First Voices

Mentorship Program

First Voices' year-long semester-based mentorship program serves young adults in Title I reservation schools. Workshops reconnect high-school students from the First Nations with their heritage by documenting and re-creating ancestral stories, using contemporary online media production techniques. Students create an interpretation of the stories they discover from their elders, working with professional artists (from both inside and outside their communities) to develop artwork, music, and choreography. The output of this process is a short performance video with behind the scene footage that is published to an online gallery.

The workshop process is both personal, as each student explores their individual voice, and also intensely collaborative in all aspects of storytelling including video and audio production.


Storytelling workshop led by Preeti Vasudevan and Alaina Buffalo Spirit at Montana State University, Billings (2021)

Year 1: Lame Deer High School

September 2021 – May 2022

Thresh initiated a new partnership with Montana State University, Billings alongside Lame Deer High School to host the inaugural First Voices Mentorship Program. Artists interacted with ten students from the Lame Deer school across multiple disciplines of storytelling. The initial phase occurred in September 2021 where students learned choreography, visual art expression, and introductory film making and camera presentation tips. These new skills were combined as students created their own interpretations of an ancient Northern Cheyenne story. 

Subsequent phases of the First Voices program will help scaffold and generate the students’ version of their ancestral story infused with personal approaches to creative expression. Activities include self-exploration through various media, team building exercises, filming and editing, and more. Students will document the process of creation and share the impact of this collaborative journey at the end of the project. 


The mentorship will culminate in May 2022 with a public presentation and installation of the digital story alongside behind-the-scenes videos, panel discussions with the student team, teachers, and artists involved in the project. Students' stories will be taken on tour to share with other Indigenous students across the country and archived for viewing on all sponsoring partners’ websites.

"The trip brought me closer to my classmates... I was told the Great Race story growing up and it was fun to retell it as a dance and meet other people doing it." 


Shondine Kaline, Lame Deer High School 

Mentorship Program Skills and Outcomes

Throughout the program, students learn skills from professional artists to contemporary interpretations of ancient legends:

  • Narration & visual art techniques

  • Film performance & script adaptation

  • Storyboarding for film

  • Digital filming and post-production learning

  • Music composition, audio recording & practical studio application

  • Dance & movement interpretation of stories

  • Virtual & in-person presentation skills

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Storytelling workshop led by Preeti Vasudevan and Alaina Buffalo Spirit at Montana State University, Billings (2021)