Great Lakes History

Great Lakes Living History Storytelling Incubator

The Great Lakes Living History project connects student learning with field investigation of storytelling as a mechanism for documenting and sustaining rural community history. The project is “storytelling incubator” because it intends to create a sustainable infrastructure for ongoing storytelling and theatre performance in the region. The Great Lakes Living History project will use oral performance to document local histories, animate public space, engage community partners, and encourage tourism in the Sault Ste. Marie region.

The project brings University of Michigan students to the Upper Peninsula to partner with local organizations in Sault Ste. Marie. During fall break 2015, students spend 4 days at the Sugar Island education center of the Sault Tribe of Chippewa where they interview and interact with tribal elders who share stories and storytelling techniques. Collectively, the participants document in writing their understanding of, and responses to the stories they have heard. During the winter 2016 semester, students write a performance work in collaboration with Sault Ste. Marie residents that will be staged and presented in Sault Ste. Marie during May/June 2016.

The project establishes an infrastructure for continuing activities such as internships or writing/research collaborations with the Chippewa communities and with the Upper Peninsula historical and tourist agencies.

There is a strategic element of this proposal that complements the intellectual goals. We are in the middle of a period when the costs of an undergraduate education are becoming formidable obstacles to those students whose parents are less fortunate financially. Online courses (MOOCs) offer substantially similar educational benefits as university lecture courses for a fraction of the cost. If bricks-and‐mortar institutions such as the University of Michigan are going to thrive in the decades ahead, they will have to depend on providing intellectual opportunities that cannot be transmitted down a fiber optic cable. It is hoped that this new lab course will serve as a model for integrating theoretical concepts with hands‐on experiences that will greatly enlarge the depth of understanding of critical concepts.

Project Team:

Anita Gonzalez, Professor of Theatre and Drama, School of Music, Theatre and Dance

Dana Sitzler, Associate Director of State Outreach, Office of the Vice President for Government Relations