Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Day 3 - First Elder Interviews

Today was a big day for the 2011 Navajo Oral History project.

After a couple months of preparation, a week of ITV classes, and two days of cultural understanding lectures and exercises, the students went into the field today to meet their Navajo elder, do a service project for the elder, then interview the elder for the first time.
There are four journalism teams made up of both Diné College and Winona State University students. Two of the teams had their first interviews today, and the teams that didn't have an interview went along to help on the service project and observe the interview process.

While Prof. Haskie and I try to keep the teams moving forward in a parallel manner, we need to be respectful of the schedules and wishes of our featured elders, which means not all teams are interviewing on the same days.

One team went to visit Mitzie Begay in Window Rock, Arizona. Mitzi is a Navajo culture and health liaison for the Indian Health Service at Fort Defiance Hospital. Mitzi didn't have a service project in mind for the students, so they started right in on the interview. The next time this group visits her they hope to be able to do some chores in return for her time and her life stories.

(Tashina Johnson and Molly Golden connect the microphone and prepare Mitzie for her interview.)

(Molly Golden and Dave Dvorak discuss the angle and alignment of the camera for the shot.)

(Above seven photos by Alex Fisher)

A second team drove out to Sawmill, Arizona, to the home of Harold Morgan, who for 28 years has served as the chief legislative assistant for the Navajo Tribal Council. This group cleaned and stacked a pile of scrap lumber, raked and smoothed a farm field (about 3 acres) that Harold had plowed earlier in the week, and picked up trash along the highway and fence bordering the Moragn's land.

(Josh Averbeck, Jessica King, Alyssa Reimers, Michael Ruka and Robbie Christiano working the field)

(Trevor Foster and Lionel Harvey cleaning up scrap lumber)

(Michael Ruka working the field)

(Josh Averbeck working the field)

(Alyssa Reimers and Robbie Christiano working the field)

(Alyssa Reimers, Jessica King and Robbie Christiano picking up trash)

(Josh Averbeck, Michael Ruka and Lionel Harvey in the field)

The last photo above has a second story line... It contains evidence of how Michael Ruka earned a new nickname: "SPF 1000."

Each year during the Navajo Oral History project, I assign fun nicknames to each student. These usually come from a unique and humorous occurrence. I've been thinking about nicknames for everyone, but they have to leap out at me. Robbie Christiano suggested the "SPF 1000" nickname for Michael after he gained a hot sun, high-altitude, sunburn today. It's not too bad (don't worry Annie and Al), but he is applying Aloe Vera frequently.
Other nicknames will be explained via this blog as they are awarded.
After lunch, the group drove to Window Rock to the Tribal Council chambers and interviewed Harold Morgan there.

(Above three photos by Robbie Christiano)

(above two photos by Josh Averbeck)

(Lionel Harvey interviewed Harold Morgan while Michael Ruka operated the video camera and Robbie Christiano and Alyssa Reimers took still photos.)

In the late afternoon, while on a walk near the Diné College campus, Alex Fisher and Molly Golden made a new friend.

(Above two photos by Dave Dvorak)

In the evening, the students started downloading digital video, audio and still photos, and will begin editing and transcribing tomorrow.

A third group is interviewing Jack Jackson, Sr. on Thursday. Jack served as a senator in the Arizona Legislature for nearly 20 years and is retiring from the Diné Policy Institute at Diné College this year.

The fourth team will be interviewing Keith Little a World War II Navajo Code Talker. Keith's schedule was busy this week, so that group will have their first interview on Monday. In the meantime, those team members have been helping the other groups.

The projects are off to a great start and the student teams are really beginning to gel as the students get to know each other and each individual's strengths.

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