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.
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.
A new film called “More Than Frybread” premiered yesterday at the Wild Horse Pass Casino in Phoenix, Arizona. One of the film’s leading characters was Jennifer Joseph from Hotevilla.
In her recent article in the Navajo-Hopi Observer, Rosanda Suetopka Thayer writes:
HOTEVILLA, Ariz.-If there is one food product that is deeply coveted, savored and present at pretty much any reservation family or tribal gathering that is a shared, universally tribally made item, it’s “frybread.”
You know, the round, hot, greasy, fluffy and puffy deep fried piece of hand-tossed secret-recipe dough, that can be eaten plain or all dressed up with fresh chili beans, cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, or chunks of slow simmered pork, something to dip into your stew or even just sprinkled with powdered sugar.
It’s one of those Native food taste sensations that you eat just once and then probably crave the rest of your life.
And the stories surrounding the creation of each piece of frybread varies, from dough recipes that have been handed down from grandmothers, or learned from a Native dorm aid when attending a boarding school, or even a secret recipe from your mother in-law, each frybread maker has a distinct recipe story to tell.
A new film by Holt Hamilton Productions, “More Than Frybread,” by an independent filmmaker out of Flagstaff, will premiere on Feb. 3 at Wild Horse Pass Casino in Phoenix with two separate showings at 7 and 10 p.m. Tickets will cost $9 in advance and will be $13 at the door. The film centers on the storyline of 22 Arizona tribal bread makers vying for an Arizona state title of “Frybread Champion” who have the opportunity to advance to a national frybread contest in New York City for a countrywide final bread competition.
The Holt Hamilton production is the fourth of its Native film series that utilize both current professional Native actors, and up and coming undiscovered new talent like Hopi tribal member Jennifer “Jonnie J” Joseph of Hotevilla. Joseph decided to try out for the part on a whim.
Joseph, 50, is a first time actor who interviewed for the part of “Betti Muchvo,” the Hopi competitor in the state wide frybread contest in the film, who had the opportunity to work with Native comedic Navajo pair “James and Ernie;” Mary Kim Titla, Apache, former news broadcaster; and Tatanka Means, Sioux stand up comedian, all longtime public personalities. Several other new Native actors join the cast.
The “Betti Muchvo” character that Joseph portrays wants to win the contest so badly, since she is known in the movie role at her Hopi home community for her “bread” and “beauty contests.” Muchvo is completely involved with the “pageantry aspect” of the contest. She is so sure she will win, she has her own frybread crown made that she wears through a large portion of the movie.
Read Thayer’s entire article at the following link: http://navajohopiobserver.com/m/Articles.aspx?ArticleID=14216
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
Starring Cherokee actor Wes Studi, and directed by Kevin Willmott, The Only Good Indian tells a story about a Kickapoo pupil form Haskell Institute in Lawrence, Kansas, who ran away from school in the early 1900s to return to his family on the reservation. I have not seen the movie, and so I do not know if Hopis are referenced or portrayed in the film. Although most Hopis who went to off-reservation Indian boarding schools attended institutions in the West, some Hopis sought further training at Haskell Institute after they graduated from schools such as Sherman Institute and the Phoenix Indian School. To learn more about the film, click here.
When I screen Beyond the Mesas I enjoy taking questions from the audience. Some people ask me to explain more about the Orayvi Split, Chief Tawaquaptewa, or the reasons why the film makers produced the film. At a screening in the School of Social Work at the University of Illinois, Adelaide Aime asked me if there was anything that was not in the film that I wish we had included. This is a great question. The film producers spent a week on the Hopi Reservation to conduct interviews. We had many hours of material to work with, but due to time and budget constraints, we only used 35 minutes of the interviews in the final cut. One of the stories that I wish we had included in the film spoke to a unique occurence that Hopis experienced at Sherman Institute. Of the five people we interviewed who went to Sherman, two of these individuals talked about what it was like for them to experience an earthquake. Although I have written about Hopis and earthquakes at Sherman in my forthcoming book, it would have been great if these stories were also part of the film.
Matthew Sakiestewa Gilbert
Beyond the Mesas is part 1 of a 2 part series on the Indian boarding school experience. The 2nd film is titled Beautiful Resistance, which examines the boarding school experience through contemporary Native art. Some of the people highlighted in this 30 minute film are Hulleah Tsinnhaghinni, Wendy Weston, Tony Abeyta, Steven Yazzie, Joanna Bigfeather, and the late Hopi artist Michael Kabotie. To learn how you can order a copy of this film, click here.
One of the organizations that the film producers acknowledged and thanked in Beyond the Mesas was the Hopi Education Endowment Fund (HEEF). In addition to providing funds to support educational research, HEEF has generated millions of dollars to help Hopi students receive an education on and off the reservation. I was one of these students, and I remain very thankful and indebted to HEEF and the Hopi Tribe Grants and Scholarship Program (HTGSP) for helping me to attend college and graduate school. I would not be where I am at today without the support of HEEF and the HTGSP. Below is a brief film about the organization’s purpose and goals. A reoccurring theme in the film is that many Hopis consider education to be a tool that will ensure the survival of our people. This understanding is key to HEEF’s existence. Please consider donating to this worthy organization. To learn more about HEEF, click here.