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Tech Talk: Star Quilt

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You might think that preserving Native American culture would be a matter of doing things the old way, but a Lakota man is using new technology to hold onto the past.

Star quilts are an important piece of cultural preservation for many Northern Plains tribes, and now a new app is making the design process easier.

Star quilts date back to when missionaries first visited reservations.

"The traditional forms of art was pretty much taboo. You weren't allowed to do beadwork and that kind of thing. So, what the missionaries did was brought in quilts, sewing with fabrics, and trying to teach the women to go into the assimilation process," says quilter Elaine McLaughlin.

But she says what they didn't realize is the star quilt emulates the morning star design in beadwork.

Star quilts have become the focal point for celebrations among the Northern Plains tribes. And now, a new app makes it easier for anyone to design their own quilt. Creator Nick Romero says he was inspired by his mother's love of star quilts and the significance of the artwork.

"Younger people who play with the app are engaging more with our culture and what's important artistically to our Native people. So, I think that's incredibly important for cultural sustainability," says software developer Nick Romero.

Star Quilt is easy to use. Just pick a star, and then choose a pattern or color to fill in the tiles.

Romero says he plans to release an updated version soon.

"Right now, we can just color the quilts row by row, kind of how they are here. But, a requested feature would be just to color the tiles independently. So, that would certainly make it into the next version," says Romero.

McLaughlin says the app could help many quilters when they're first starting out.
"This would be fun to work with, just to play with it and see what designs you can come up with," says McLaughlin.

Star Quilt is available in the Apple store for 99 cents.

Romero says he hopes the app will inspire other Native Americans to get involved in computer science or development, a field he feels is needed in many Native communities.
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