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Project Would Give Native Americans Voice in Films about Them

Educational films about tribes shown to school children in last century, absent tribal voices.

Native educational films One of the original education films destined to be re-narrated. (PHOTO: Courtesy of Jennifer Jenkins)

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The National Endowment for the Humanities has awarded $291,00 to a project at the University of Arizona to record new narrations for mid-century educational films about the native tribes of the Southwest.

The films were made soon after World War II and shown widely in social studies classes in what was then called Junior High School, said UA professor Jennifer Jenkins.

"And it was a way for our still largely rural population to learn about other parts of the world," she said.

Many of these films featured the Native American tribes in and around Arizona. However, the tribes themselves were never involved in the filmmaking process, said Jenkins.

"Quite often they would go into villages, set up the cameras, shoot, never talk to the people who actually live there."

Jenkins’ project aims to rectify that.

"We’re going to return the films to the communities and have them tell the stories of what they see on screen."

Jenkins and her collaborators will re-record narrations for 60 films about 11 cultural groups, including the Navajo, Tohono O’odham, Puebloan and Zuni. She said she hopes work will begin this summer.

"Quite often they would go into villages, set up the cameras, shoot, never talk to the people who actually live there."

See an example of the films being re-narrated.

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