New exhibit explores Navajo resettlement

Xiaozhen Wang and journalist Shelley Smithson in Navajo New Lands

A new student-generated exhibit that examines the experience of resettled Navajo people through words, photos and short films will open at NAU’s Native American Cultural Center on Thursday, Nov. 13.

The exhibit, titled “Dislocated: Stories from the Navajo New Lands,” is based on field reporting by independent journalist Shelley Smithson and students and faculty from the School of Communication. It tells the stories of challenge, resilience, grief and survival in the Navajo New Lands.

Teams of students and faculty members made six trips to the New Lands with Smithson throughout the spring and summer to get to know the residents of the area by conducting interviews, taking photos and shooting video.

“It was rewarding to take the students off campus and into the field where they could interact with a wide array of people in the New Lands and tell stories about issues of real impact in the community,” said Peter Friederici, faculty mentor for the project and associate professor in the School of Communication. “That sort of field experience serves both the students and the people they’re interviewing.”

NAU film student Mari Cleven said working in the field was an excellent opportunity to collaborate with professional journalists from all media, including print, photo and film. “It taught me how to balance the needs of all the varying methods of storytelling, giving me exposure to cultures, people and events I would otherwise not have had the chance to film,” Cleven said.

An opening reception for the exhibit will be held at 6 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 13, in the Native American Cultural Center. The event is free and open to the public and will feature a panel discussion and showcase of student-produced short films about the New Lands area.

The exhibit will be open to the public from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday and will be on display through Jan. 2.