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A Moment in Time: DNA (Descendant Native Americans) ~ A Visual Essay on Preserving Tribal Traditions

Tue., Jan. 20, 2015 11:30 a.m.

Location: School of Journalism Studio, AH 105

A Moment in Time: DNA (Descendant Native Americans) ~ A Visual Essay on Preserving Tribal Traditions
By Robin Lawless, School of Journalism  

Journalism Research Seminar
Tuesday, Jan. 20  11:30 a.m. - 12:15 p.m.
School of Journalism Studio, AH 105  
Bring your lunch! Presentation and discussion.

Tribal preservation will be the key to enhanced social development and growth for all Indian people. To know what you are and where you came from may determine where you are going. - Arly Yanah, Yavapai-Prescott

In our way of thinking, everything is a significant event, and the past is as real as us being here right now. We are all connected to the things that happened at the beginning of our existence. And those things live on as they are handed down to us. - Parris Butler, Fort Mohave

  •  How do we begin to preserve tribal traditions that we have previously usurped and exploited?
  • How can we reciprocate the value of traditional knowledge often gained by deceit and subterfuge when the value system of those who hold the traditional knowledge is so vastly different from those acquiring the knowledge?
  • When and how do we repay the holders of this intellectual property when our own misconceptions have changed their meanings and intentions within the dominant society?

My intention with this research project was to attempt to answer these questions and to further develop the idea of preserving tribal traditions and increase public support by visualizing in a formal photojournalistic exhibition, two icons of North American aboriginal culture that are shrouded in mystery – Chaco Canyon near Nageezi, New Mexico and the Hopi Nation located at Black Mesa in Arizona.

Certain "Indian" values and concepts differ profoundly from those of the mainstream culture. For native peoples, as an example, time is often neither linear nor narrowly circumscribed by decades or centuries; rather, it is circular and without boundaries. Thus, a sacred landscape spoken of in ancient myth is as sacred today as it was when the spirits were creating it.[1]

There was a time not long ago that some anthropologists believed the Maya in Central America, were extinct. So too, did some believe that the people who they termed Anasazi of the south-western United States were also an extinct people.

Today, modern archaeologists working in Chaco Canyon in New Mexico and other outlier sites in the area, such as Mesa Verde, Colorado and Aztec, New Mexico, have made some conclusions that the original inhabitants of these particular ruins and their outliers simply migrated away and developed into other groups. Members of those living groups today, specifically the Hopi tribe and Pueblo people of Acoma, Jemez and Zuni, have naturally known of their previous existence in these places as surely as they know their own creation and migration stories, as these sites are part of the physical and spiritual development of these people.


[1]  Andrew Gulliford, Sacred Objects and Sacred Places (Boulder, University Press of Colorado, 2000)
Robin Lawless has over thirty years experience in the Broadcast Industry. He has filmed News, Current Affairs, Documentaries and Feature Films in over 26 countries around the world. His work history includes National Geographic, CBC, CTV and many other top news agencies and production companies. He is experienced with all types and formats of cameras, lighting for film and videotape, and analog and digital editing. He has won various National and International awards for his work including the Saskatchewan Motion Picture Industry’s Videographer of the Year Award in 2002. He brings a unique holistic approach to teaching the technical journalistic process.