Exploring Indigeneity, Place, Tradition, and Transmission in a Virtual World

Jeremya Keartes and Anna Swanson

For the past six months, we have been involved in a World Learning international project. During the collaboration between Oregon Folklife Network and the “Alexandru Stefulescu” Gorj County Museum, we partnered up with professionals, students, and artists in Târgu Jiu, Gorj County, Romania to learn about their cultural traditions as we taught them about ours here in Oregon. Our project took a place-based intergenerational approach to exploring the transmission of Native American and Romanian artistic traditions including beadwork and regalia making, storytelling, rug weaving, icon painting, and wood carving. Through virtual cross-cultural learning, we engaged with one another’s communities and discussed topics including indigeneity, nativism, cultural appropriation, decolonization, sovereignty, and representation.

Throughout this uncertain time, living through a global pandemic, many things have changed. A big adjustment was the cancelation of planned physical travel to Oregon and Romania, which we transformed into a virtual tour experience. We also adapted our public programs by organizing synchronous Zoom “show and tell” sessions including all the participants.

We (Mya and Anna), had the role of creating and sharing our experiences through social media. These platforms included: Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Pinterest. The creation of our social media platforms allowed us to share our project, website and virtual tour with a larger audience. We were fortunate to gather support from individuals all over the world. We are so grateful to have made lasting connections with our Romanian friends.

To learn more about our project, visit Alive as Folk, check out our zine, and explore your own folklore with our downloadable activity pages.

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Oregon-Romania project participants with and without our masks during a Zoom meeting, May 2020

Roberta Kirk explaining to us the meanings in her beadwork

Traditional Salmon Bake, Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs, Oregon

Filomela Sîrbu – Tiştere and Claudia Drăghescu at their loom in Tismana, Romania

Claudia Drăghescu teaches the craft of weaving to one of her students

Florin Gheorghiu showing us one of his ikon paintings

Esther Stutzman telling the group a story during our Zoom meeting, May 2020


Alive as Folk is part of the project “Exploring Indigeneity, Place, Traditions, and Transmission” funded by Communities Connecting Heritage. Communities Connecting HeritageSM is sponsored by the U.S. Department of State with funding provided by the U.S. government and administered by World Learning. The University of Oregon Folklore and Public Culture Program also provided support for this project as did the Oregon Historical Society, Oregon Arts Commission, High Desert Museum, the Museum at Warm Springs, Confederated Tribes of Siletz Indians, Klamath Tribes, the Museum of Natural and Cultural History, UO Special Collections and University Archives, and the many individuals noted on the project website.

Follow World Learning on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram @worldlearning; the US Dept of State on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram @StateDept as well as on Facebook @ExchangeProgramsAtState and on Instagram @exchangeourworld.

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