Wednesday, May 8, 2013

The 2013 Navajo Oral History Project begins soon

On Monday, May13, the 2013 Navajo Oral History project begins with 23 students from two colleges working together using journalism techniques to tell the life stories of five Navajo elders in documentary films.

The students -- 14 from Winona State University of Winona, Minnesota, and nine from Diné College, of Tsaile, Arizona -- begin their summer project with three classes via interactive television to meet each other and begin the research and cultural exchange that goes into such a collaborative project.

On Sunday, May 19, the WSU students will travel to the Navajo Nation for three-weeks of field work which includes doing service projects for Navajo elders, then interviewing an elder three times. Students from both schools will work together to photograph, audio record and video record the elder, and then transcribe, edit and proofread the text of the interviews. They'll also review the still photos and video gathered during the interview process. Ultimately, the student groups will create a 20-minute film about each Navajo elder.

The finished documentary films will be archived at the Navajo Nation Museum, Navajo Nation Library, and the libraries at both Diné College and Winona State University. In addition, the films will be archived at The Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of the American Indian. This is an amazing accomplishment for the students involved.

This is the fifth year of the successful collaboration between Winona State University and Diné College. Over the first four years of the project, student groups have completed a total of 18 films focused on 18 different Navajo elders.

The project is successful because of the hard work and dedication of the students who participate in the program. The students meet the elder and almost immediately bond with them and feel a tremendous responsibility to tell their story accurately and respectfully.

In addition, the Navajo Oral History project has received significant support from both involved schools and from the Winona State University Foundation and the Winona State University Student Senate. Without this support, the program may not have been able to survive beyond its initial year. The blog editor, Dr. Tom Grier, professor of Mass Communication at Winona State University, thanks all those involved for helping make this project as successful as it is.

This blog will be an active place for the next month with daily updates from the classroom and field work. There will be articles describing the student's work and fun, plus lots of photos -- most taken by the students of the class. In the first few days of the active class, the blog will introduce all the students and begin coverage of their activities.

Students in the program are encouraged to share this blog address with their families, friends, co-workers, and others interested in the project so they can check the blog frequently and stay up to date with what's going on during the project.

The blog has the comments section turned on, so anyone reading the blog is welcome to leave comments of encouragement or constructive criticism.

Thank you for your interest. We look forward to hearing your comments.

-- Tom Grier

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