Changing the Narrative

August 6, 2019

Portrait of Jill Fish

Portrait of Jill Fish
Photo by Austin Miller, CLAgency student

There are at least two sides to every story. Multiple perspectives, ideas, and histories. But what happens when one narrative is consistently put forward? And what if that narrative oppresses the people it’s about? Jill Fish, a PhD candidate in psychology, works to change that single narrative and create more equitable spaces for Native people.

Fish grew up on the Tuscarora Reservation in New York, giving her a deep understanding of the cultural framework of her community. “I was immersed in the culture and history of my tribe... and there was a lot of strength and resilience in that. At the same time, there was a lot of oppression and effects of oppression, like poverty, substance abuse, and trauma,” Fish explains. “I was curious: how do these things that seem so opposite [strength and oppression] exist in one place, and how do people navigate both these things?”

Fish’s dissertation project is the Native American Digital Storytelling Workshop. She and her team of research assistants visit urban centers in Minnesota to host workshops where people come in and share their stories. The team records each writer telling their life story, their lived experiences, or their history. Each story helps to change the long-held, single-sided narrative about Native populations and empowers members of Minnesota’s Native communities to give voice to their own strength. Fish hopes to continue collecting these stories and create a website so that anyone can access first-person accounts of Native experiences.

Fish’s work was supported by funds from the University of Minnesota’s Grand Challenges Initiative and the Dr. Jo-Ida C. Hansen Dissertation Research Award.

Read the full story, "New Stories for Community Transformation"