(Re)constructing and (re)presenting heritage
Graybeal, Lesley Marie
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Experiences of the Occaneechi Band of the Saponi Nation (Occaneechi) in constructing a heritage revitalization initiative known as the Homeland Preservation Project and organizing related educational programming were analyzed through an ethnographic case study. The purpose of the study was to understand the importance of the heritage museum as a site for organizing educational initiatives. Scholarship in museum studies treats heritage museums as sites for the construction of identity through the portrayal of culture and history, but focuses largely on display rhetoric and visitor interpretations. I used ethnographic methods to develop a case as an example of a local tribal museum and its significance, as explained by those involved in organizing and executing related educational initiatives. Having achieved state recognition only in the past decade, the Occaneechi are in the midst of a concerted effort to educate tribal members and descendents, other area tribes, and non-Indigenous community members about their distinct heritage and present-day existence. The Homeland Preservation Project plays a significant role for tribal members in addressing issues of identity, creating a dynamic understanding of culture in transition, recovering Indigenous Knowledge, confronting stereotypes about American Indian people, organizing new types of participation in multiple levels of community, and navigating various stakeholder interests through dissemination of multiple types of knowledge and power.