Our project seeks to “tribesource” 60 educational films about the Native peoples of the Southwestern U.S. works 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 of Native peoples to the voices, knowledge, and languages of the peoples represented in the films by a participatory recording of new narrations for the films.
Tribesourcing places historical materials with the peoples they represent in order to tell the untold or suppressed story. Each film in this project will be streamed in a Protocols for American Indian Archival Materials (2006).-based website with alternate narrations from within the culture in English and in Native languages. This method allows for identification of people, places, practices, vocabulary and stories that might otherwise be lost, as well as providing a rich, community-based metadata record for each film. Taking a small step toward cultural repatriation of content, tribesourcing as a methodology is guided by the
The project of positioning the American Indian Film Gallery as an interactive, multimedia, multiethnic, and polyvocal resource raises both workaday and theoretical issues, among them the need for Native language presence in the archive as a whole. Informed, intentional practice is essential. Thus, every stage of the project requires consultation and collaboration with our partners in Native Nations. This project seeks to contribute to ongoing efforts to decolonize the archive and restore voice and narrative sovereignty to the people who appear in these films—as agents of their own information rather than subjects of a governmental or corporate agenda. Participation, Equity, and Inclusion are central to this project.
Jennifer Jenkins teaches across the disciplines of Literature, Film History, Archival Science, and Southwest Studies 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 archival moving images. She is the PI on a three-year NEH-funded grant to repatriate archived midcentury educational and industrial films about Native peoples of the Southwest through recording of alternate Native narrations and culturally competent metadata from within Native communities. In 2017 she was named Director of the Bear Canyon Center for Southwest Humanities at the University of Arizona, an NEH-funded research institute.