For 17 years, Timothy Powell has worked to digitize Native American archival materials, such as photographs, documents, and recordings of songs, for language preservation and cultural revitalization. These efforts have been boosted most recently through the creation of the Penn Language Center’s EPIC, or Educational Partnerships with Indigenous Communities, which Powell directs.
“A big part of [EPIC] is about listening to these Native partners; they are the traditional knowledge keepers,” says Powell, a senior lecturer in the Department of Religious Studies in the School of Arts & Sciences (SAS). “They provide a whole different kind of intelligence that we never see in the academy. We don’t meet these people because they don’t have college degrees, but they have incredible knowledge and wisdom. My whole career has been about trying to share that.”
At an upcoming Lightbulb Café, hosted by SAS in partnership with the Office of University Communications, Powell will open up a discussion about using Native American teachings to better understand the environment and climate change. The talk will take place on Tuesday, June 13, at 6 p.m. at World Cafe Live Philadelphia.
Powell will discuss the protests at Standing Rock, and more local happenings in Philadelphia, too. A video produced by Alex Schein of SAS will be screened, showcasing Penn faculty talking about Standing Rock. Powell will also share “A Story for Healing the Deer,” a short film that features Larry Aitken, a tribal historian for the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe, and a good friend of Powell’s.
“It tells the story of how this young boy learns to heal a deer,” explains Powell. “At the end of the video, the grandson says, ‘Grandfather, I healed the deer.’ And the grandfather says, ‘No, my son, the deer has healed you.’ It will set the stage for a fun and interesting dialogue.”
Additional cafés this summer are science-related, with Jane Dmochowski, a senior lecturer in the Department of Earth and Environmental Science, discussing “Remote Sensing: The Earth’s Increasingly Helpful Physician” on Tuesday, July 18, and James Aguirre, an associate professor in the Department of Physics & Astronomy, discussing “Watching the Hidden Evolution of Galaxies” on Tuesday, Aug. 15.
The idea to host Science Cafés was initiated in 2005 as a means to shine a spotlight on Penn research in the sciences. The Lightbulb Cafés, established in 2011, illuminate research in social science, arts, and humanities. All lectures are held on Tuesday evenings upstairs at World Cafe Live, and are free and open to the public. Each talk begins at 6 p.m. and is followed by an audience Q&A session. Come early for happy hour specials.
For more information on this summer’s Café schedule, or to see the slated lineup for the fall, visit the Café website.