In this collaboration between the San Diego Unified School District’s Indian Education Program, American Indian members of the High Tech High community, and our Humanities and Multimedia classes, students explored the culture, history and current issues facing American Indian communities through literature, guest and teacher lectures, documentaries, and their own independent research. Through interviews and filming for our documentary, we bore witness to the San Diego intertribal community’s efforts to pass their traditional cultures and identities on to their youth. The documentary won an award at the San Diego Indie fest.
Aware of the tendency of non-Natives to appropriate, skew, or erase the lives and cultures of indigenous people, we challenged ourselves to center the voices and narratives of the Soaring Eagles members, a Native American cultural youth group active in San Diego. One of the highlights of this project was the warm appreciation that we received from many of the Native American people that attended and participated in the exhibition. One community member and HTHMA grandmother wrote “thank you for ‘seeing’ us, and helping others hear our voices.”
To enable 50 students to contribute meaningfully to a single film, we broke students into crews, each with a specific assignment (e.g., an individual to interview, a performance to film, or taping B-roll at a Soaring Eagles meeting). A member from each crew then edited their footage into a master timeline, which the class watched and critiqued, until it was revised to its final finished state.
There’s an enormous difference between learning from books, documentaries, and the internet, and actually going in and being able to ask questions to a genuine Native-American. At Soaring Eagles, we met and interviewed many diverse Natives, all with their unique stories.
—Ahsaki Hawkins and Taylor Cook, 11th grade