Sunday, April 25, 2010

Navajo Oral History 2010 - Documentary Journalism Partnership

In May 2010, the second year of a collaborative project between Winona State University (Winona, Minn.) and Diné College (Tsaile, Ariz.) begins.

Last summer, a group of WSU students traveled to the Navajo Nation to work in small group partnerships with students of Diné College, the Tribal College of the Navajo Nation. The groups spent three weeks doing service learning projects for five Navajo elders, then researching, interviewing, photographing, video recording, writing, editing and producing documentary projects focused on the lives of those elders.

The projects were completed by late summer and receptions were held at both institutions in fall to premiere the documentaries and celebrate the students' work. Those films are now archived at the Navajo Nation Museum, Navajo Nation Library, and at Diné College and Winona State University.

Now, another group of students of both schools are preparing to work together and complete more Navajo Oral History projects in May 2010.

The seven WSU student participants will begin meeting in early May, just after spring semester classes end. The group travels to the Navajo Nation in mid-May, and will spend two weeks there, based in residence hall facilities at Diné College.

Again the students will complete service learning projects for elders, then produce documentaries about elders' lives. While on the Navajo Nation, the students will experience Navajo culture through a variety of activities including a visit to Window Rock, Arizona, a tour of Navajo Tribal Government offices, a hike into historic Canyon del Muerto, and a visit to ancient ruins in Canyon De Chelly National Monument. Also planned is an overnight camp-out on the site of a Navajo Sheep Camp in the Lukachukai mountains and an evening at a Navajo Rodeo.

Before they leave for Arizona, the Winona students are reading historical and cultural texts to help them prepare to be knowledgeable and respectful as they meet and work with the Navajo elders.

The goal of the documentary projects is to record and archive stories of Navajo elders that might not otherwise be saved. A secondary goal of the program is to help Diné College develop journalism and mass communication programming that can serve as a career preparation curriculum for DC students.

During the class, this blog will serve as a connection point for students, families and friends who want to remain updated on the groups' activities. I plan to update the blog frequently with information and photos highlighting the students and their experiences and accomplishments.

For those new to this program, please consider spending some time scrolling through older blog pages to see some of the activities from last-year's projects. Then, if you wish, take a few minutes to view the short, media-friendly versions of the 2009 student projects on The names of the elders featured last year and links to their documentaries are pasted below.

Thanks to everyone who has supported this important cross-cultural collaboration.

-- Tom Grier, Winona State University


2009 Navajo Oral History Projects

Beulah Allen

Wilson Aronilth

Ruth Roessel

Sam Tso

Harry Walters