.C. is a city with many exciting developments that unfortunately exacerbate inequity. The city is grappling with cultural remembrance; the treatment of go-go continues to serve as an analogy for the treatment of the Black population, . For some, the Official Music of D.C. legislation is a positive turning point. It is an implication of the city's support of the genre. As conveyed by many engaged in this research, policy is the next step. The recommendations of this report are informed by primary research conducted by a single researcher. Over the span of three months, six oral histories were collected from go-go musicians and stakeholders. The recommendations address the central challenges of affordable and go-go friendly venues, educational and business development resources, technical support for digital integration, and the development of tourism infrastructure. The recommendations of this plan support the heritage preservation aims of the D.C. Cultural Plan. Relevant government agencies and community stakeholders are mutually involved in generating solutions. The implementation of these recommendations is a step toward long-term, systemic resources that safeguard and promote the genre.
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    "The Benguela Called to Play": Capoeira's Embodied Resistance & Sustaining Culture Through Expressive Bodily Practice
    (2020-05) Batman, Emma; Baron, Robert; MA in Cultural Sustainability
    Considering the potentials of bodily performance in the expression of meaning and cultural identification for both the individual and their community, this work focuses on concepts of resistance and power as it is embodied in the Afro-Brazilian art of capoeira. The thesis develops from the researcher’s background in classical ballet and modern dance and is driven by experiences as a new student of capoeira, engaged in training throughout the research and execution of the work. Grounded in examinations of community, continuity and value transmission, the thesis seeks to build connections between capoeira’s resistant history, and the embodied experiences of resistance sustained through the culture of, and approaches to, contemporary training and practice. Concepts and arguments of capoeira’s embodied resistance emerge through narrative and performative writing, coalescing reflections crafted from participant research and interviews with practicing capoeiristas in New York City. Formed with a critically reflexive approach, the considerations presented in the thesis are buttressed by existing ethnographic works centered on the martial art, and framed by scholarship in performance theory, culture studies and sociology, and critical analysis. Avoiding the realm of overtly political or ‘art activism’ works, this research instead explores the resistant elements that generate not from the intention to revolutionize, but which are born upon and through group identity and expression. Attempting to recognize the subversive, subtle, and frequently unacknowledged ways that bodily performance contributes to everyday resistance, this work aims to provide additional recognition of the power of embodied knowledge and expression through corporeal performance.
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    Diagnosis Culture: African American Maternal Health in Houston
    (2019-12-18) Ottenweller, Cecelia; Forloney, Robert; Moonsammy, Rita; Rathje, Lisa; MA in Cultural Sustainability
    This project investigates the cultural issues underlying why mothers identified as racially Black in Harris County, Texas are upwards of three to five times more likely to either die or suffer debilitating health effects in the year following giving birth than any other identified group. The first section describes an ethnography project investigating the emic perspectives of both Black mothers and medical providers. The next section identifies overarching themes that arose in the interviews. The remainder of the project includes two proposed projects developed to demonstrate how creative storytelling projects collaboratively developed in partnership with affected communities could potentially serve as catalysts to create solutions that involve consent, shared authority, and dialogical, mutual, and respectful engagement between equals to improve outcomes for all concerned.
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    As Seen Through Indigenous Eyes and Heard Through Indigenous Voices: A Storytelling Project
    (2019-12-17) Lucero, Heidi; Shepard, Michael; Gerhart, Heather; Krutak, Lars; MA in Cultural Sustainability
    The purpose for this capstone project is to produce a web-based product which illustrates the intersection of story and tattooed forms of identity among Indigenous people in California. The title of this capstone project is, As Seen Through Indigenous Eyes and Heard Through Indigenous Voices: A Storytelling Project. This web-based product includes digital stories of tattooed individuals and is a place to access educational material on the practice, as well as California Indian history. My primary question is: Can an outward facing identity marker such as the traditional “111” tattoo be a foundation for educating the public and Native communities about political, social and historical issues facing Indigenous communities in California? This project will illuminate the stories of California Indians that currently have received their “111” tattoo or are considering receiving their “111”. Each story tells the personal journey of the individual in receiving their tattoo and discusses the impacts that have resulted after receiving their tattoo. These stories were edited into digital stories and are available on the California Indigenous Chin Tattooing website, to heighten awareness of the resurgence of this cultural tradition and the historical reasons it was lost. The website also features other Indigenous communities in the world where traditional tattooing practices have not been interrupted and where revitalization of lost tattoo practices are ongoing. In these communities, tattooing is valued as a marker of Indigenous identity. This project’s purpose is multi-layered. Socially it is filling a void in cultural knowledge about the traditional practice of chin tattooing in California. For myself, as a bearer of a traditional “111” chin tattoo, it has helped me to grow as an activist in the revitalization of unconventional traditional arts and culture such as the “111” chin tattoo. Personally, in my journey of receiving my chin tattoo, I was disowned by my family; they have not spoken to me since I received my chin tattoo. This poignant experience demonstrates the need to educate even our own community members regarding the significance and importance of this traditional practice. The deeply personal stories that I have recorded and the educational material that is presented through this project serve to create bonds and strengthen knowledge about California Indians across public audiences as well as the Native community.