April 11-14, 2007
San Francisco, California

Ntsayka Ikanum: A Native American Approach to the On-line Experience

Lindy Trolan, The Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde; Paul Williams, ISITE Design, Inc.


This paper addresses efforts to share traditional Tribal knowledge and history through an interactive on-line experience. It speaks to the need to reach a wide and far-reaching audience while not compromising the integrity of the information shared. Ntsayka Ikanum: A Virtual Experience weaves together stories and artifacts of the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde’s history from the beginning of time to today. Told with moving multimedia, video, audio and photography, the virtual museum provides a place to go for Tribal members and the general public to hear and read the words and teachings of our ancestors. This collaborative effort teamed the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde with ISITE Design to develop a Web site that is a means of exhibiting Tribal collections and sharing cultural information until a Museum and Cultural Center can be built.

Keywords: storytelling, education, cultural preservation, research, interactive, accessibility

Introduction: The Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde

The need for a place to learn about the history and peoples that make up the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde has been growing exponentially over the years. This need was realized by the formalization of the Cultural Resources Department in 1996. The incredible richness of the material culture combined with the desire to have a means of sharing it prompted the idea of creating a “virtual gallery” to serve that purpose. Ntsayka Ikanum: Our Story was not intended as a substitute for a museum or a cultural center. Rather, it serves to encourage the perpetuation and celebration of our culture in a highly accessible way, with the aspiration of one day having a Grand Ronde Museum and Cultural Center.

ISITE Design

Leveraging interactive technology to help preserve a people’s culture proved to be an exciting challenge for our interactive agency. Over a 12 month period we worked to immerse ourselves in the history, traditions and personalities that make the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde: not just a Native American tribe that has survived centuries of challenges, but one that has emerged as a genuine societal leader, championing charitable causes, caring for their elders, and improving their nation’s educational system, all the while empowering their tribal members to succeed in the global community.

From our perspective, it is best to start at the launch celebration where tribal members and elders experienced the project for the first time in a computer lab. Tears, smiles and numerous conversations were sparked as tribal elders retraced the history of Grand Ronde with first person audio, video and textual accounts. This paper seeks to paint the process and lessons learned from the Ntsayka Ikanum: Our Story adventure ISITE Design and Grand Ronde partnered to produce.

Fig 1: Poster announcing the launch of Ntsayka Ikanum: Our Story August 16, 2006.

Fig 1: Poster announcing the launch of Ntsayka Ikanum: Our Story August 16, 2006.

Tribal Profile – The Indian Peoples of the Grand Ronde Community

We believe our people have been here from time immemorial. With the coming of the settlers, the way we lived for tens of thousands of years was forever altered. The last 200 years of history saw more change than the previous 2,000 years. After a series of negotiations with the United States Federal Government in 1851 that resulted in broken promises and unratified treaties, the relatives and ancestors of the people who make up what is today the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde signed treaties that were ratified in the early to mid 1850’s. These treaties include the Willamette Valley Treaty of 1855 (otherwise known as the Treaty with the Kalapuya,) the Treaty with the Chasta of 1854, Treaty with the Umpqua and Kalapuya of 1854, Treaty with the Molalla of 1855, and the Treaty with the Rogue River of 1853 and 1854. The Grand Ronde Reservation was established by treaty on June 30, 1857. The Reservation was established for more than twenty-five different tribes and bands of peoples whose ancestral homeland was primarily western Oregon, as well as for some communities from extreme southwestern Washington and northern California. Some of these tribes included the Cascades, Clackamas and Tumwater from the Mid-Columbia and Lower Willamette Rivers; the Santiam, Tualatin, Yamhill, Kalapuya, Luckiamute, Hanchuyuk, Chepanefo, Chelamela, Winnefilly, and southern Yoncalla from the Willamette Valley; the Molalla bands from the Cascade Range; the Takelma, Umpqua and Rogue peoples from the Umpqua and Rogue River valleys; and the Tillamook from the Coast.

The different peoples located on the Reservation were linguistically and culturally distinct. Seven Native American languages were spoken by early residents of the Grand Ronde community, including Athapaskan, Chinookan, Kalapuyan, Takelman, Salishan, Shastan and Sahaptian: there were at least 25 dialects. Most of the languages were unintelligible one to one another, and no population group was dominant.

The original Grand Ronde Reservation consisted of 69,000 acres of open valley, farmland and timber. By 1901 the reservation was reduced by 25,800 acres. Then through the Dawes Act and other detrimental government-sanctioned policies of the time, the Reservation was reduced even further. In 1954, the U.S. Congress terminated its government-to-government relationship with the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde altogether. Termination dispersed a large segment of the tribal community to urban and non-reservation areas and left the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde nearly landless. The only remaining tribal land, for the next 30 years, was a 5-acre cemetery.

In 1974, a group of tribal members began an exhaustive effort to restore Grand Ronde’s federal recognition, which was finally granted on November 22, 1983. The Grand Ronde Tribe was reborn, and the long journey to rebuild our community began. In 1988, the Tribes were granted 9,811 acres of original reservation lands. Tribal membership currently consists of nearly 5,000 individuals. During the era of Termination, the federal government instituted not only a practice of, but also a policy of relocation which moved Indian people to urban centers in order for them to better assimilate into “American” culture. Since Restoration, the Grand Ronde Tribe has made efforts to bring families back home through housing and job training programs, but still a significant percentage of the Tribal population is dispersed throughout the Willamette Valley, Oregon, the rest of the United States, and beyond. Because of this circumstance, it was crucial that the mechanism developed to provide an educational resource for Tribal members as well as the general public transcend the geographical limitations of a rural Reservation.

Fig 2. Ceded Lands of the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde.

Fig 2. Ceded Lands of the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde.

An experience common to Native communities across the United States, Tribal people have endured various nations’ and groups’ systematic suppression of local knowledge and culture, both conscious and unconscious. From the loss of traditional beliefs to shifts in material culture and, finally, language, Natives across the country have felt the impact of assimilation. Now we are faced with piecing together what was lost or disbursed (Haakanson, 2004). The Cultural Resources Department is committed to the protection, preservation, and promotion of the cultural heritage of the original people of the Grand Ronde community. The Tribe recognizes cultural resources are invaluable, irreplaceable, and should be treated as endangered resources. With the intent of preserving, protecting and revitalizing tribal culture, spirituality, and history, the Tribe established the Cultural Resources Department. Program staff is tasked with four primary objectives: cultural education, site protection, repatriation, and creating a comprehensive repository for all materials which have historic importance to the Grand Ronde Tribes.

Since the establishment of the department, it has been our goal to become the primary repository for Grand Ronde related materials, be they archival historic documents, photographs, oral histories, ethnographies, maps, journals, or artifacts. Now that Tribal communities have access and the resources to repatriate our cultural heritage through the auspices of sovereignty and the application of federal laws such as NAGPRA, the avenue to be the arbiters of our own history is once again ours.

We are obligated to protect sacred cultural knowledge, to respect our Elders, and to be conscious of the fact that some sacred knowledge is meant to be kept sacred and out of the public arena. If this means not sharing it with scholars and other visitors, then we must respect this. If we do not, we are no better than the non-Natives and the actions they took over the last two centuries. (Haakanson, 2004.)

Providing a brief historical framework for understanding the history of collecting in American museums and its impact on Native people and culture is essential. Why is it that museums and archival institutions are the principal repositories of Tribal cultural heritage instead of Tribal people themselves? One reason is that the government mandated many laws and policies that were seriously detrimental to living communities. Beginning in the 1860’s, the Army Medical Museum began collecting Indian bodies for the study of diseases. Trying to prove a correlation between race and intelligence in order to rank races according to brain size was a major undertaking. Field doctors were to send back Indian specimens, particularly crania, for study. In 1868, an agreement between the Army and Smithsonian was established. The Army would take the human remains and the Smithsonian would get the burial and cultural items. This started the long-term practice of taking crania and cultural items from massacre sites, battlefields, boarding school burial grounds, and sacred sites.

Not only was the Federal Government at work “collecting” from Tribal people, but scholars and academics also took advantage. In 1867, George Peabody founded the first museum devoted to anthropology at Harvard. His goal was to educate the public through arts and museums, and he believed artifacts collected from Tribes could help do this. During the Collections Era (1875-1930), individuals went around collecting for museums from living people and cultures, as well as from burial sites. Museums wanted historic and religious objects: those items that were the most meaningful to communities. Attempts were made to purchase some, but even with disease, poverty, and punishment for practicing traditional religion, most native people would not sell. When individuals were found who were willing to sell, they were often under the influence of a new religion that did not value their own religion or their associated sacred objects: Christianity. Collectors resorted to burial sites as a major source for collections, as many native communities would bury an individual’s most treasured things with the body. This “work” contributed significantly to the dehumanization of Tribal cultures and the disbursement of the most important cultural property of a community to institutions across not only the United States, but also the world. With the military enforcing such rules and private collectors at work, there was a mass removal of cultural material from living Indian communities. It took close to 100 years for the first major wave of federal legislation to begin to protect Native American cultural materials.

In the last 10 years, the Cultural Collections Program was formed in order to rectify the 150 years of cultural destruction and assimilation. The Program’s goal was to work to preserve and perpetuate the cultural heritage of the original tribes of the Grand Ronde community by acquiring, managing, and protecting tribally affiliated collections through exhibition, loan, and repatriation. While traditional belief says it takes as long to fix a problem as it took to make it, a committed group of Tribal employees and contractors have put their minds and efforts towards that long-term goal.

Fig 3: Interior view of a collector’s home, circa 1900.

Fig 3: Interior view of a collector’s home, circa 1900.

Fig 4: Grand Ronde artifact storage, including basketry from the collector in the previous photo

Fig 4: Grand Ronde artifact storage, including basketry from the collector in the previous photo.


To that end, Ntsayka Ikanum or Our Story: A Virtual Experience ( was born of a dream that became reality when the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde submitted an application for the Administration for Native Americans Social and Economic Development Strategies grant in 2003. The primary motivation for the development of the virtual gallery was to improve the communications and education of Tribal members and the general public and to advance self-governance and cultural preservation. As part of the process developed for and highlighted in the grant application, various objectives were established. Assembling a project team was critical in order to address the various issues that were bound to surface. Some of those issues included access rights, security, sacrality, public versus tribal knowledge, and addressing the needs of a varied audience, from Tribal elders to elementary students.

Working with ISITE Design, we adopted their five step planning and development methodology. These steps included Discover, Define, Design, Develop and Deploy.

The project was initiated by a series of discovery meetings on a broad range of topics.

With the initial meetings behind us, it became apparent that we had a huge content challenge ahead of us. Sifting through records of hundreds of years of history involved reviewing countless binders of records and photographs. Many of these of course would need to be digitally scanned and migrated into our new database. Just organizing and finding the right records was a large undertaking involving several people.

At the point when we felt we had the majority of available content identified, we re-engaged with our vendor to begin the process of creating a storyboard for the exhibit, from which we could build out the chapters and focus on the content and artifacts we wanted to include.

We learned that the type of rich interactive site we were building required different ways of planning than you would use with even a standard Web site. Our vendor helped us develop a detailed information architecture which showed not only the hierarchy and structure of the Web site, but also the interactive design required to make this an engaging on-line experience and to take advantage of the latest technology.

Defining the On-line Blueprint

Once the information architecture was complete, we worked with our vendor to develop multiple creative directions on how the end user experience could come to life. The use of audio, video, static images and a language other than English were to be incorporated to tell the story, and lent themselves to the creative process. A non-lineal framework was also an important consideration. Different creative mark-ups and storyboards were designed and in due course selected according to what fit the need most thoroughly. While the creative direction was being reviewed, we worked on the more tactical details of the functional and technical requirements to support the visual representation of the end deliverables.

It was important to our success to include our Information Technology (IT) team early in the discussions as a partner helping to review the functionality and blueprint and ensure we had a development plan that could deliver our collective vision. IT played a central role in configuring the servers, purchasing software and helping to ensure the server’s bandwidth allocation and technical specifications were appropriate. Once the IT group confirmed our technical requirements could be supported within their environment, our vendor began producing the technical systems necessary to power the visual experience.

Developing the Rich Media Engine

The first of two core technical components for the project was a rich media content management engine allowing non-technical tribal members to add, edit and delete images, videos, audios, documents and descriptions to the flash piece. These assets would be displayed in the Ntsayka Ikanum: Our Story section of the site in a rich narrative.

The second deliverable was the on-line Research Library which was required to communicate with the Ntsayka Ikanum: Our Story piece from an import/export perspective.

The Flash application was developed in less than two months; however, as indicated in the challenges section below, it took a significant amount of time to gather and organize the content to populate it. Due to problems from inconsistent image numbers to corrupt or missing files, it took more than four months for staff to track down, organize, create, scan, optimize and load the assets from our content requirements document into the system.

Once the Ntsayka Ikanum: Our Story experience was into testing, we focused on the Research Library. This application was completed from a technical perspective and integrated with our Past Perfect and Laserfiche database systems to populate with content while we focused on the content for Ntsayka Ikanum: Our Story.

Logging into the Research Library for the first time after the integration with Past Perfect was a shock. All of a sudden we had thousands of documents and artifacts in the pending status awaiting our review and approval for public display. To approve a document, image, or artifact for publication we needed to follow several time-consuming steps which included copyright review, donor file review and verification, text examination for sensitive subjects, data editing for public consumption, and a minimum of 2 layers of internal review, each requiring a different staff member. Given the time commitment required to fulfill our internal needs of security, sensitivity, and quality control in the form of a unified Tribal voice, the task proved too daunting for immediate action. Hence the decision was made to limit the first release of public content in the Research Library to already approved content in Ntsayka Ikanum: Our Story.

Once content was completed in Ntsayka Ikanum: Our Story, we populated the multi-lingual note for navigational elements with language translations allowing visitors to browse in Chinuk Wawa, our officially recognized Tribal language of the reservation. Once XML feed for translation was imported, the project went through two rounds of ISITE Design testing and two rounds of CTGR testing where many small issues around content, functionality and user experience items were resolved. This bi-lingual component was essential in that serving the Tribal community was a top priority, so the perpetuation of our language via the Internet will serve as a component that can be integrated into the Chinuk Wawa classes, and vise versa.

A pre-release of Ntsayka Ikanum: Our Story to a limited number of Internal staff and Tribal members and the Tribal Council, our governing body, was essential in order to educate Tribal government about the details. The official launch was delivered at our annual Contest Pow Wow in August, 2006. This allowed for layers of editing, analysis and internal review by a significant number of people prior to the announced launch date.

The beauty of the system is that all content entered into the Research Library can be done completely internally by departmental staff who have limited training with technical applications. The Research Library will be an ever-growing asset.

This 21st century means of exhibition and transmittal of critical information via the Internet serves well the needs of our Tribal community. The opportunity to interpret, design, and create an interactive learning tool that protects the objects themselves while making them publicly accessible, highlighting critical points in Grand Ronde history and incorporating the teachings of our Elders in their own words, is priceless. Once again the Tribes can be the ones to determine the destiny of our words, history, and even artifacts. As written by James Pepper Henry of the National Museum of the American Indian (2004), the “stewardship” approach to collections management translates into the notion that the physical preservation of an object is not synonymous with the preservation of its cultural integrity. On-line exhibition not only allows Tribal identity to shine through using modern means, but also allows us to determine the appropriateness of collections care in the physical sense while incorporating traditional sensitivities.

Fig 5: Screen shot of Honoring Our Veterans, an important component of the Flash piece.

Fig 5: Screen shot of Honoring Our Veterans, an important component of the Flash piece.


This was the first major Internet initiative for the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde. The Tribes realized their planned physical museum would primarily serve Tribal Members and visitors living in the Pacific Northwest. Over the last 50 years Tribal Members have spread out to the point that almost 50% of tribal members are located outside the State of Oregon. The immediate need of providing a resource that was available to all Tribal members regardless of physical location and was also a way to connect with interested outside communities spurred the idea of an on-line project.

Our project started broad with a large number of target audiences and feature ideas brainstormed from visiting many inspirational reference sites. Potential target audiences included members, educators, tourists, neighbors, government officials and other tribes. In an age where accessibility and innovation are key elements of the Web, on-line projects such as Ntsayka Ikanum: Our Story are helping to lead the way in this realm. A leading example is the National Museum of the American Indian, that has been working with Native communities in the Americas, highlighting traditional concepts such as story-telling and seasonal rounds by engaging local communities and facilitating a means of sharing their stories via the Internet. Interactive media is incorporated and allows the visitor to experience Elders speaking their original languages, telling their own stories. Providing a glimpse into not only this history of Tribes, but also current activities and endeavors that we are undertaking is useful for the casual visitor along with government agencies with whom Tribes actively work on a regular basis. The federal agencies which are charged with government to government consultation are provided with an additional window of opportunity to learn about those with whom they are consulting. This perspective is an added bonus when the primary accomplishment is to provide the Grand Ronde community with an outlet for information exchange.

As we began to engage with our development partner, the enormity of the task at hand became clear. The project posed a challenge opposite to what one would traditionally find in the corporate world…..the sheer volume of content in a multitude of formats, databases and locations. The two primary project objectives were to:

Taxonomies, content requirement documents, functional specifications, and metadata tagging are all considerations that require an enormous and unexpected absorption of time.

Ntsayka Ikanum: Our Story

Quality over Quantity

Grand Ronde like many institutions has in place multiple collection management systems capable of directing a browser to tens of thousands of resources. On the surface the volume of content seemed to be a blessing. We could story board out nearly any point in Grand Ronde’s history and have a wide range of objects and assets to access. However, with the grant requirements, budget restraints, and daily workload outside of this project, limiting the concepts for Ntsayka Ikanum: Our Story was an important challenge. This was our first significant opportunity to share the wealth of knowledge possessed by CTGR for Tribal and public benefit, and to put restraints on it proved difficult. However, the dual components of the site design allows for us to make up the difference. What was not included in Ntsayka Ikanum: Our Story will potentially be incorporated into the Research Library.

One key lesson learned from the content review process is to track copyright permission up front in the database, as a significant amount of time was spent going back and tracking down permission from the original copyright holders to place the object for view on the site. Copyright holders were typically agreeable to sharing their resources for the project, however wanted assurances as to the measures we would take to protect their imagery from download and on-line reposting in a way they could not control. The decision was made to use Adobe Flash as the display mechanism as it reduces the ease with which a visitor to the database can download the artifact and post on another page. We decided not to invest in a digital rights management solution or watermarking system because permission was requested from the various institutions holding copyright, particularly on images. Adobe Flash reduces the risk of a visitor downloading text and images, while the Research Library will provide the detailed information, including institutional details and copyrights.

In addition to copyright permissions, we needed to be sensitive to individual privacy concerns. From historical medical records to legal affidavits, each item needed to be reviewed with consideration of how global publishing might affect those connected with the information. The pervasive sentiment of the time when many of these historic documents were created is one consideration not to be forgotten. For example, in 1884, the Secretary of the Interior published “Regulations of the Indian Office” which banned all traditional religious activities, ceremonies, dancing, and mandated Christian only/English education of Indian children. Violators were imprisoned, starved, beaten, and items of personal, spiritual and cultural importance stolen as punishment. Given this federal mandate, it is not surprising that many Indian Agents of the time were influenced in their report writings by these kinds of laws. In sum, many of the historical resources available today reflect ideas that were dominant in White society of the time, yet Tribal communities know better and are able to enlighten the public about these kinds of prejudices that may not be obvious to the average citizen.

How Can We Afford To Feed This In-Depth Flash Experience?

The Ntsayka Ikanum: Our Story project is an always evolving site that CTGR plans to continually update with new photos, videos, audio files and maps. The budget for the project allowed for the construction of the site but was not sufficient to outsource the site updates to our vendor. To solve this problem, ISITE Design developed an Adobe Flash engine that allows us to simply edit an XML file for the descriptive text, place the asset in the correct chapter folder, and voila! The Flash transitions and display elements (play, rewind, zoom etc.) are applied, depending on the type of asset. By clearly articulating this requirement upfront, we were able to identify a solution that allowed our non-technical team to begin editing and adding documents to the Flash piece after a two-hour training session.

How do we transition visitors from the structured Ntsayka Ikanum: Our Story to the free form research library to browse the majority of our collection?

You may have heard of Web services and content feeds. This is a perfect example of the tremendous value on-line museums can gain by establishing these feeds. As a browser navigates the Flash piece, related content artifacts will be highlighted in the Learn More section of Ntsayka Ikanum: Our Story. The hope is to arouse visitors’ curiosity on topics in the Flash piece and induce them to jump over to the research library for in-depth access to the other 99% of artifacts that did not make the cut for the Flash component. Flexibility of movement between the two components was an important consideration.

Which stories should the Flash piece tell, and how do we achieve balance between Ntsayka Ikanum: Our Story and the Research Library?

Attempting to tell the story of the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde in an accurate, concise, interesting and intelligible way was a great challenge. The sheer volume of content provided great opportunity, but also required limitations. Incorporating the various media was also an important consideration. Oral histories and traditions are and have always been the means of sharing information within the Tribal community. Song, dance, and family recollections as well needed to be shared, as these are the true expressions of the people. Therefore audio, video, and interactive panels would provide the format for the Flash piece as they involve the viewer as well as express the tribal voice.

Another consideration was the format for getting across the information. Linear methods do not reflect native thought processes, so we worked to tell the story in a fluid fashion while allowing each chapter to be independent and stand alone, as part of the circular story. Each chapter represents different time periods so that users can investigate what interests them most. Taken as a whole, the Flash piece speaks to Tribal history from the Myth Age all the way to today’s community in a way that includes first person voice, images, and text. The Research Library is intended to provide primary source material in its original format as well as the entire content of the Flash component to – everything that could not fit Ntsayka Ikanum: Our Story.

Fig 6: Home page of Research Library

Fig 6: Home page of Research Library

Research Library Specific Challenges

A consistent taxonomy across our multiple collection management systems was lacking going into the project, so all of that had to be communally brainstormed and applied across the board to every piece of material intended for the Research Library. The cross-referencing of these taxonomies to link related subjects, photos, records, and oral histories is a monumental task that will continue for years to come, particularly as the Research Library continues to grow.

Over the last decade the Grand Ronde collection management systems logged many artifacts with inconsistent descriptive records. As CTGR opens the database up to on-line access, there is a significant data improvement process underway to ensure the search experience works well for end users. Search results will only be as accurate as the quality of the records in the database. To that end, the decision was made to launch the two components at different times in order to provide a resource for reference as soon as possible, while still achieving the goal of top-notch quality.

Promising Directions

One significant goal is to amplify the role that our interactive technology plays in the classroom, providing additional tools and lesson plans for teachers to increase the prevalence of Native American history and culture in their lesson plans. Resources available both on the Flash component as well as in the Research Library will be forthcoming, particularly in terms of the promulgation of our Chinuk Wawa language. Curriculum developed for both the adult language classes now taught in Grand Ronde, Portland, and Eugene, as well as our pre-school and kindergarten immersion school may be available in the near future.

The research library contains a rich Web 2.0 component allowing tribal members to share, collaborate and interact with the artifacts previously housed in our archives. Whether in the form of corrections, identification, or general conversation, most items in our collection could benefit from additional input by the site visitor. We established a user commentary feature at the artifact level in the Research Library, allowing a site visitor to comment on an item and send that comment to our staff or request to have it posted as part of a moderated discussion around the specific object. This facet will be an indispensable asset, as the knowledge in the community now has a way to be facilitated and incorporated into the official record. Again, there is a multi-layered internal review process so that information can be checked, verified, and approved prior to public posting. This kind of access and multi-directional interaction will hopefully lead to reducing the geographical distances separating many of our tribal communities while improving the quality of our record specific descriptions and overall site content.

As a part of the aforementioned ANA SEDS grant, a separate project proposal with related outcomes concerned the initial planning phase of the physical Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde Museum and Cultural Center. Work commenced on this vital project at the same time. The result of the grant gave us a Museum Master plan that incorporated site analysis and selection, community meetings with Tribal members’ input, and an initial design concept for the physical structure. The beauty of doing these projects simultaneously is that the support generated from within the community was reflected in both project results. The on-line museum development not only provides Grand Ronde with a basis for story line development in the physical museum, but also gives us a vital tool to encourage support and funding for this long-desired cultural center.

Fig 7: Museum planning site analysis diagram.

Fig 7: Museum planning site analysis diagram.

The on-line components of our project will hopefully attract visitors from throughout the world to visit our physical museum. Our Web applications currently support the generation of RSS feeds from our data and image repositories which could be consumed by portals such as France’s NetVibes, helping to spread awareness and generate more interest in the Grand Ronde history and traditions to a broader audience. The concern at this time is copyright protection as most portals do not have built-in digital rights management for image streams. Video and text documents can be consumed with a much lower degree of copyright concern


From an empirical perspective, since the launch visitors spend an average of more than 20 minutes browsing our on-line experience. This is compared to an average of 2 minutes per Web site. Additionally, since the launch of Ntsayka Ikanum: Our Story, the volume of visitors to our site has doubled. This statistic in itself tends to the belief that the site is accomplishing the goals originally set out: providing access with security, providing a single source for Grand Ronde information, and most importantly, speaking with a Tribal voice, telling our own story in an innovative and interesting way. The potential audience for the Virtual Gallery is far from realized.

Even more rewarding for us, though, is watching visitors interact with Ntsayka Ikanum: Our Story, for the first time. We chose to launch the on-line experience at our 2006 Contest Pow-Wow. This is an annual Tribal celebration that brings together Tribal members and Elders from near and far, community members, and interested visitors either to participate in the dancing and drumming competitions, or to observe and enjoy the skills and talents displayed by the participants. While Pow Wow’s aren’t customary in our area, it has become a 20th century tradition that brings the Grand Ronde community together, often for family reunions organized around the same time. Because many folks come home for this event, we hoped to reach a wide audience for the launch, and so sent out invitations to all Tribal households inviting them to attend the launch party. As part of this, we opened our computer lab with all browsers defaulted to the on-line experience. The feedback was incredible.

Fig 8: ISITE Design and Grand Ronde staff at the launch party, August 16, 2006.

Fig 8: ISITE Design and Grand Ronde staff at the launch party, August 16, 2006.

 Fig 9: Tribal elders, members, and staff experience Ntsayka Ikanum: Our Story for the first time at the launch in August 16, 2006.

 Fig 9: Tribal elders, members, and staff experience Ntsayka Ikanum: Our Story for the first time at the launch in August 16, 2006.

Tears came to the eyes of a tribal member from the Midwest experiencing video of tribal elders who have passed on. Meanwhile young tribal members were watching a video of their great grandmother whom they never knew. One Tribal member called to say that she had never seen the photo of her father on the baseball team, and that receiving the postcard invitation with the screen shot of the landing page was the highlight of her week. “It’s the Grand Ronde Tribes’ virtual museum, titled “Ntsayka Ikanum-Our Story.” There’s a huge amount of material there, so sit down with a cup of coffee and browse. A lot of you have wanted to find more Jargon learning materials and now you’ve got them. Here are some other comments in people’s own words. A linguist, student of Chinuk Wawa and PhD candidate at the University of Victoria wrote,

At this Web site there’s video and audio of a pronunciation key, elders speaking Chinook, an audio essay on the origin of Jargon (in Chinuk, the immersion preschool kids talking), and more. And that’s just when you click the “Wawa” button. You just click a button to read it in the language you want. The other buttons lead you to extensive material about traditional culture, origins of the reservation, the elders, reservation history, and the contemporary community. The tribes have done a fantastic job with the virtual museum. You could easily spend a couple of hours browsing through it. You’ll find nice features throughout.

One of the Tribal teachers commented, “Wow, the site is amazing! I am able to show Wilson Bobb, one of my students, his namesake [and great-grandfather] speaking Chinuk!” Another visitor wrote, “I’m not a Grand Ronde Tribal member, but as a Native person I think it is so important to have Native history available. It’s so awesome that Tribal members worldwide will be able to feel a connection to the history of their people. Awesome job!” And a final thought by a Tribal member, “It is very nice seeing my family and relatives, a lot of whom I never met or knew due to termination policies enforced on our family. I hope we get our Museum soon.”

These are the sorts of invaluable cultural interactions that we hoped would come to fruition. We have begun to harness the power of the Web in preserving and disseminating our culture in a sensitive and accurate way. We see many exciting opportunities to increase the impact of our interactive work both within our community and the world.

Fig 10: Memories of our Elders, part of Ntsayka Ikanum: Our Story

Fig 10: Memories of our Elders, part of Ntsayka Ikanum: Our Story


We wish to thank the staff at ISITE Design and the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde who have worked so tirelessly on this project.


Haakanson, Sven, Jr. (2004). “Understanding Sacredness: Facing the Challenges of Cultural Change”. In L. Sullivan and A. Edwards (ed.), Stewards of the Sacred. Washington, D.C.: American Association of Museums in cooperation with the Center for the Study of World Religions, Harvard University, 123-128.

Henry, James Pepper (2004). “Challenges in Managing Culturally Sensitive Collections at the National Museum of the American Indian”. In L. Sullivan and A. Edwards (ed.) Stewards of the Sacred. Washington, D.C.: American Association of Museums in cooperation with the Center for the Study of World Religions, Harvard University, 105-112.

Cite as:

Trolan, L., and P. Williams, Ntsayka Ikanum: A Native American Approach to the On-line Experience, in J. Trant and D. Bearman (eds.). Museums and the Web 2007: Proceedings, Toronto: Archives & Museum Informatics, published March 1, 2007 Consulted

Editorial Note