December 1, 2017
Great People Doing Great Things: Using 3D Printing to Preserve Culture
The Smithsonian regularly works with several indigenous clans and communities to apply 3D digitization and replication technologies to cultural preservation and restoration issues.
With equipment support from the Smithsonian’s Digitization Program Office and joined by University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill student and photogrammetry specialist Abigail Gancz, SIE Model Maker Chris Hollshwander, and Smithsonian Public Affairs Specialist Nick Partridge, the team at the Smithsonian attended the 2017 Tlingit Sharing Our Knowledge Conference. Held at the Sitka Fine Arts Camp in October, the conference offered an ideal forum to further foster our relationship with the Tlingit people and present new opportunities for collaboration.
While at the conference, our team took over a room for four days and demonstrated 3D digitization and replication technology. Clan leaders brought in clan hats, helmets, headdresses, and rattles to have them digitized using photogrammetry—a technique that merges data from hundreds of individual digital images--to construct 3D models. During the conference, the Tlingit received seven repatriated pieces, including several helmets and headdresses returned by the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian.
Preservation and perpetuation of their cultural heritage is of the utmost importance to the Tlingit community as their identity is inseparable from their clan objects. Applying 3D technology to indigenous objects not only provides insurance against future loss, but also facilitates knowledge sharing and helps restore cultural practices. Together, the Smithsonian and the Tlingit people are showing how advances in technology can be used to tackle some very old challenges to make sure the culture survives and thrives for future generations.
Childhood Trauma Can Be Passed to the Next Generation (And the Importance of the Healing portion of our ministry)
It's been established for a while that some mental health issues have genetic causes, but a new study has found that trauma may impact your genes — and this could impact future generations of your family. The effects of childhood trauma can be passed down to future generations, according to a new study published on Nov. 29 in the medical journal JAMA Psychiatry. The study was conducted by researchers at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), as well as researchers at the Uppsala University in Sweden, and Helsinki University in Finland.
The researchers studied the mental health of children whose parents were evacuated as children from Finland during World War II, and found the trauma the parents experienced as youth directly impacted their children — especially their daughters. They also studied the children of Finnish people who were not evacuated during World War II, but instead, remained in their homes. According to the study, female evacuees and their daughters were at a much greater risk of being hospitalized for psychiatric mood disorders when compared to Finnish women who were not evacuated and their children. In fact, daughters of the Finnish evacuees were over four times more likely to be hospitalized for mental health issues — whether or not their mothers were hospitalized themselves. Interestingly, the study found no increased risk for the sons of evacuees.
Between 1941 and 1945, thousands of children were sent to live in Sweden and neighboring countries to escape wartime hazards like bombings, malnutrition, and other potential danger. However, while the evacuees escaped those physical dangers, they faced even greater psychological trauma from having to leave their parents, learn a new language, and adapt to a new culture.
Sounds a lot like the trauma experienced by Native children taken to the residential schools.
The Importance of Names
At a talk this October, Alaska Republican Sen. Dan Sullivan recounted how President Donald Trump offered to switch the name of Denali, the state’s highest peak, back to Mount McKinley. Sullivan boasted that he and fellow Alaska Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski quickly nixed the idea. It was only two years ago, in a move that state residents supported, that former President Barack Obama had changed the name from McKinley to Denali.
Renaming Denali is just the latest name change in Alaska. In 2000, residents of Sheldon Point changed their community’s name to Nunam Iqua, a Yup’ik word meaning “the end of the tundra.” In 2012, Rat Island in the Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge — named for the rats introduced through an 18th century shipwreck — became Hawadax, the Unangan word for “entry” or “welcome.” Next came a flurry of changes to interior Alaskan rivers and a state census area. In each, Alaska Native words replaced references to explorers, politicians and military figures. The Wade Hampton Census Area was renamed Kusilvak as Hampton had been a Confederate general and slave owner with no ties to Alaska.
But change is not limited to Alaska. In Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Montana, the derogatory word “squaw” has recently been stripped from scores of place names. Oregon reportedly had the most, including over 60 Squaw Creeks. Following state legislation, the names are disappearing.
Yet changing names is never a simple procedure. Proponents must win over state naming commissions, then petition the U.S. Board on Geographic Names. Support from legislators, governors or public-lands officials is often needed, and local consensus is critical. But consensus is never a given. Residents may object to changes for many reasons, saying that the old names are familiar, that changing maps raises safety issues, or that it costs too much to revise maps, signs and official documents. Even when a proposal gains ground, deciding on a new name can spark more debate, as recently happened in Washington’s San Juan Islands. Residents there agreed to jettison Squaw Bay but then opposed an Indigenous suggestion because of a perceived difficulty in pronunciation.
Nevertheless, the debate over place names is here to stay. Regardless of the outcome, we will find ourselves increasingly considering the relationships that have long existed between people, cultures and the places we call home.