Oral history standards and guidelines

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Once a project has been selected and the goal or direction that you wish to pursue refined, knowledgeable people must be identified (note: this list may contain both elders and younger individuals). Interviewees should be chosen who potentially have the most to offer, given your chosen theme or direction. Once the names of interviewees are identified, they should be prioritized. Selection for participation should focus on an individual’s range of knowledge over a broad area or depth for a given site or subject. Individuals not able to participate in the initial phase of the project can become involved in later segments. Both men and women should be selected so as to provide an opportunity to collect a wide range of perspectives from varying age groups and socioeconomic backgrounds.

If interviewees will be selected that speak languages other than English, knowledgeable people capable of interpreting and transcribing tapes, from their native language into English, should also be identified. Many interviewees feel most comfortable in speaking in their native language or find that it is impossible to express particular concepts or ideas into English. Use of whichever language interviewees feel most comfortable in should be encouraged. Individuals capable of accurate language interpretation and transcription need to be identified. These individuals should also be prioritized as to their knowledge of the language, dialect, geographic area involved in interviews, potential biases, and their availability.
Standardized recording forms should be designed prior to the commencement of the interview process. These forms should include an Oral History Information Form, Informant Biographical Data Form, Interview Consent Form, and a Cultural Resources Site Form (when applicable to project, use the Oregon SHPO site form). In addition, a summary index of all oral history tapes needs to be compiled for easy reference to area sites, appropriate transcripts, and knowledgeable interviewees.
An Oral History Information Form should include the following information: Tape number; date of interview; interviewee’s name and place of residence (age?); place of interview; name of interviewer, interpreter, and transcriber; language(s) spoken; geographic areas discussed during interview, and the appropriate U.S.G.S. map # covering the areas discussed. In addition, information on tape length, quality, recording problems, content, and transcription priority should also be included. Original tape deposition should be listed. A Guideline for Completing the Oral History Information Form is included here.
An Interviewee Biographical Data Form should include useful information regarding the interviewee such as name, birth date, place of residence, place of birth, occupation, parents names and place of birth, and, if applicable, subsistence use areas (i.e., general location for fishing, hunting areas, camps). This document will prove useful if you need to identify knowledgeable individuals to assist in future projects.
An Interview Consent Form needs to be designed to insure that the interviewee understands the nature of your project. It is important that each interviewee participating in your project understands how his/her assistance will further the knowledge of your project area and how such information gathered will be used. Be sure that any legal requirements on the use of human subjects have been satisfied prior to beginning the interview process (i.e., Human Subject Protocol requirements are outlined for any federally funded project – be sure to check with applicable federal agency). Sample oral history forms for all types mentioned above can be found later in this guideline.
It is recommended that all interviewees, interpreters, and transcribers be paid for their services. The interviewee should realize that their knowledge is considered valuable and their assistance is considered an essential ingredient of the project. An agreed upon wage should be determined for their services prior to the beginning of the interview process. The interview process should continue throughout all phases of your project. With this in mind, care needs to be taken during the initial phase to insure that recordings remain consistent with the standards of later recordings.
Oral history interviews can produce a range of products. After the creation of audio and/or videotapes, cultural data from each interview needs to be compiled and stored on various written forms. These forms provide researchers with a means to track cultural information to its original source; the oral interview. There are three key products paramount to an oral history interview or project. They are: (1) a Tape Index form; (2) Oral History Interview Summary form; and (3) Oral History Cultural Resource Inventory form. Each of these forms should be considered essential products to be completed after each interview. Samples of each of these forms are included below (see Figures 1-3).
(1) The Tape Index Form serves as a quick guide or directory to all interviews completed during a given project. It includes the following information: the tape number; date of interview; the name of the interviewee, interpreter, and interviewer; location of the interview; language(s) used; and a brief summary of tape contents (i.e., sites discussed, key words).
(2) The Oral History Interview Summary Form provides a detailed summary of each interview's contents. Each form identifies the name of the interviewee, interpreter, and interviewer; specifies the date, length, and location of the interview; tape number; language(s) used; a summary of topics discussed; and a detailed breakdown of the tape contents referenced by time and counter number location. This form provides a researcher with the means to quickly track important recorded information on identified cultural properties back to the information source - the interview recordings.
(3) The Oral History Cultural Resource Inventory Form provides a complete summary of each identified site's location, description, and significance. It should include the following information for each identified site: Site name (Native/ English) and its translation; complete legal description; site type; season of use; duration of use; site description; age; significance; list of citations containing historic/ prehistoric information regarding the site (both oral history tapes and historical documents); and a map of the site showing its exact location and extent (boundaries). This Cultural Resource Inventory Form will provide researchers with a means to document each identified property and insure that protection measures will be enforced.
While the above products are not essential for every oral history project their use can greatly facilitate access to interview recordings and provide a mechanism to track the location and progress of each interview tape and transcript. Tape transcripts provide a complete description of a tape's contents and are much easier to use then a tape. While ready access to this information can prove extremely helpful to later researchers, tape transcripts may be a lower priority for some projects because they are not deemed necessary for your current project and are expensive to complete.


Repository: Mt Hood National Forest

Tape #







Tape Contents

(Sites mentioned, Names, Key Words. etc.)


Jan. 18 2004





John Cleo,

Mary McCrey





Tape discusses: Celilo Falls, Wishram, Wakemap, Hood River area, Native occupancy in the Dallesport area, rock art sites along the Columbia, and destruction of fishing sites by The Dalles and Bonneville Dams.


Jan. 22



Martin & Jose Tima



Mary McCrey

Hood River,


English/ Spanish

Discussion focuses on Native use of the area between Wind River and the lower White Salmon River. Activities around Husum, Bingen, White Salmon, and Stevenson are highlighted.


Jan. 23



Shepard &





Mary McCrey




English/ Sahaptin

Interviewees give Native place names for sites/areas along the Oregon side of the Columbia River between Cascade Locks and Hood River. Detailed site info. given for area directly west of Hood River


Jan. 25






John Cleo

Warm Springs, Oregon


Place names given along both sides of Columbia River between Portland and the Hood River. Some locations only approximated. Field visit needed to substantiate.


Feb. 3


Larry Cline




John Cleo,

Mary McCrey

On-site visit near Wind River


Interview discusses site-specific information concerning three small camps and fishing areas located near the confluence of the Columbia and Hood Rivers. Reference made to small unmarked grave to south.


Feb. 9






John Cleo

On-site visit to river villages

English/ Sahaptin

Place names given along both sides of Columbia River between The Dalles and the Deschutes River. Field visit verified sites locations mentioned in Tape 96CR04. Descriptive info. on Deschutes River sites also given.

Tape # 04CR07 Interviewee(s): Jason Blackmore and Nettie Slater

Date of Interview: August 18, 2004 Location: Hood River, Oregon Length: 1 hour

Interviewer: Dennis Griffin Interpreter: William Harris
Language(s): English / Sahaptin Topic of Interview: Growing up along the Columbia River during the early 20th century


Min. Counter # Tape Contents
Side 1

18 Childhood memories at Celilo.

2 65 Family fish camp near Spearfish. Stories of local feasts.
12 300 Measles epidemic of 1910.
17 400 School days at Chemawa Indian school in Salem. Summers returning to help with fishing.
25 610 Death of grandfather. Left Chemawa to return to Columbia River and work with family. Helped father build house near Mosier, OR.
Side 2 Continuation of life history along Columbia River.
4 100 Nettie's marriage to local fisherman. They move to Hood River and raise two children. Jason becomes active in local struggle to retain fishing rights along river.
15 350 Jason joins the Marine Corp and fights in the Korean War. Returns to Oregon and marries woman from Montana.
24 590 Jason becomes active in Tribal politics.

Key Words: Celilo Falls, Spearfish, Wishram, The Dalles, Hood River, Mosier, Tommy

Thompson, fishing weirs, subsistence use, seasonal round, spring camps, winter village, Chemawa.

Tribal/Ethnic Affiliation: CT Warm Springs

Site Temporary Number: WS 37 Official Site Number: none given

Native Name: Woq'sat Variation: La'tloxtaq

Translation: Hot Water Translation: to bathe; to become clean

Source: 95CRG13; 95CRG20 Source: 04CR13

LEGAL DESCRIPTION: T 21 S R 13 E Sec. 19 SW ¼ NE ¼ SE ¼

U.S.G.S. 7.5' Series (1:24,000): Quadrangle: East Lake, Oregon Date 1982

Site Type:

X Habitation ____ Cemetery X Other

_ __ Village ____ Isolated Burial X Trail

X Camp ____ Multiple Burial ____ Procurement Locale

____ Other ____ Cache

____ Spiritual site

____ Legendary Site

Season of use: ___ spring ___ summer X fall ___ winter ___ year-round ___ unknown

Duration of Use: ____ Single Occupation X Repeated Occupations ___ unknown

Physical Site Description: Small camp site located along the north bank of East Lake. Site extends approximately 300 meters along lake shore, on both sides of a small perennial stream, and north of the lake at least 100 meters. Visibility is poor due to thick understory obscuring much of the area away from the lake shore. Native elders recall staying at camp with few hunters but have heard stories of larger encampments. Several thermal water vents issue from beach area along shorelines. Thermal activity central attraction to site area. Lithic debris can be seen scattered throughout the area. Quantity of material probably due to extensive obsidian flows in area.
Age: ____ Present X 1900-1950 X 1855-1900 X Contact-1855

X Prehistoric DATE: __________________

Dating Method:

X Oral History ____ Historical Records X Interpretive ____ Absolute

Site Significance: Elders from the Warm Springs Reservation state that this site was used every fall by hunters while searching for large game. Thermal pools were excavated along the lake shore so as to facilitate bathing. Thermal waters well known for therapeutic qualities and water would often be bottled and taken home for later consumption. Site's location near large mountain lake, fresh water, and ample quantities of lithic material made it an ideal location for a seasonal camp.

Degree of representation in oral tradition:

___ Very High X High ___ Fair ___ Low ___ Nonexistent


Oral History: Tape # 04CR13 Interviewee: Jason Childers

Tape # 04CR20 Interviewee: Paul and Nora Blalock

Tape # 04CR25 Interviewee: Jeffery L. Monetass

Tape # _________________ Interviewee: _______________________

Previous Investigations: NONE

Historical Accounts: ___________________________________________________________

Existing Collections of artifacts or oral history: None known

Site Map: (attach copy of U.S.G.S. 7.5 Minute Series) East Lake, Oregon

R 13 E

T 21 S


Known Boundary - - - - - - -

Possible Boundary 

Other Symbols N


Scale: 1:24000


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