NEH funds SFA program to gather oral histories of climate change

We’re so excited to share that The National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) has awarded funds to our a new ClimateLore initiative, an oral history project to document climate risk, loss, and adaptation in two desert regions of the US-Mexico borderlands.

This version of ClimateLore is a partnership between SFA, Tohono O’odham Young Voices Podcast (TOYVP) on the Tohono O’odham Nation and La Semilla Food Center (LSFC) in Anthony, NM, and draws on our shared philosophies that collective narratives must include people who have been historically and systematically excluded from resources, land, and narrative-shaping in both the Chihuahuan and Sonoran Deserts. All three organizations follow a participatory and non-extractive approach, rooted in listening to, collaborating with, and amplifying voices often marginalized or unheard. For SFA, those stories are centered in folklife practices across cultures; for LSFC, in relationships between people and land, including elements and plants of the Chihuahuan Desert; for TOYVP, in the experiences of Indigenous people across generations, predominantly of the Sonoran Desert. Interviews will focus on climate histories, threats to folklife and cultural heritage practices, and adaptive strategies in both the Sonoran and Chihuahuan Deserts.

“Traditional and adaptive land stewardship practices are an important part of culture and folklife. This award feels like a solid recognition of the long-lived relationships—over generations—between land and people in the desert borderlands and the present-day ways people are working together to meet climate challenges. We’re especially thrilled that it will help strengthen and support the incredible work of our two partner organizations, one on the Tohono O’odham Nation and the other in El Paso, Texas to document stories of their own people and environments,” said Kimi Eisele, SFA folklorist and ClimateLore project director.

The project is one of 260 other humanities projects receiving NEH support, and one of 18 grants awarded within the NEH’s Cultural and Community Resilience program, supporting community-based efforts to preserve cultural heritage in the wake of climate change and COVID-19. Funding comes, in part, from the agency’s American Tapestry: Weaving Together Past, Present, and Future initiative, which assists small and mid-sized cultural organizations—particularly those in underserved communities—in strengthening public humanities programming.


Tohono O’odham Young Voices Podcast (TOYVP) aims to provide a platform for sharing the work of Indigenous artists, activists, culture bearers, teachers, students, business owners, and others. Guests include community members from the Tohono O’odham Nation, Gila River Indian Community, Hia-Ced O’odham, Pascua Yaqui, and other areas. Through relationships with podcast guests and supporters, TOYVP also offers workshops to youth programs and school groups.

La Semilla Food Center (LSFC) is a hybrid organization of front-line, land-based programs and culture shifting policy and narrative change programs. Its work spans the Paso del Norte region, which includes the border adjacent communities and colonias of southern New Mexico and El Paso County, TX, with increasing collaborations in Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua, Mexico. Its interconnected programs aim to connect and uplift a regional network of agroecology practitioners and advance a culture of dignity in agriculture through a community farm, partnerships with small growers, multigenerational community education programs, school-based education programs, fair food policy campaigns, public events, and storytelling initiatives.


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