Wednesday, February 20, 2013

The 2013 Navajo Oral History Project Begins...

Today (Wednesday, Feb. 20, 2013), Robbie Christiano and I held the first official meeting of the 2013 Navajo Oral History project class at Winona State University.

This was an organizational/informational meeting for the 13 WSU students who will participate in the project this summer to meet each other and learn about travel plans, paperwork, text books, etc. This group will meet again later in Spring Semester to finalize plans, then the class begins its meetings with the Diné College participants in mid-May.

12 of the 13 WSU student participants were present at the meeting (one had a baby just two days ago and understandably couldn't make the meeting). The class members all seemed interested in hearing about plans, and excited about the important projects they will undertake in just a few weeks.

These students are all WSU Mass Communication majors.  One is a graphic design major, a program shared between Mass Communication and the Art Department.

As each student introduced themselves and their geographic and ethnic backgrounds, it was amazing to see the diversity of the group -- and the similarities that all were interested in using their skills and abilities to help tell the life stories of Navajo elders.  We have students in the group that are seasoned journalists, skilled photographers and competent video producers and editors. All have had several introductory courses in mass communication and bring their knowledge to their projects.

In mid-May the WSU group will travel to Tsaile, Ariz., on the Navajo Nation to spend nearly three weeks immersed in the culture and working on documentary journalism pieces. The WSU group will stay in residence hall facilities at Diné College and work in collaborative teams with Diné College students.  The teams will provide a service project for a Navajo elder (cleaning, gardening, repairing, etc.) to build a relationship of trust, and then interview the elders three times using video, audio and still photography.  The groups will produce documentary films that respectfully and authentically tell the elder's story.

DVD copies of the finished films will be given the the families of the elders and each student will get copies.  The films will be archived at the Navajo Nation Library, Navajo Nation Museum, Diné College Library, Winona State University Library, Winona Public Library, and the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of the American Indian. We're very proud of this.  Not many undergraduate students can say their research projects are arched at the Smithsonian.

The Summer 2013 edition of the Navajo Oral History Project is the fifth year of the successful collaboration.  Those reading the blog interested in the project may wish to view the films of past years.  They are all available for viewing on YouTube. Follow the link to one of the first films of the series-- featuring Harry Walters, a Navajo Cultural Specialist and recently retired director of the Ned Hatathli Museum at Diné College. From there, viewers will be able to see other films on Prof. Tom Grier's YouTube channel from the series.

The WSU Mass Communication department -- and the families and friends of the participating students -- can be proud of the 13 students that have chosen to use part of their summer to practice and expand their communication skills, and to give of themselves and their talent to be involved in this important historical project.

The names of the 2013 Navajo Oral History project students from Winona State University are:
Madison Duncan, Winona, Minn.
Shiloh Gulbranson, Lindstrom, Minn.
Brett Gustafson, Rochester, Minn.
Whitney Harlos, Rochester, Minn.
Eric Hawkins, Rochester, Minn.
Tom Hays, Chaska, Minn.
Laura Humes, Mahtomedi, Minn.
Jolene Kuisle, Rochester, Minn.
Adam Maciejczak, Lake City, Minn.
Cara Mannino, Rochester, Minn.
Skylar Ogren, Winona, Minn.
Darin Strohmenger, Cedarburg, Wis.
Danielle Wieczorek, Andover, Minn.

In a few weeks, Robbie Christiano and Tom Grier from WSU will be speaking to classes at Diné College and helping recruit DC students to join this summer project.  Once the class is fully established, all the students will be introduced here on the blog.  The activities of the class will be highlighted throughout the project in text and photos here as well.

If anyone has questions or comments on the project, email Professor Tom Grier:

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