Hope on the Rez--2007
In 2007 the American Indian College Fund released a five-minute documentary video describing how a tribal college education impacts the lives of American Indian college students .
The American Indian College Fund and its longtime Portland, Oregon-based advertising agency partner, Wieden+Kennedy, traveled to Indian country to record Native students telling their stories. As the cameras rolled, students, elders, tribal college presidents, and community members described the miracles that a tribal college education produces.
Richard B. Williams, the Fund president and CEO, says “The Hope on the Rez video is a unique opportunity to see a very important part of Indian country. We are educating the mind and the spirit, and this is captured in the video.”
Hope on the Rez Filming: Behind the Scenes
by Patterson Yazzie
The Hope on the Rez crew, including award-winning independent cinematographer Ian McCluskey, set out early one morning in late April for the shoot.
As we traveled, we came across a Lightning Way Ceremony on campus. The college felt it was its responsibility to restore harmony and balance for an ill student and the entire campus. This type of service to students is common among tribal colleges. The students interviewed all attributed their academic success to this traditional caring and nurturing atmosphere at the colleges.
Kimberly, a science major at Diné College, talked about being the only person in her family to strive towards a college education. Even with the emotional and academic support she receives from the college, she still comes up short financially. She dropped out of college during the spring semester to work three jobs to save enough money to return to school.
Another student, an Iraq war veteran, was identifying ways to give back to his community and nation. His selflessness was inspiring.
At the Institute of American Indian Arts, located in the hills outside of Santa Fe, New Mexico, Rose, a student who comes from a long line of traditional Santa Clara pueblo potters, explained her academic and personal development at the tribal college.
The landscape of the Southwest is just one small piece of Indian country. We also filmed schools in Montana and Washington state.
Graduation is a landmark moment in any student's life, but it is more precious for students who thought it was out of reach. At Salish Kootenai College, we spoke with students like Richard and Misty, who said they would not have been able to graduate without the scholarship support provided by the American Indian College Fund. Richard, a former sawmill employee, is one of the first graduates of the school's forestry program. Upon graduation he plans to work for the forestry service, where he can employ scientific techniques and indigenous knowledge of forest management.
Misty is a graduate in the environmental science program. A domestic violence survivor, she found acceptance, encouragement, and people who believed in her abilities at the tribal college. She also found the strength to leave the relationship, and says her motivation to complete her schooling was to serve as a role model for her son. She plans to work for her tribe.
Tribal colleges play a larger role than educating American Indian students. They serve as lifelines for tribes, providing daycare centers for students' children, cultural preservation, and technology centers for the entire community, libraries, cafeterias, gathering places, and more.
Patterson Yazzie, a former American Indian College Fund employee and a tribal college graduate, arranged for interviews with tribal college students, school officials, and others, organized filming permits, and served as a cultural liaison for the crew during the filming of the video. On location, he served as an interpreter on the Navajo nation, as well as staff photographer.
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