UA Wins NEH Grant to 'Tribesource' Historic Native Films
The National Endowment for the Humanities is supporting Native narrative of midcentury classroom films through a project led by UA researcher Jennifer Jenkins.

University Communications
March 29, 2017


UA researcher Jennifer Jenkins says "tribesourcing" is the process of asking tribal members to re-narrate historical films from the Native perspective.
UA researcher Jennifer Jenkins says "tribesourcing" is the process of asking tribal members to re-narrate historical films from the Native perspective.

A University of Arizona team has been awarded a three-year, $291,000 grant to repurpose midcentury, non-Hollywood educational films about Native peoples of the Southwest.

Funded through Humanities Collections and Reference Resources, a program of the National Endowment for the Humanities, the grant will enable UA researcher Jennifer Jenkins to lead a team in recording narratives from tribal members, which then will be added to 60 decades-old films.

The project is based on the American Indian Film Gallery, or AIFG, a collection of hundreds of mid-20th-century films that Jenkins brought to the UA in 2011.

Jenkins, an associate professor of English and affiliate faculty in American Indian Studies and the School of Information, has established relationships with participant tribes and will oversee all aspects of the proposed project.

Amy Fatzinger, a UA assistant professor of American Indian Studies, will be coordinating educational outreach for the project. In the first year of the project, she will coordinate Native narration recording with members of the Tohono O’odham Nation. She also will coordinate the development of content for K-12 educational modules and college audiences across all three years of the project.

Jenkins also will train two graduate students at the UA to participate in the project. The team will work closely with on-site tribal narration coordinators to identify English, Spanish and Native language narrators to be recorded. Such individuals will be able to compose a script, or will speak while watching films, Jenkins said.

In doing so, the team — all members of the American Indian Film Gallery — will travel to Native communities in Arizona and New Mexico to record the new narrations by tribal members for the digitized 16mm Kodachrome films.

The new audio files will be linked to the digitized films in an online streaming site. Viewers may then 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," Jenkins said. "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 the project represent 11 cultural groups and two ancestral cultures in the U.S. Southwest — including the Navajo (Diné), Tohono O’odham and Puebloan (Tewa, Tiwa, Towa, Keres and Zuni) — and date from the mid-1940s to the late 1960s. Films dealing with the Diné culture make up the largest group, at 30 titles.

"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,'" Jenkins said. "This project will return the knowledge source and authority to Native communities."

Extra info

The project has received deed funding from the UA Confluencenter for Creative Inquiry and the Vice President for Research Faculty Small Grants program.

A number of students have already contributed to the project, including: Eric Maynard (Mohegan), Cordelia Hooee (Zuni), Sara Guzman (Navajo),  Mikel Stone and Karisima Quiballo (Sioux), all of the UA School of Information Knowledge River program; Rhiannon Sorrell (Navajo) of the University of Rhode Island School of Information; and Ying-wen Yu, Emily Thomas and Adam Iddings of the UA Department of English.


Resources for the media

Jennifer Jenkins

UA College of Social and Behavioral Sciences

UA College of Humanities