National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) Supports Native Narration of Midcentury Classroom Films
A University of Arizona project to repurpose midcentury non-Hollywood educational films about Native peoples of the Southwest has been awarded a three-year NEH Humanities Collections and Reference Resources grant totaling nearly $291,000, toward a $455,294 project.
Jennifer Jenkins, associate professor of English and affiliate faculty in American Indian Studies and the School of Information—all housed in the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences—heads the project, which is based on the American Indian Film Gallery (AIFG), a collection of mid-20th century films that she brought to the UA in 2011. Amy Fatzinger, assistant professor of American Indian Studies, will be coordinating educational outreach for the project.
The AIFG team will travel to Native communities in Arizona and New Mexico to record new narrations by tribal members for the digitized 16mm Kodachrome films. New audio files will be linked to the digitized films in an online streaming site. Viewers may choose narration in English, Spanish and Native languages, as well as the original audio track. Jenkins calls this process “tribesourcing.”
“Tribesourcing places historical materials with the peoples they represent in order to tell the untold or suppressed story. While these films were made under the auspices of the mainstream culture of the day, this project seeks to balance the historical record, shifting from external perceptions of Native peoples to the voices and knowledge of the peoples represented in the films.”
The 60 films in this project represent 11 cultural groups and two ancestral cultures in the U.S. Southwest and date from the mid-1940s to the late-1960s.
“The value of the AIFG films lies in their quite remarkable visual images of Native life in the mid-20th century, but that value is tempered by the films’ audio expression of mainstream understandings of indigeneity in that period, often narrated by an authoritative male ‘voice of god.’ This project will return the knowledge source and authority to Native communities,” said Jenkins.
Created in 1965 as an independent federal agency, the National Endowment for the Humanities supports research and learning in history, literature, philosophy, and other areas of the humanities by funding selected, peer-reviewed proposals from around the nation. Additional information about the National Endowment for the Humanities and its grant programs is available at: www.neh.gov.