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2013 Navajo Oral History Documentaries Premiered at Tsaile Campus

News & Events

September 24, 2013

PhotoTsaile, AZ.- For the past five years Diné College students collaborated with journalism students from Winona State University to produce documentaries of Navajo elders. This year the group featured five Navajo elders who were influential in their roles as leaders and artists. Dr. Miranda Haskie of Diné College and Dr. Tom Grier of Winona State University organized the event the evening of Monday, September 16, 2013. Diné College President, Maggie George was impressed with this year’s project and the association between the two institutions.

“The collaboration provided students with invaluable training, community outreach matched with instruction and insight to journalism,” President George said. “The best part of this partnership is the direct link our students have to Winona State University, who will be able to mentor and guide their professional development, as well as tap Diné College students for future educational opportunities.”

In attendance for the premiere were all five of the Navajo elders, former chairman Peter MacDonald, former Diné College English instructor, Della Toadlena, Artists, Jake Livingston, Baje Whitethorne Sr., and Traditional Rug weaver, Nita Nez. Since the projects beginnings, this was the first time all featured elders were present at the premiere.

Students from Diné College and several students Winona State University were also in attendance and shared their experiences. The five students from Diné College were appreciative for their involvement.

“From Baje, we were invited into his home and studio where we were able to view the world from the eyes of a Navajo artist. Della shared with us her early love for education and the path she followed to become an educator,” said Debbie Teller of Dine College. “ and from Peter MacDonald, he gave us the opportunity to hear Navajo history come alive, I will always remember this once in a lifetime experience and apply the lesson learned to my daily life and as I continue my academic journey.”

The documentaries were also debuted at Winona State University in Winona, Minnesota on September 23, 2013. Two students from Diné College, Trina Thomas and Lyndzey Barney were given the opportunity to take part in the showing at Winona State University.

Dr. Haskie believes the benefits of this project for the Navajo Nation are innumerable and hopes the project will continue in the future.

"I still believe that today we do not yet know the magnitude of our project. I know it will be far reaching, like a newfound treasure in our midst the entire time." Dr. Haskie said.

The Navajo Oral History Project began in 2009 culminating with the fifth year of the project in 2013. Dr. Tom Grier expressed his gratitude for the success and involvement of students from both colleges.

“When the project became an idea, I came to Diné College enthused about it but no one seemed to react” said Dr. Grier. “After several successful runs, the project is now very successful and appreciated.”

The documentaries will be archived at the libraries of Diné College, Winona State University, Navajo Nation Library and the Smithsonian Institution National Museum of the American Indian.