First Voices is a project that works with historically marginalized First Nations people across generations to express their stories digitally. Founded by Thresh under the leadership of cultural storyteller and choreographer Preeti Vasudevan, this groundbreaking initiative seeks to build an archive of First Nations elders' wisdom through their storytelling. Narration from tribal elders is accompanied by artistic interpretations from Native and non-Native artists alike, linking their ancestral stories to contemporary life for future generations.
This project focuses on fostering inter-tribal and intergenerational exchange and collaboration, which are critical connections between different cultures and peoples. Through this process, community members transcend individual tribal histories and create a new story within a contemporary collective. A key area of this project is focusing on the healing of trauma and isolation amongst the community, especially youth, through the interplay of stories (both ancient and modern) that help individual identity and build a strong sense of community within the tribes and outside. Another important aspect of the project is the preservation of tribal languages rendered through oral storytelling techniques by the elders of the tribe. This inspires younger generations to appreciate and understand cultural significance and ancestral roots through the elders' use of their language.
At the heart of this initiative is a year-long Mentorship Program tailored specifically for high school and college students from reservations, taking place at their schools and tribal colleges. This intergenerational component links voices across generations and reveals the contemporary relevance of enduring Indigenous cultures. Through participation, students increase their confidence, build trust and discover talents across multiple arts, and develop leadership skills.
"This project is a great way to promote our culture and show people that we are still here and our way is not lost."
—Samuel Haugen, Senior, Lame Deer High School
First Voices is a partnership between Thresh and the local, Montana-based community including:
Arts Education Director, Montana Arts Council
Alaina Buffalo Spirit
Northern Cheyenne Tribes Advisor
Don Wetzel Jr.
Tribal Relations, Montana Office of Public Instruction; Blackfeet Tribe member
Art Educator, Lame Deer Schools, Montana
Art Educator and Fundraising Consultant
Director of the Henry Luce III Center for the Arts & Religion, Wesley Theological Seminary
"Although many Indigenous communities actively reclaim their narrative, allyship is still necessary. I believe this partnership will assist in the perpetuation of culture and heritage and highlight potential in the sovereignty of storytelling for cultural groups."
—Ben Pease, Visual Artist
First Voices is supported by: