Wednesday, September 23, 2009

The Next Step

The DVDs are done are they look great.

Last week, I created a two-disc DVD set which included all the student-produced videos from the summer Travel Study Navajo Nation Oral History projects.

On the DVDs were the Living History features on the Navajo elders. These are documentary videos of between eight and 20 minutes. The DVDs also contain the Media pieces on the elders, which are much shorter, generally four minutes or less focused on one main aspect of the elder's life story.

A couple projects are well-edited videos with live action footage, interviews and narration. A couple other features were SoundSlides projects: multimedia presentations that combine still photographs, music and audio.

I assembled packets that included the DVDs plus the written articles the groups created about the Navajo elders they interviewed, and one group's feature page which was a completely laid-out newspaper page including a feature article, headline, subheads, photos and captions.

All put together, it's an impressive package that really shows how hard the students in these collaboration groups worked to faithfully and respectfully tell the stories of these Navajo elders. I am so proud of their work, and am honored to be a part of their efforts.
Now, the next steps.

The packets were sent to the Navajo Nation. In mid-October, I'll travel to tribal headquarters in Window Rock, Arizona, and defend the projects in front of the Navajo Nation Human Research Review Board. Board members will have had time to review the work prior to my arrival. They'll ask some questions, and hopefully approve the projects so we can publish them and let all of you see them!

I sent a DVD to my colleague and faculty partner in this project, Dr. Miranda Haskie, a professor at Diné College. She and her family live on the Navajo Nation and have found ways to balance traditional Navajo culture with modern ways of living and learning. If you follow this blog, you've heard much about Miranda and her talented jewelry artist husband, Vernon.

She emailed me to say she and her family watched the DVD and were pleased with the quality of the production. She commented on how each project was done professionally and that each "attest(s) to the vibrancy of the Navajo culture."

Her positive comments mean so much to me and to the students. She validates the student's work. But, I want to be clear: none of the student's great work could have happened without Prof. Miranda Haskie's excellent and compassionate help and guidance.

There's so much more to say... but I'll save some of that for about 30 days from now.

On Oct. 20, Prof. Haskie and I will make our presentation to the Navajo Nation. Make a note to check this blog that day or the next. I'll be sure to let you know the outcome of that meeting.

I know it seems a long time to wait to see the fruits of these students' hard work. But, that's another aspect to this important project. From the very beginning we committed to doing everything correctly and honorably. We sought all the appropriate permissions. We filed all the required paperwork. And we honored all our commitments.

Many Navajos don't have much experience with descendants of Europeans actually doing what they say they're going to do.

Our Winona State University group, with the help of our colleagues and fellow students from Diné College, are trying to create a new way of understanding and relating between our cultures. This summer project has been a large step in the right direction.