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Blog: International Scholarship Award Winners, Part 1

Each year scholarship applications submitted by selected international participants for the upcoming OHA annual meeting are reviewed by the International Committee. This year seven participants were granted scholarships. With only $3,500.00 in total to offer, the decisions on which applications to fund were difficult ones for the committee.

Over the next few weeks we will be highlighting the scholarship winners and their conference topics.


Bina Gandhi Deori, India
Paper Title: Oral Tradition and the Genealogy of the Galo tribe
Abstract: My presentation is on the Oral tradition and genealogy of the Galo tribe of Arunachal Pradesh, a region which is still an unexplored territory in India. Because of its remoteness and difficult terrain, it is more or less cut-off from mainland India even today. Not many researchers have ventured into this land of dense and thick forest because of its inhospitable nature. Thus, very little is known about this tribe.
I, myself belong to this tribe. This ethnic community has diverse and rich traditional knowledge systems but in the absence of any script these indigenous knowledge have been passed on to the next generation orally. The Galos have a perishable material culture, thus oral history of the Galo tribe plays a very important role to understand their culture. The oral histories of the Galos contain narratives of their migration, origin of agriculture, rituals, folklores etc. But unfortunately, due to unawareness among the ethnic population regarding the significance of their oral tradition, their oral history does not get documented.

Therefore being one from the same tribe, the opportunity to attend the OHA AM will help me to share my work on the Galos to a larger audience about whom very little is known even in India and a rare opportunity to interact with the best researchers and scholars of all over the world in the field of oral history.
Haweiya Egeh, Canada
Paper Title: Forced Migration and Settlement: A History of the Somali Community in Toronto, Canada
Abstract: The Somali community is one that is maturing within Canada and the city of Toronto. After about 20 years in Canada, I believe the time is right to document the immigration and settlement experience of the 1st generation, as well as the different yet similar experiences of the youth (2nd generation Canadians). This is especially important in Toronto given that there has been a glut of violent incidents with young Somali men which have cast a negative light on the community and has led to questions as to why this is happening. Is it connected to the initial settlement of these youth’s family 20+ years ago? Is it related to various systemic failures (i.e. schools, prison system, family, etc.)? Is there an intergenerational culture clash occurring (“back home” values vs. “Western” values)? Can it be related to religion and the Islamaphobia that many Somali-Canadians, young and old, feel stigmatized and alienated by? These are all questions that this project can begin to answer and I believe these answers are of interest to all Somali communities, Muslim communities and African/Caribbean communities around the globe.


Lei Facheng, China
Paper Title: Unveiling The Walking Horse Culture in the Hexi Corridor
Abstract: A high school library located in the Hexi Corridor, Northwestern China, started an oral history program in 2009 to record an indigenous multi-ethnic culture as part of a library centered program funded by the Evergreen Education Foundation. In February 2012, the teachers and students started to record the oral history of the local walking horse culture. They interviewed local scholars, horse breeders, horse trainers and horseracing organizers, and observed several horse racings and the breeding and training of horses in the field.

The Tianzhu Tibetan Autonomous County, Gansu Province, China was the gateway to the Hexi Corridor, the hub of the Silk Road. Due to the needs of the trade caravans, the pony express and the nomadic nature of its local people, the horse bears rich cultural connotations. The Chakouyi (Fork Stage) horse that is good at a flying pace (called walking horse by the locals) as an excellent breed local to Tianzhu and played an important role in multiple aspects of the local people’s lives. The Tianzhu horse racing entered around horse trading promotes and demonstrates the unique glamour of the walking horse, whose high spirited gait was vividly captured by the bronze statue of Horse Stepping on Swallow, the emblem of China’s tourism.

Over a long period of time, factors including trade and business, ethnic customs, and social environment had formed a rich walking horse culture of breeding, training, trading and racing. Due to the change in social, economic and cultural conditions due the period of social transformation in China, the walking horse culture has changed greatly in the past half century. For instance, the past fifty years has witnessed that the popular horse breeding places have changed from local temples to People’s communes, then to family and private businesses. Meanwhile, because traditionally the knowledge of horse breeding and training highly relies on oral transmission, the literature on this subject is acutely lacking, and this minority culture is in great need of preservation and study.

Based on the Study of the Walking Horse Culture Oral History Project of Tiazhu No. 1 High School, this paper synthesizes the connotations and changes of the walking horse culture from the oral narratives or ordinary folks, and supplements for the lack of existing literature on this subject. It analyzes the changes of the walking horse culture during the period of social transformation in China and narrates the preservation of this cultural heritage by high school teachers and students.

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