Friday, December 21, 2018

Navajo Oral History Project in Smithsonian Libraries Article

It's been a few years since the Navajo Oral History Project ended. It stays on my mind. I just found a link to an official Smithsonian Libraries article about the NOHP which I directed for the Winona State University Mass Communication Department with Dr. Miranda Haskie, a colleague from Diné College of the Navajo Nation:

During the NOHP's six years of field work, more than 100 students participated and produced 27 films focused on the lives of 27 Navajo elders, nine of which were World War II Navajo Code Talkers.

It's nice to see the student's work get more positive recognition. It's not often that undergraduate student work is archived at the Smithsonian!

Friday, August 14, 2015

Films are complete... Premiere events in mid-September

The 2015 Navajo Oral History Project films are complete. Four teams of student journalists from Winona State University (Winona, Minnesota) and Diné College (Tsaile, Arizona) spent nearly three weeks not eh Navajo Nation in May-June 2015, then spent the rest of summer working on documentary films about the lives of Navajo elders.

Their films are now complete and will be premiered at both higher education institutions in mid-September.

Put these events on your calendar, and invite anyone you think might be interested in attending:
2015 NOHP Premiere at Winona State University
Thursday, Sept. 10
- 5 p.m., reception and refreshments, Science Laboratory Center Atrium
- 5:30 p.m., program, Science Laboratory Center Auditorium

2015 NOHP Premiere at Diné College, Tsaile, Arizona, Campus
Monday, Sept. 14
- 5 p.m., reception and Navajo meal, 4th Floor Museum, Ned Hatathli Center
- 5:30 p.m., program, 4th Floor Museum, Ned Hatathli Center

2015 NOHP Premire at Diné College
This year's films focus on:
- Louva Dahozy a community leader, educator and broadcaster from Ft. Defiance, Arizona; 
- Tony Goldtooth Sr., a Navajo language and culture professor from Shiprock, New Mexico; 
- Peggy Scott, a retired teacher and community activist from Chinle, Arizona; and 
- Bill Toldeo, a Navajo Code Talker during World War II, from Torreon, New Mexico.
The films are very well done. The involved students can be proud of their efforts. The films will stand the test of time and be important historical documents. Following the premiere events, the films will be archived at the Diné College Library, The Winona State University Library, The Navajo Nation Museum and Library, and the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of the American Indian.
The Winona State University students involved in the 2015 Navajo Oral History Project are:
Jordan Gerard, a journalism major from Spring Grove, Minnesota
Jacob Hilsabeck, a photojournalism major from Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin 
Reagan Johnson, a transmedia major from Randolph, Wisconsin
Kacie Mann, a public relations major from Maple Grove, Minnesota
Tobias Mann, a journalism major from Thief River Falls, Minnesota
Nate Nelson, a computer science and mass communication major from Corvallis, Oregon
Taylor Nyman, a photography and digital imaging major from Monroe Center, Illinois
Casie Rafferty, a journalism major from Winona, Minnesota
Kim Schneider, a journalism major from Roseville, Minnesota
Samantha Stetzer, a journalism major from Holmen, Wisconsin
Ben Strand, a journalism major from Burnsville, Minnesota

The Diné College students involved in the 2015 Navajo Oral History Project are:
Kyle Brown, Lukachukai, Arizona
Kaitlyn Haskie, Lukachukai, Arizona
Anna Shepherd, Chilchinbeto, Arizona
Brandon Tayah, Chinle, Arizona                                
Stephanie Tsosie, Low Mountain, Arizona
Shelly Wheeler, Lukachukai, Arizona

The documentaries were part of the sixth year of a collaborative project led by Dr. Tom Grier and Robbie Christiano of Winona State University and Dr. Miranda Haskie of Diné College. To date, students in the program have completed 23 documentary films on the lives of Navajo elders, including nine World War II Navajo Code Talkers.

Plans are already underway for the 2016 Navajo Oral History Project, which will take place in May-June of 2016. Student participants in the program earn three college credits and a lifetime of experience.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Post-Travel Classes and Documentary Work

The students on the 2015 Navajo Oral History Project are continuing to work on their documentary films. After nearly three weeks in the field interviewing Navajo elders and gathering photos and b-roll video, the students are hard at work on refining and editing their projects.

In several post-travel ITV classes, they review the drafts of their films and accept constructive feedback from classmates, then make even more edits.

Three ITV classes were held this week (June 15-19). Next week the students will work on their projects all week, with an eye toward viewing a final draft on Friday, June 26.

In the end, the projects will be burned to DVDs to give to the featured elders and their families. Then, the films will be premiered at receptions in mid-September at both Winona State University and Diné College.

Lunch With The President

Chops Hancock, an alumnus of the Navajo Oral History Project, hosted a luncheon this week (Thursday, June 18) with Winona State University President Scott Olson and the 2015 WSU student participants in the program.

The students enjoyed a nice lunch with cold cuts, veggies, chips and lemonade with the president, WSU's Dean of the College of Liberal Arts Ralph Townsend, and several members of the WSU Foundation's Board of Trustees. Those present wanted to hear from the students about their experiences while on the Navajo Oral History Project trip to the Navajo Nation.

Each student spent a few minutes talking about the reasons they decided to participate in the project, how the travel portion of the project went, meeting their elders, etc. President Olson, who did his undergraduate degree in mass communication, asked insightful questions. The Foundation Trustees also asked questions and thanked the students for their hard work and dedication to their projects.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Post-Travel Class

The 2015 Navajo Oral History Project class is now in the editing and producing part of their projects. Each of the four documentary journalism teams are working on their films: editing, scripting, finishing photographs, etc.

The teams are meeting on their own time when possible by using video-conferencing software. And they are meeting several times this week in Interactive Television classes to review drafts and offer constructive criticism.

Groups will continue to meet and refine their work for the next ten days and hopefully have completed documentary films about their elders by the end of next week (June 26).

The finished films will be premiered at reception events in mid-September at both Diné College in Tsaile, Arizona, and Winona State University in Winona, Minnesota.

Sunday, June 14, 2015


The 2015 Navajo Oral History Project is nearing completion. 

The first phase of the project was ITV Classes in mid-May during which the participating students from Winona State University and Diné College met each other and began building understanding before the field work began.

Phase 2 consisted of the fieldwork at Diné College in Tsaile, Arizona, on the Navajo Nation. For nearly three weeks students from both schools worked together in teams to interview Navajo elders and create documentary films about the elder's lives. Phase 2 ended on June 11, as the WSU group loaded its van and large SUV with all their gear and luggage and drove back to Albuquerque Airport for the return to Minnesota.

Bringing Phase 2 to a close was difficult. On Thursday, June 11, the WSU Group gathered in the parking lot outside the residence hall at Diné College and loaded their gear while saying goodbye to their Diné College faculty and fellow students.
Above photo by Ben Haskie.

Navajos don't really say "goodbye." It's too final, and doesn't fit well with the circular feeling of Navajo spiritual life. Instead, they say "hagonee" (pronounced: Hah-go'-neh) which doesn't perfectly translate to English, but roughly means something like: be well until I see you again. 

So the WSU and DC students said "hagonee" to each other, and will see each other again via ITV and in-person when the students travel to each other's campuses for the film premieres.

Now, Phase 3 begins, with more ITV work and video-conferencing to complete the videos.

The final part of the project will be the reception in mid-September to premiere the student-produced films. The film premiere event at WSU will be held on Thursday, Sept. 10 at 5 p.m. in the Atrium of the Science Laboratory Center. The premiere at DC will occur on Monday, Sept. 14, beginning at 5 p.m. in the Student Union Building at Diné College's Tsaile, Arizona, campus. These events are free and open to the public.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Last Full Day on the Navajo Nation

It was kind of a melancholy day for the 2015 Navajo Oral History Project today (Wednesday, June 10), as the class met in person for the last time, and the Winona State University students and faculty prepared to leave the Navajo Nation and return to Minnesota on Thursday.

The day began with another heavy rain event. As mentioned on the blog before, there has been more rain here in the high desert of northern Arizona than anyone can remember for a long time.

During a morning classroom session, each documentary journalism group explained their progress on the film they are making about a Navajo elder. Groups showed snippets of their films, and constructive criticism was offered.

Groups then met throughout the day to further refine their projects, and to shoot more last-minute B-roll footage.

In the evening, some of the van packing was done. Then, trying to release some tension and nervous energy, the students played games, talked and laughed.

For 30-40 minutes the group got serious and did a Talking Circle, where each person held a talking stick and said whatever was on their mind, without interruption. What a gift in today's busy society, to be able to say what you're feeling honestly and without fear, knowing that 12 other smart and caring people will listen to you and not judge you or interrupt. That kind of thing happens very infrequently in everyday life. Here, sequestered away from the pressure of "real life," family, jobs, etc., it was a nice moment for the group to share with each other and to further bond as they prepare to go their separate ways.

Of course, the project isn't done, even though the field portion is coming to an end. Next week, the groups will continue to meet and refine their projects. The class will meet several times via ITV to view updated drafts of the films and to further tweak them to get as close to perfection as possible. 

Early in fall semester, the films will be premiered at receptions at both Winona State University and Diné College. The Winona reception and premiere is scheduled for Thursday, Sept 10, beginning at 5 p.m. in the Atrium of WSU's Science Laboratory Center. The Tsaile, Arizona, reception is scheduled for Monday, Sept. 14, beginning at 5 p.m. in the Student Union Building. These film premiere receptions are free and open to the public. Please come and help these students celebrate the product of their hard work.