Wednesday, June 3, 2015

A Quieter Day

The 2015 Navajo Oral History Project students and faculty enjoyed a quieter day today (Wednesday June 3) after several days of crazy-busy journalism activity.

The morning began with group members saying goodbye to Skylar Ogren and Chops Hancock, who had to drive to the Albuquerque Airport and return to their homes (Colorado Springs and Winona, respectively) and work and family eagerly awaiting their arrival. Chops and Skylar are both alumni off-- and supporters of-- the NOHP and offered to come this year to help. They have become great friends and mentors to the students in this year's NOHP. Hugs and handshakes were shared all around before they got in their car and headed east for the 4 hour drive to the airport.

At a morning class, each documentary journalism team reported on their projects: interview successes and challenges, video and photo needs that remain, learning lessons that occurred, etc. All four documentary groups confirmed they had enough great material to complete meaningful documentaries at this point. All groups will have opportunities over the next few days to gather more raw materials to make their projects even better before the field work portion of the project ends next week.

The students spent most of the rest of the day transcribing interviews, editing photos and video, and planning for their final interviews with the Navajo elders they are featuring in their documentary films.

Most of the class enjoyed grilled steak for lunch, courtesy of the Diné College Cafeteria. Tobias Mann, with help from Casie Rafferty, made chicken stir-fry for the group for dinner.

Next two photos by Jake Hilsabeck.

After dinner, one group headed to Lukachukai to interview the daughter of one of our featured elders. The rest stayed back at the residence hall, did some work, then played a quick round of disc golf before it got too dark.

To recap for those who joined the blog late (feel free to go back and read earlier entries): this project is in its sixth year. Mass Communication students from Winona State University are paired with students from Diné College of the Navajo Nation into 3-5 person teams. First, the students complete a service project for a Navajo elder, such as cleaning a garage, raking a garden, pulling weeds, separating corn, etc., to help build a relationship of trust with the elder. Then, the teams interview the elder several times over a three-week period, and interview others important in the elder's life: a spouse, child, or co-worker. Finally, each team edits their materials into a 20-minute living history film focused on the elder's life and stories.

Throughout the process, the students are learning and enhancing journalism skills, and building lasting relationships with classmates and the elders and their families.

The finished films will be premiered in September at both schools. Specific dates and times for those events will be announced in a blog update soon. Friends and family members of the students and the elders are encouraged to attend the premieres to see the finished films, enjoy them, and learn from them, and to congratulate the student journalists for their efforts.

The faculty of the program this year are continually impressed by the dedication of the students. They are working hard to make the best possible films that will be historically accurate and that will stand the test of time.

The finished films will be archived in the libraries of both schools, in the Navajo Nation Museum, the Navajo Nation Library, and the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of the American Indian. That is quite an accomplishment. It is not often (if at all) that undergraduate student projects are archived at the Smithsonian. This will make for an impressive line on a resumé and, of course, the completed film will be evidence of advanced journalism skill.

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