Native Media at Vegas PBS!
If you’ve been following my blogs, of if you know me, you should know how passionate I am about Native media. In the recent years, I’ve taken a deeper interest in Native American Educational Media and decided to get yet another degree focusing on this subject. I’ve been involved with learning and teaching media for over 10 years now and I am starting to see the Native communities becoming more technically savvy, more involved in digital storytelling and more passionate about not only preserving traditional ways of life with video, but using technology as the new storytelling tool to pass on stories that were once only passed on orally.
Technology is becoming second nature in today’s society, but sadly, in a lot of Native communities, they tend to be behind the times or a few generations behind on the latest and greatest technological trends. It only took a few years, but my smart phone now works on the rez, albeit through roaming charges, but for Native-kind that is one huge step! Now that tribal nations have the access and ability to consume media through the Internet and cell phones, it is time for tribal nations to harness these gadgets towards educational teaching. Enter Shawna L. Begay.
With my dissertation, I hope to start developing educational media programming for tribal communities. Not only for my own Navajo Nation, but develop a model for other tribal communities to follow and perhaps use. When I think about educational media I always think of what I used to watch as a kid. Remember the days when we only had 13 channels? And we had to change the channel with a dial? I know I’m dating myself, but THE station to watch was PBS! Sesame Street, School House Rock, Mr. Rogers Neighborhood and Captain Kangaroo…. Awe… those were the days… Life was simple.
Being that PBS probably influenced my life in some small way, I thought it would be nice to see what they do and how they do it. After all, they are a non-profit station and they are kept in business only by the sole support of donations. Their goal is to educate everyone with programming for all ages. So it was very delightful to see that Native American Public Telecommunications (NAPT) offered a summer internship, partnering with national PBS stations. I was lucky enough to have already met some people at Vegas PBS during my studies at UNLV and was able to secure a summer internship with the help of NAPT with Vegas PBS’s Educational Media Services Department.
Working with Vegas PBS was very enlightening. I was able to meet people who work with educational technology, producers, directors, editors and educators. I sat in and helped with various productions. I was able get a fundamental overview of how the station is run and what kind of educational outreach they do for the community in Las Vegas. I was able to meet many different people with different backgrounds and educated them on the Native American population that resided in their backyard, so to speak.
Once I started working with the station I was given the assignment to work with the Vegas PBS American Graduate program and develop a short promotional video. American Graduate is a national program that uses public media to help students, parents and educators have access to resources to help deal with the drop out crisis with American high school students. I did a lot of research when I started with Vegas PBS to see what kind of promotional videos were available with American Graduate that were geared towards the Native American Population. There were none.
I started doing research on the Native communities that reside in the Las Vegas Area. The main tribes in the Vegas areas are the Las Vegas Paiute Tribe and Moapa Band of Paiutes. There are other tribes of course in Nevada, but I chose to focus on the area in which Vegas PBS does their outreach. Unfortunately, when talking to these tribal community members, they felt that they were left out from the rest of the population, they didn’t know that Vegas PBS has many resources to offer their youth in education. I hope that my presence with Vegas PBS and in the tribal communities will change the relationship in the future for the better.
I’m glad I got to work with NAPT and Vegas PBS. I was able to do a few things for the tribal communities and Native media. I was able to develop a short promotional video, having access to all the professional staff and equipment PBS uses. I was able to produce and direct the short piece and focused the American Graduate video on the Native American population. I was also featured in an article that pertains to the American Graduate initiatives across the United States.
As a Native American, I know I get all excited when I see another Native Americans on television or the big screen, even though it may be Adam Beach. I get excited because I know how hard it is to get placed in front of the camera. It is especially hard for Native American’s to get roles that are not stereotypical. Those roles are few and far between, but they do exist. So as a Native American woman, it was important for me to develop a video, geared towards the positive outlook of Native Americans, especially on a topic that is near and dear to my heart-educational success.
Although I have taught video production classes and been involved with several productions, this was one of the first that I was able to have full control over. I was actually surprised when Vegas PBS had the confidence in me to take a professional crew out in the field and produce a video using all their professional gear that the regular station uses for broadcast! Producing is a lot of work! And producing requires you to communicate effectively, because if you don’t, the whole entire system breaks down! But ultimately, what matters the most in media is to tell a story. Tell a compelling story.
PBS has been around since I can remember and has a great model to look at when developing educational media. I am happy to say that upon completing my summer internship, Vegas PBS has asked me to continue working with them part time in the future while I continue my Ph.D. studies at UNLV. Although the American Graduate video is complete, it has the potential to broadcast during November, Native American Month. Therefore, we are not planning on distributing the video until after it airs. So as of now, I am getting ready to go into pre-production for the broadcast segment for American Graduate, focusing on the Native American population.
The producers program that NAPT offers helps place Native Americans in public media spots. It is important for the Native voices to be heard. NAPT has allowed me to be in a public media position that can benefit the Native American population and for that I will forever be grateful. Thank you NAPT and Vegas PBS, I aspire to continue my work in educational media far into the future.
Shawna L. Begay is a Ph. D. student and graduate assistant at The University of Nevada, Las Vegas studying Educational Technology. She holds a Master of Fine Arts Degree from Chapman University in Film Production with an emphasis in Editing and Sound Design. She was also a faculty member at the Institute of American Indian Arts, College of Contemporary Arts teaching video production classes from 2007-2011.