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BOARD OF DIRECTORS

Faye Straus, President

Tenzin Tsedup Wangdu, Vice President

Dhonyo Tenzin, Treasurer

Katharine Davies Samway, Secretary

Tenzin Yangchen, Outreach Director

Pema Delek, Tibetan Government Liaison


ADVISORS

Dennis Cusack
Co-Chair, International Tibet Support
Network

Betsy Gordon
Founder, Betsy Gordon Foundation

Jack Kornfield
Founder, Spirit Rock Meditation Center

Gaetano Kazuo Maida
Executive Director, Buddhist Film Foundation

Kathryn Nasstrom
Professor, University of San Francisco
Editor, The Oral History Review

Sandor Straus
President, Firedoll Foundation

Tenzin N. Tethong
President, Dalai Lama Foundation

Ven. Lama Kunga Thartse
Ewam Choden Tibetan Buddhist Center

Tashi Wangdu
former Secretary, Bureau of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, New Delhi


SPECIAL THANKS

We would like to thank the Tara Cafe Project for allowing us to use Jamyang Yeshi's traditional Tibetan music in our short film "With My Own Eyes."

We would also like to thank these Tibetan-owned businesses in Berkeley, California for supporting TOHP's work:

Cafe Tibet
Little Tibet Gift Shop
Rapten Tibetan Giftshop

ABOUT US

The Tibet Oral History Project (TOHP) aims to preserve the history and culture of the Tibetan people. As advised by His Holiness the Dalai Lama, we record the life experiences of Tibetan elders who were forced to flee their homeland following the Chinese invasion. His Holiness has emphasized the urgency of conducting interviews of these elders before they pass away and their stories are lost forever. TOHP has videotaped the oral histories of 278 Tibetan elders living in exile. This oral history collection is invaluable. It provides intimate portraits of the elders - the last generation to live in a free, unoccupied Tibet - and preserves for future generations the memories of their homeland.

MISSION

The goal of the Tibet Oral History Project is to document the life stories of Tibetan elders living in exile, and to disseminate that information through print, broadcast media and the Internet for the purposes of education and preservation of the culture and history of Tibet.

OUR BEGINNING

In 1999, members of the Tibet Justice Center, interviewed Tibetan children who had recently fled their country due to Chinese oppression. They met with His Holiness the Dalai Lama to present their human rights report on conditions of children in Tibet. At the meeting, Marcella Adamski, a member of the team, asked what more could be done to help the people of Tibet.

His Holiness replied that there was an urgent need to interview the oldest Tibetans before they were gone and their memories lost to future generations. The Dalai Lama wanted these testimonies recorded to show the world the plight of the Tibetan people. He also believed it was critical that these eye witness accounts be put on the Internet to educate the Chinese people. They have no accurate understanding of past or current Tibetan history because of the Chinese government's distortions and media control.

In response to the request of His Holiness, Marcella Adamski, in 2003 initiated the Tibet Oral History Project by organizing a steering committee which developed the goals of the project, researched other oral history endeavors, and identified locations of the largest populations of elderly Tibetans.

Read more about how Marcella Adamski was able to organize the project in an article she wrote for The San Francisco Psychologist - Survival of the Heart: Preserving the Tibetan Culture.

ACCOMPLISHMENTS TO DATE

  • Founder and Executive Director, Marcella Adamski, secured Tibetan government approval for the project, raised funds, designed the oral history protocols, and selected a project team consisting of an on-site coordinator, as well as interviewers, videographers and translators.

  • In 2007 a 10-member team assembled in Bylakuppe, the largest and oldest Tibetan settlement in India, and conducted 64 interviews. Such interviews could not be conducted inside Tibet because of China's repressive policies, which would punish any participant.

  • A 6-minute film, "Tibet Oral History Project: Tibet Remembered" was produced to give a glimpse into the history and memories of the last generation to have lived in a free Tibet. The film can be viewed on the homepage of our website and on YouTube.

  • Our Tibetan team in India completed the enormous task of translating and transcribing 67 interviews of the elders that we videotaped in Bylakuppe, India, and three previous interviews in the United States.

  • Transcripts for the first 67 oral histories of Tibetan elders living in exile were posted on our website's Interviews page. Photographs of all interviewees can be also be seen on the Interviews page.

  • In April 2010 a 7-member team traveled to Mundgod, Karnataka, India and conducted another 53 interviews in the Doeguling Tibetan Settlement.

  • A 30-minute film, "With My Own Eyes: Eyewitness Accounts of Tibet's Elders" was produced to highlight the elders' stories. The film can be viewed on the homepage of our website and on YouTube.

  • Our team translated and published 53 interviews that we videotaped in Mundgod, India. This work was funded by Rowell Fund for Tibet and the Firedoll Foundation. The transcripts are available our website's Interviews page.

  • In May 2012 a 9-member team conducted another 50 interviews in Dharamsala, India.

  • During 2012 a set of 67 oral histories was delivered in the U.S. Library of Congress, Library of Tibetan Works and Archives (Dharamsala, India), and Private Office of His Holiness the Dalai Lama.

  • The first part of the collection was distributed to nearly 20 Tibetan communities and univeristy libraries worldwide.

  • During 2013 we videotaped 14 interviews in the San Franscisco Bay Area of California and northern Oregon.

  • In December 2013/January 2014 a 5-member team conducted 25 interviews in Bylakuppe, India as well as presented a set of interview transcripts to His Holiness the Dalai Lama.

  • During 2014 we videotaped 17 interviews in the United States and distributed the 102 Mundgod and Dharamsala interviews to over 20 Tibetan communities and libraries worldwide.

  • Transcripts for 102 Mundgod and Dharamsala interviews were posted on our website's Interviews page. Photographs of all interviewees can be also be seen on the Interviews page.

  • In April 2015 we videotaped 52 interviews with elderly Tibetan refugees living in Nepal.

  • Transcripts for 42 interviews were posted on our website's Interviews page from the United States, Canada and our second trip to Bylakuppe, India. Photographs of all interviewees can be also be seen on the Interviews page.


OUR LEADERSHIP

Marcella Adamski, Ph.D. - Founder and Executive Director
Dr. Adamski is a clinical psychologist who, after a meeting with the Dalai Lama, initiated the project, secured funding, and organized teams to conduct interviews in the U.S. and India.

Tenzin Yangchen - Outreach Director
Tenzin Yangchen coordinates all the interviews conducted in India. She also serves as our translator and organizes a team of Tibetans to translate and transcribe the interviews.

FUNDING

We are very grateful to the many individuals and foundations that have supported our work including:

Firedoll Foundation
The Shelley & Donald Rubin Foundation
The Rowell Fund for Tibet/ICT
Ron and Cheryl Howard Family Foundation
Isdell Foundation
Lucasfilm Foundation
Hankin Foundation
Namaste Foundation
Sue Gershenson
Betsy Gordon Foundation

A TRIBUTE TO SUE GERSHENSON



The Tibet Oral History Project wishes to honor the memory of Sue Gershenson who passed away on October 25, 2011. We are deeply grateful to Sue for her contributions to TOHP as a member of the Board of Directors, coordinator for our first mission to Bylakuppe, interviewer of the Tibetan elders, and generous donor. Sue was proud and pleased to know her interviews will be preserved in the U.S. Library of Congress. We shall miss her indomitable spirit and always cherish her contributions to our work.

Read Sue's interviews: Dickey, Dawa Dolma


INTERNATIONAL SUPPORT FOR OUR WORK

The Office of His Holiness the Dalai Lama:

"His Holiness is pleased that the Tibet Oral History Project is making good progress. Your recording the life stories of elder Tibetans has much importance in preserving the reality of the situation in Tibet as experienced by these Tibetans."

Penpa Tsering, Speaker, Tibetan Parliament-in-Exile:

"The Tibet Oral History Project is a very significant undertaking to record actual historical events of Tibet from an individual's perspective at the worst period of Tibetan history. The project needs to be intensified as the older generations are fast disappearing...."

Prof. Samdhong Rinpoche, Kalon Tripa (Prime Minister):

"I am particularly impressed with [TOHP's] efforts of translating these interviews in Chinese language so that Chinese citizens who are deprived of correct information can understand the true stories of Tibetan people and appreciate their culture and the cause the Tibetan people are fighting for. Similarly it will also bring benefits to the younger generation of Tibetans, primarily who are born and brought up in exile. Therefore, I welcome and support this project."

Dennis Cusack, Co-Chair, International Tibet Support Network, San Francisco, USA:

"The Tibet Oral History Project plays a crucial role in the Tibetan struggle for freedom. Hearing these interviews, younger generations of Tibetans can bind themselves even more tightly to the Tibetan identity that they and their elders are fighting to preserve. Equally as important, Chinese citizens who have known only their government's propaganda can begin to learn of the Tibetans' suffering, and understand that their cause is just."

Tashi Wangdu, former Representative, Lugsam Samdupling Settlement, Bylakuppe, India:

"As we all know, it has been almost a half century since Tibetans came into exile in India due to Chinese PLA’s occupation of Tibet and our elders are reducing day by day. To preserve the true story of their life and political situation in those days in Tibet, and when they arrived here in India, from them personally, is very important. I hope that your project succeeds in editing and uploading to your website so that the true story reaches more people in this world."

Jack Kornfield, Founder, Spirit Rock Meditation Center, Woodacre, USA:

"The Tibet Oral History Project is creating one of the most important and vital records of living Tibetan culture and history we will have. These in-depth interviews are priceless, developing a treasury of understanding and a powerful historical record of this remarkable period for the benefit of the Tibetans and for all of humanity in the ages ahead. Please help support this moving and precious work."

Venerable Geshe Lhakdor, Director, Library of Tibetan Works and Archives, Dharamsala, India:

"I appreciate all your work in the Tibetan Oral History [Project] and thank you for your plan to send us the 67 videotaped interviews of Tibetan elders along with copies of the complete transcriptions. It will enrich our oral history work."

Tsedor, Vice President, Welfare Society of Central Dokham Chushi Gangdrug, Delhi, India

"First of all, on behalf of the members of Welfare Society of Central Dhokham Chushi Gangdrug and the Tibetan people in general, I wish to thank you and your organization, Tibet Oral History Project for the wonderful work that you have been doing by documenting the life stories of Tibetan elders. This is indeed a very urgent and important project because we are losing quickly the older people who can leave behind a legacy of authentic experience about life in free Tibet for the future generations."

Professor Robert D. Sloane, Chair, Tibet Justice Center, Boston, USA:

"By recording the experiences of those who lived in Tibet before and during China’s occupation, TOHP is establishing a critical, and irrefutable, historical record...Beyond the terrible suffering and chronic international human rights violations that the Tibetan people have bravely endured throughout some sixty years of Chinese occupation, TOHP shows—as every independent international lawyer and historian, without exception, has already concluded—that Tibetans are, and always have been, a distinct people in the eyes of contemporary international law."

Sonam Tsering, former Welfare Officer, Bureau of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, New Delhi:

"You have done a great job. A job nobody has done so far. This oral history will definitely play a very important role to reveal the feelings of elder Tibetan refugees who suffered the impact of the Chinese invasion of Tibet. This project has created a space for vanishing elderly Tibetans to leave their untold stories for future generations. These facts will become important eye-witness [accounts]. I would like to thank you whole heartedly for executing this vital project and completing it with great success."

Jigme Yugay. Secretary, Committee of 100 for Tibet, San Francisco, USA:

"Recording and preserving the values and deeds of our elder generations is a great idea. Needless to say, our culture faces a great danger with the physical occupation of our country. To make matters worse, the occupation has also thrown us "naked" into a materialistic world. I am not against modernization and appropriate technology, but the way we are being introduced to it has great dangers. I strongly believe that this is where the wisdom and experiences and advice of our elders would be so helpful for our future generations."

Tsering Lhakyap Janyeal, President, Tibetan Youth Congress, Bylakuppe, India:

"This is to convey our deep appreciation of your kind endeavor in preserving the history, culture and religious tradition of Tibet through the Tibet Oral History Project. It is truly heartening to note that the project has contributed greatly in enriching and reliving the experience, strength and beliefs of Tibetan elders. The project has contributed immensely over the reach of Tibetan values globally. Tibetans all over India send their deepest gratitude and kudos for your genuine effort."

Leslie Butterfield, Program Associate, International Campaign for Tibet, Washington, DC, USA:

"Congratulations to the Tibet Oral History Project for their indispensable contribution to the creation and preservation of Tibetan history. By recording this history, they help secure a future for Tibet."

Pasang Thankchoe, Secretary, The Tibetan Co-operative Society Ltd., Bylakuppe, India:

"I, on behalf of the members of Tibetan Co-operative Society, Ltd., would like to extend a very big thank you to you and your team for carrying out the request of His Holiness the Dalai Lama. The interviews you and your team conducted among the elderly population in Bylakuppe are exceedingly invaluable records and a wealth of genuine information in regard to Tibet and her unique past. We are losing the elders, who are now in their eighties and nineties, to old age so the project is timely and your regarding it as urgent is indeed admirable."

Joshua Levenberg, Board Of Directors, Tibet Justice Center, San Francisco, USA:

"You have done the world, and particularly the Tibetans, a great service by preserving history in a way that allows future generations (ideally, not just Tibetans) to learn about so many things: perseverance, preserving culture, the impact of repression/oppression on a people, family ties, etc. Moreover, without physical preservation of these stories, many of them would have disappeared forever."

Palden Dhondup, Representative, Tibetan Settlement Office, Doeguling Tibetan Settlement, India:

"This project will be an eye-opener to our future generations wherein we can educate our future seeds of Tibet about the history and memories of the last generation to have lived in a free Tibet. As a matter of fact, elders born before 1959 will die and their stories will be unheard if ever your project was not introduced and it will probably be the saddest situation. This project is also evidence to the point that Tibet was never part of China and these interviewees are the living proof of our free Tibet and that Tibet does survive with its unique culture and tradition."