This Native American history project required me to create additional stop words that might be considered sacred. Interviewers had not practiced this when these oral histories took place in the 1970’s, but historians do now. I created an additional set of stop words that by some standards, means that I have already played with the results.
I view this as a crucial component of being a humanist. I am a humanist first and humanist à la digital second. Working with the sacred means that I must respect that and honor traditions over conventional digital humanities practices. I would love to tell you that I struggled with creating an additional list of stop words, but I did not even flinch. In fact, it was only until after I created the stop list and saw the difference between the pre-additional list and post-additional list that I became concerned. At the end of the day, I am honoring the lives of the people that I study. Being a mindful digital humanist has been one of the largest takeaways that I had from this entire project.
Below are selections from single-person interviews:
Taken together I can see how family, time, and land are very important. Of course, in the third one down, I can also see “bullet,” which signifies a series of very important historical battles between the Lakota, Dakota, and the U.S. Federal Government. In fact, I know that this person was at the Ghost Dance of 1890.
Then when I run them all together, the collective data provides somewhat different results. Time, land, healing, and assimilation come into the forefront. Using digital humanist tools like R allows me to hone by argument as a Native American historian. The statistical analysis demonstrates that American Indians remember U.S. interventions on their land in stark terms: traditional and forced-assmiliative pathways. “Land” is especially telling because it tells two stories: one that land is part of who the Lakota and Dakota peoples are and also that the U.S. and white settlers endeavored to first seize their land, and second, to change their relationship to the land.