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For almost two years, Nebraska’s College of Journalism and Mass Communications has benefited from this perfect storm, riding a project wave dedicated to a singular idea: You can’t really understand American history without understanding Native American history. And you can’t understand Native American history without understanding the critical role Native women have played in defining, enriching and protecting that history.
Underwritten by a $125,000 Carnegie Foundation grant, this journalism project is intended to substantially raise the profile of Native Daughters. To that end, the college enrolled two dozen of its best and brightest students – reporters, photographers, videographers, Web masters, copy editors and designers – in a three-semester depth reporting class that exhaustively examined the role that Native women have traditionally played in Indian history, culture, art and politics.
The students’ extensive research included bringing to campus some of the nation’s most accomplished Native women, including award-winning filmmakers, Harvard-educated environmentalists, Dartmouth Medical School surgeons, prolific authors, veteran lawyers, tribal presidents and decorated Iraqi War veterans. Before it ended, the student journalists spent many hours on the Pine Ridge, Omaha, Santee and Winnebago reservations, conducted more than 150 interviews, shot thousands of photographs and hundreds of hours of video.
Now, this rich body of work has been sculpted into a glossy, 172-page, full-color magazine, a documentary, a photo gallery and interactive Web site that will be continually updated. Ultimately, this Web site will be integrated into public school curricula throughout Nebraska, the U.S. and eventually worldwide. It will be used by teachers throughout Indian Country and beyond who want their students to see see and read stories about powerful role models. Teachers who want their students to know the rich and complex contributions Native women have made to both indigenous and American cultures. Who want their students to understand the forces that gave rise to the Northern Cheyenne proverb: “A nation is not conquered until the hearts of its women lie on the ground.”