“You don’t have anything if you don’t have the stories.” --Old Betonie in Leslie Marmon Silko’s CEREMONY

Our NEH-funded project seeks to "tribesource" educational films about the Native peoples of the Southwestern U.S. These works derive from the American Indian Film Gallery  a collection awarded to the University of Arizona in 2011. Most of the films were made in the mid-20th century and reflect mainstream cultural attitudes of the day. Often the narration pronounces meaning that is inaccurate or disrespectful, but the visual narratives are for the most part quite remarkable. At this historical distance, many of these films have come to be understood by both cultural insiders and outside scholars as documentation of cultural practices and lifeways—and, indeed, languages—that are receding as practitioners and speakers pass on.

This project seeks to rebalance the historical record, intentionally shifting emphasis from external perceptions to the voices, knowledge, and languages of the peoples represented in the films by participatory recording of new narrations for the films. The Mukurtu platform allows for local tribal control of access to cultural information contained in the films. This is an entirely nonprofit project and we do not license or sell footage herein. For more about Mukurtu, please see: http://mukurtu.org/about/

Each film in this project will be streamed with at least one alternate narration from within the culture. This aspect of the project allows for identification of people, places, practices, vocabulary and stories that might otherwise be lost, as well as providing a significantly richer, community-based narration for each film, thereby taking a small step toward cultural repatriation of content.

To the best  of our  knowledge, the films are believed to be the public domain.


Project Team

Jennifer Jenkins, Principal Investigator. Jennifer works at the intersections of literature, film, and archives in the Southwest US and northern Mexico, with faculty appointments in The Southwest Center and the English department at the University of Arizona. Her recent book, CELLULOID PUEBLO: WESTERN WAYS FILMS AND THE INVENTION OF THE POSTWAR SOUTHWEST (University of Arizona Press, 2016), explores construction of regional identity through non-Hollywood moving images. Jennifer was introduced to Indian Country as a small child by her grandparents, who visited Native friends in Arizona from the 1920s to the 1980s. jenkinsj@arizona.edu

Rhiannon Sorrell, Diné Narration Coordinator. Rhiannon Sorrell (Diné) is Digital Services Librarian and Assistant Professor at Diné College in Tsaile, Arizona, on the Navajo Nation. Born to Kinłichíí'nii (Red House People) and Ta'neezahnii (Tangle People) Clans, Rhiannon has an interdisciplinary background in English and information literacy instruction, creative nonfiction, special collections and archival services, and Web and user experience design. She is a member of the 2018 cohort of The American Library Association's (ALA) Emerging Leaders and serves on the executive board of the American Indian Library Association (AILA) and the Tribal Colleges and Universities Library Association (TCULA). Rhiannon is a partner and Diné coordinator for this NEH funded project. rsorrell@dine.edu

Digital scanning of archival 16mm films provided by Ping Pong Media, Tucson AZ, from original source materials held at the Library of Congress. Archival videos and video elements collected by J. Fred MacDonald. The Tribesourcing Southwest Film Project is hosted by Reclaim Hosting. Front image courtesy of Paxson Woelber. 


Former Team Members

Melissa Dollman, Digital Projects Manager, Archivist, and Website Curator/Administrator, 2017-2023.  Melissa (Yankton descent) earned her PhD at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in American Studies in 2021. She has worked professionally as an audiovisual archivist, adjunct faculty, fellow, exhibit developer, and researcher for cultural heritage institutions including Women In Film Foundation, UCLA Film and Television Archive, Academy Film Archive, Schlesinger Library at Harvard University, State Archives of North Carolina, North Carolina State University, and the Southern Oral History Program. She has published on home movies and ethics in 2017's AMATEUR MOVIE MAKING: AESTHETICS OF THE EVERYDAY IN NEW ENGLAND, 1915-1960, as well as videographic essays on public access television, and found home movies and privacy. Her mother, grandmother, great-grandmother, great-great-grandmother, and other ancestors are/were enrolled members of the Yankton Sioux/Ihanktonwan tribe.



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Recipient of a 2017 NEH Humanities Collections and Reference Resources grant and a 2022 Digital Humanities Advancement grant.

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Recipient of a 2020 Innovation Award from National Digital Stewardship Alliance (NDSA)/Digital Library Federation (DLF)

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