Photography majors experience life on Navajo reservation

September 9, 2010

There was no running water, electricity or indoor plumbing in the hogan where six ASU students slept on the Navajo reservation. But there was silence broken by the whisper of the wind, incredible shades of blue skies at twilight and moonlight that cast shadows during the night.

ASU undergraduate Tiffiney Yazzie invited a small group of her friends and fellow photography majors to experience a lifestyle this summer that is far removed from most students’ normal routine. Photos documenting their trip will be displayed Sept. 13-24 during “Dine Bikeyah: Familiar Views Foreign Eyes” at the ASU Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts Step Gallery. Download Full Image

Yazzie is a student who experiences life in two worlds – one through the eyes of an ASU student and the other through the traditions of the Navajo people. She easily fell back into her role on the reservation during the trip as she helped butcher a sheep, shear the animals and accompany relatives on daily trips to fill a 300-gallon water tank for her grandparents who herd sheep in the canyonlands near Chinle.

“I thought it would be a great idea to have my friends experience what life is like there,” she said.

Students spent a week in July with Yazzie’s grandparents who live according to traditional Navajo ways in a matriarchal society where herding sheep is a way of life for many people.  

It was a life-changing experience for some of Yazzie’s School of Art friends who never had been exposed to tasks such as butchering a sheep. Photography major Megan Chain became a vegetarian after witnessing the process.

“I just figured there was such a disconnect to the meat that we buy in the store,” Chain said.

Adrian Lesoing, also a photography major, has been a vegetarian for the past two years, but she didn’t find the butchering upsetting.

“It wasn’t scary or awful," Lesoing said. "It was almost like, you take care of the sheep and the sheep will take care of you.”

Logan Bellew, a photography and art history major, rode with Yazzie’s mother to the homestead. When a coyote ran across their path, Tiffiney’s mother, Rosita Yazzie, stopped the truck, got out and offered a prayer and corn pollen to the Navajo omen.

“It was a surreal experience,” Bellew said. “It was really powerful.”

Yazzie’s grandparents only speak Navajo, but they were welcoming to the students and thankful that they could offer an educational experience for them.

“They’re a traditional family living in a time where contemporary western ideals are seeping into their culture,” said photography major Sarah Keller.

That meshing of lifestyles was illustrated in graphic terms by Yazzie’s grandmother, Elousie Yazzie, who wore traditional Navajo dress and Louis Vuitton shoes while butchering the sheep.

“She butchers faster than anyone,” Keller said. “She can still lift giant bales of hay.”

Watching the family’s connection with the land, embracing of natural forces and their inter-dependence on family members was enlightening for Keller who contrasted the traditional way of life with modern existence.

“It’s not about them trying to shelter themselves from the land,” she said. “It’s all about conserving and using what you need.”

Students on the trip mentioned the clear air, the silence, kerosene lamps for lighting, lack of indoor plumbing and living out of a huge cooler full of ice and food during their time spent on the reservation.

“I was never so grateful for indoor plumbing as when we came back,” said Teresa Valencia, who recently graduated with a degree in photography from ASU.

The cameras suffered from the fine-grained sand that blew in the wind during the days.

“My camera is still crunchy from the sand,” Bellew said. Valencia remembers hunching over her camera in Canyon de Chelly, trying to protect it.

Photographs from the student’s experiences on the Navajo reservation chronicle daily life, animals, plants, tracks, landscapes and a myriad of additional images in the collection of approximately 120 photos on display. Some photos contain graphic material such as images that detail the process of killing and preparing a sheep.

“For me, the photos are a pinched moment of time and a by-product of a way of life,” Keller said.

The opening reception for “Dine Bikeyah: Familiar Views, Foreign Eyes” is from 6 to 8 p.m., Sept. 14. The exhibition runs through Sept. 24. Step Gallery hours are noon to 5 p.m., Monday to Thursday and from noon to 3 p.m., on Fridays. The gallery is located at Tempe Center, Suite 174, at University Drive and Mill Avenue. Admission is free. Additional information:">">http://h... and" href="">">

Workshops target motivated middle school students

September 9, 2010

Talented students in grades six through eight can engage their interests in a variety of topics, from human anatomy to improvisational theater to math and science, through a series of workshops at Arizona State University’s West campus.

Workshops, presented by ASU’s Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College and its Gary K. Herberger Young Scholars Academy, are scheduled from September to December. Dates for the workshops were selected to coincide with school breaks and early release days at local school districts. Download Full Image

“Our goal is to provide affordable workshops that help middle-school students explore new ideas and concepts while having the opportunity to socialize with academically talented and motivated peers,” said Kim Lansdowne, executive director of the Gary K. Herberger Young Scholars Academy, who will lead one of the workshops. “It’s important for children in this age range to have fun and socialize as well as to be exposed to innovative thoughts and dynamic experiences.”

Fee waivers for the workshops are available on an as-needed basis. Class sizes are limited, with a minimum number of participants required. (Registrants will be notified three days in advance if a class is cancelled.)

The schedule of workshops is:

Playmakers – Improvisation for Inventive Minds
1-4 p.m., Sept. 22, or Nov. 3,  CLCC Building, room L1-04
Instructors: Rebecca Baker and Sabrina Switzer-Wareing
Registration fee: $40
This workshop is designed to explore language power and storytelling space, the fundamentals of stage work and improvisation, and vocal and movement techniques.

Real World Perspectives on Math and Technology
9 a.m.-3 p.m., Oct. 2,  CLCC Building, room L1-04
Instructor: Bharat Chitnavis
Registration fee: $75
This will be a highly interactive workshop where you’ll learn about the evolution of math, how it has changed our lives through the centuries, and the impact related to recent technological advancements.

Smarty Pants: Making the Most of Your Brain
1-4 p.m., Oct. 7,  CLCC Building, room L1-06
Instructors: Rebecca Baker and Bret Loucks
Registration fee: $40
Learn about the anatomy of your brain, and discover ways to improve your brain function. View and analyze brain scans and experiment with testing the limits of what your brain can do.

Animating the Senses – Improvisational Theatre for Young Teens (students may attend one or both workshops)
9 a.m.-3 p.m., Oct. 12, and/or Oct. 14,  Sands Classroom Building, room 309
Instructors: Rebecca Baker and Sabrina Switzer-Wareing
Registration fee: $75 for each day
These workshops encourage imagination, self-confidence, team play, spontaneity and stage presence though a series of theatre games and improvisational activities.

"I like to move it move it!" Functional Anatomy - Understanding Your Body in Motion
9 a.m.-3 p.m., Oct. 15 or Nov. 12,  CLCC Building, room L1-04
Instructor: Andrea Kurelowech
Registration fee: $75
This workshop will explore the basics of muscle movements, the impact of injuries, and exercises used to improve strength. Students should dress in exercise attire to participate in the activities.

Playmakers – Improvisation for Inventive Minds
1-4 p.m., Nov. 3,  CLCC Building, room L1-04
See the Sept. 22 listing for details.

Smart Girls: What’s Right with You
9 a.m.-3 p.m., Nov. 6,  CLCC Building, room L1-04
Instructor: Robyn McKay
Registration fee: $85

This workshop for gifted and creative girls will help them build self-esteem and leadership skills, learn about their strengths, learn ways to manage their moods, and envision their futures. Activities include a personal assessment.

"I like to move it move it!" Functional Anatomy - Understanding Your Body in Motion
9 a.m.-3 p.m., Nov. 12, CLCC Building, room L1-04
See the Oct. 15 listing for details.

Hands-On Math: Demystifying the Learning of Algebra
1-4 p.m., Nov. 17,  CLCC Building, room L1-06
Instructor: Kim Lansdowne
Registration fee: $40
Find the fun in algebra! This workshop will use game pieces to set up, solve and check algebraic problems.

The Power of Differences
1-4 p.m., Nov. 17, CLCC Building, room L1-04
Instructors: Rebecca Baker and Bret Loucks
Registration fee: $40

Learn tricks and strategies to deal with the challenges of owning an exceptional brain, including expressing your creativity and finding the unique power gifted individuals have to get things done.

How Advances in Modern Math and Computation Are Affecting Us
9 a.m.-3 p.m., Dec. 4,  CLCC Building, Room L1-04
Instructor: Bharat Chitnavis
Registration fee: $75
Math is cool; learn about the latest developments in a lively workshop exploring mathematics and computation and how these changes are sweeping across all industries.

Students are asked to bring their own snacks, water and lunch (if needed). There will be no access to a refrigerator, microwave or vending machines.

A registration packet may be downloaded at

For">"> more information, email herbergeracademy">"> or call (602) 543-8274. ASU’s West campus is at 4701 W. Thunderbird Road in Phoenix.