Indigenous corn

This afternoon I took a break from grading final exams to check on our corn, which students from the University of Illinois planted last week. As many of you know, we are filming this corn for a film by Victor Masayesva, Jr. titled “Maize.”

When I arrived at the plot, I was glad to see that our corn was coming up.

The first photo is of Hopi sweet corn (twaktsi), and the second one shows Tzeltal corn (teosinte) of southern Mexico. They are planted next to each other.

I also added a few photos to give readers a sense of the plot and surrounding area.

Hopi sweet corn (twaktsi), photograph by Matthew Sakiestewa Gilbert
Teosinte, Photograph by Matthew Sakiestewa Gilbert
Photograph by Matthew Sakiestewa Gilbert
Photograph by Matthew Sakiestewa Gilbert

Filming “Maize”

Last week we began filming the University of Illinois portion of Maize, a film by Hopi filmmaker Victor Masayesva, Jr. of Hotevilla. In the first photo, taken by my colleague John McKinn, I am filming a group of UofI graduate students from the Department of Crop Sciences planting four rows of Hopi sweet corn.

The second photo is of Professor Stephen Moose as he explains the different varieties of corn that his students planted in the plot, including Tzeltal Maya (southern Mexico), Nahua (central Mexico), Hopi, and genetically modified corn.

The corn should be up by the end of the week. We’ll continue filming throughout the summer.

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Photograph by John McKinn
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Photograph by John McKinn

Talking about corn

Matt Sakiestewa Gilbert and Victor Masayesva, Jr., March 28, 2012, Photograph by Robert Warrior

This week Victor Masayesva, Jr., from Hotevilla spent time at the University of Illinois. He is in the process of making a hemispheric film on indigenous corn. On Wednesday I went with Masayesva and my colleagues in American Indian Studies Robert Warrior and John McKinn to look at a university field (see below) that we are using for the film. In the photo above, Masayesva is talking to me about where to place different varieties of corn, including Hopi and “modern” corn, which will be planted in the plot. Planting will begin soon. Masayesva’s visit also coincided with a workshop on campus titled “Corn and Indigenous Communities in the Americas.” I’ll write more about the film as the project unfolds.

Photograph by Matthew Sakiestewa Gilbert

Dan Namingha: Seeking Center in Two Worlds

Last night I came across this 26 minute video on Tewa-Hopi artist Dan Namingha from Polacca titled “Seeking Center in Two Worlds.” From what I can tell, the video was produced in August 1992 and it was shown on various PBS affiliated stations. Here is the video summary on the KNME Chanel 5 (Albuquerque, NM) website:

Life is a balance for painted and sculptor Dan Namingha. Balance between the high stakes art world and his American Indian origins; balance between his distinctive abstract painting and sculpting, and his expression of the ideas and concepts of his native religion; and balance between his Hopi and Tewa origins and the dominant Anglo culture. Only thirty-four years old, Namingha uses traditional themes and concepts in his unique modern vision to communicate an essence of something beyond himself, something deeply spiritual and universally direct.

If “Seeking Center in Two Worlds” is of interest to you,  then I would suggest seeing Allan Holzman’s film “Beautiful Resistance,” which examines the Indian boarding school experience through contemporary American Indian art, including works by Hopi artist Michael Kabotie. I have written about this film in a previous post. Holzman was also the director and co-executive producer of “Beyond the Mesas.”

Running Spirit by Hopi video producer Alexander D. Chapin

I came across an interesting YouTube video on running by Hopi video producer Alexander D. Chapin. The video appeared on YouTube in November 2010. I do not know much about Chapin, except that he has produced a number of short videos on-line. A few years ago, Chapin discovered interview tapes of his grandfather James (Jimmy) S. Kewanwytewa and he used a section of the interview on running to make Running Spirit. Kewanwytewa was from Orayvi on Third Mesa. Some people consider him to be the most famous Hopi kachina carver of the twentieth century. In addition to carving, he spent several years working with zoologist Harold S. Colton, co-founder of the Museum of Northern Arizona, to identify a large collection of kachina dolls. Below is the YouTube commentary that goes with the video:

I recently (2009) obtained an audio recording of my Great Grandfather Jimmy Kewanwytewa. In this recording I chose one of the stories he told and composed music to it.

My Great Grandfather was Hopi Indian and was known for being a talented distance runner. So in this story he tells about a time when he was headed home from work and saw someone running ahead of him, so he thought he would go an catch up with that person on his way home.

But the entire way to the Oraibi village, as talented as a runner that my great grandfather was said to be, he could not catch up with that person. Afterwards he told his father what happened and his father laughed at him and told him the same thing happen to him one time, and that he was never going to catch that person because that person was a spirit.

I created this video for the song in a rush so I could share this song with everyone but hope to produce a better video in the future.

Watch & listen or just listen & enjoy my most accomplished musical composition to date.

Thank you.

Shot & Edited by Alexander D. Chapin
Alexander D. C. Productions

Hopi Youth Return to Mesa Verde – A film by Hopi Footprints of the Ancestors

A few weeks ago I passed along an announcement on my blog about 4 Hopi film screenings at the Museum of Northern Arizona. One of these films was Hopi Youth Return to Mesa Verde. This film examines a group of Hopis who traveled to a Hopi migration settlement called Mesa Verde in Colorado. As you watch the film, take note of the similarities that the youth bring up between Hopi ancestral ways and the practices of today’s Hopi people. Their remarks on the continuity of Hopi culture is an important theme in the film.

Matthew Sakiestewa Gilbert

Screening BEYOND THE MESAS at Upper Moencopi

Photograph by Matthew Sakiestewa Gilbert

On Saturday September 18, 2010, I had a special opportunity to screen BEYOND THE MESAS and give a presentation to my family at the village of Upper Moencopi’s Community Center. The screening and presentation were part of the Sakiestewa/Honanie Annual Family Reunion. About 60 people attended the event.

I have screened BEYOND THE MESAS at several universities in the United States, and I have shown it at other locations on the Hopi Reservation, but this was the first time the documentary was screened at Upper Moencopi. The film was well received and it led into a discussion on the benefits and negative consequences of Hopi attendance at off-reservation Indian boarding schools.

After the screening I passed out student case files that I collected at the National Archives in Laguna Niguel, California (now located in Perris, California). The files belong to members of the Sakiestewa and Honanie families who attended Sherman Institute or the Phoenix Indian School from 1906 to the 1940s. Most of the files included school applications, report cards, and handwritten and typed letters.

As a Hopi professor at the University of Illinois I am thankful for the opportunities that I have to bring my research back to the Hopi community. This has always been a driving force behind my work.

Matthew Sakiestewa Gilbert

Hopi filmmaker and photographer at the University of Illinois

Photograph by Matthew Sakiestewa Gilbert

On September 9, 2010,  Victor Masayesva, Jr. from the village of Hotevilla screened a short film and gave a presentation at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Masayesva’s visit was part of a university sponsored initiative titled “Sovereignty and Autonomy in the Western Hemisphere: National & Regional Struggles for Power, Identity and Space.” The American Indian Studies Program organized the event.

Masayesva is known throughout the world as an accomplished Hopi photographer and filmmaker. Some of his award winning films include Hopiit, Itam Hakim Hopiit, Ritual Clowns, Imagining Indians, and one of my favorites, Paatuwaqatsi: Water, Land & Life, a film on Hopi running, the sacredness of water, and Hopi relationship with the indigenous people of Mexico.

In addition to directing films, Masayesva has published a book titled Husk of Time: The Photographs of Victor Masayesva with the University of Arizona Press.

To learn more about Masayesva and his work, please visit the following website: http://www.nativenetworks.si.edu/eng/rose/masayesva_v.htm

Matthew Sakiestewa Gilbert