First-Ever Jemez Journalism Camp a Success :::
by Wells Mahkee,
There is always a first time for everything. The morning of Monday, July 22, 2002 marked the first time that I had ever visited Jemez Pueblo. I was immediately taken in by how similar to and how different from Zuni it was. I was also anxious, yet calm. This was somewhat understandable as I accompanied my friend and colleague, Mary Bowannie to the Department of Education office to assist in conducting the first-ever Jemez Journalism Camp. As we drove down the road and greeted a few cows basking in the early morning sun, little did we know that we were about to make history.
With assistance from the Jemez Pueblo Making WAVES (Walatowa After-school program Values Education Success) program and the Jemez Pueblo Department of Health and Human Services, Mary and I were about to embark on an unprecedented journey. This 5-day crash course in journalism would be the first of its kind, not just for Jemez Pueblo, but for Mary and I as well. We weren't exactly sure how things would turn out, however, based on the overall success of the 6-week Shiwi Messenger Youth Journalism camp that Mary and I conducted last summer, we were confident that it would be a success no matter what.
We were a bit nervous as we arrived because we were unsure of how many student participants we would have. In the end, thanks to the ambitious recruiting efforts of guidance counselor Curtis Esquibel, we ended up with 12 eager students who were ready to learn the fundamentals of journalism. Mary and I watched with nervous excitement and anticipation as one by one, students came into our makeshift newsroom. Before I go any further, I would like to acknowledge everyone at the Department of Education (Kevin, Richard, Curtis, Annette, et al) for allowing us to come in and take over most of their desks, phones, office space and computer equipment for the week. They never complained ONCE that we were in the way although I'm sure they celebrated after we left.
Most of Day One (Monday) was spent getting to know each other, as well as going over the significance of Native American journalism and the how-to's of reporting. On Day Two (Tuesday), Jemez 2nd Lt. Gov. Warren Casiquito spoke to the students in the Jemez language about the importance of honoring traditions. He shared some of his own experiences and encouraged the students to continue their educational endeavors.
Phones were ringing, cameras were clicking, pencils were scribbling, keyboards were tapping, things got BUSY on Day Three (Wednesday). Organized chaos would perhaps be the best way to describe what was going on in our makeshift newsroom that day. But all in all, it was a day to remember because not only were the students conducting interviews, drawing cartoons, taking photos and writing articles to create their very own newspaper, they were also learning valuable skills to be utilized later on in life.
On Day Four (Thursday), Sandia Pueblo's PR Director, Stephanie Poston came in to talk to the students about the "other side" of the media. She talked about her experiences in dealing with media organizations such as the Albuquerque Journal and KOB-TV regarding major news stories about Sandia Pueblo. Finally, on Day Five (Friday), George Kanesta, a junior at Zuni High School, came in to talk with the students about his experience with The Shiwi Messenger newspaper and stayed to assist some of the students. George was a participant in last summer's Youth Journalism Camp held in Zuni. The intent of last year's Shiwi Messenger camp and this year's camp was not only to expose students to possible careers in journalism, but to evoke a sense of creativity and self-esteem and most importantly, to give youth a voice.
Rather than having us dictate to the students, the Jemez journalism camp was structured such that the students would dictate to us. With a little assistance, all article ideas, most of the photos and even the name of the paper came from the students themselves. The students chose to call their paper "The Eagle Eye" due to the eagle being such an important element in the history of the Jemez people.
One student, Marlon Magdalena, a high school senior, took it upon himself to create the flag which is featured at the top of this article. The only assistance I gave to Marlon was in dressing up his drawing by adding color and importing and placing the eagle photo in Photoshop. I was thoroughly impressed by Marlon's initiative, his innate sensibility and artist's eye. In fact, I was impressed in one way or another with all the students I got to know by week's end...Tamara and her giggle fits...the cool, quiet demeanor of Lucas...the "no-holds-barred" attitude of Crystal...the kindness extended to us by Jennifer and her family...the hip-hop hairdo of Cameron...Erica's wry wit and coyness. All of that --in some way, shape or form -- went into the production of the paper and gave the paper its unique "feel."
By the end of the week, we were sorry that this all had to come to an end. In looking back, however, we were amazed that we had achieved what we thought was virtually impossible! We were all pleased at what was accomplished during the week. On the final day of the camp, we held a little awards ceremony for the students during which certificates were given out. The last part of the week was spent doing a final grammar/spell check and finalizing layout & design work. THAT was an adventure in and of itself as we battled with both software and platform incompatibilities. My sincerest apologies to all PC users, but...LONG LIVE THE APPLE MACINTOSH! Soon, The Eagle Eye will be printed and distributed to the people of Jemez Pueblo as an insert to the regular Walatowa Newsletter for August; a visual testament to all the hard work that went into this first ever Jemez Journalism Camp.
For me, it was an experience that I will never forget, and it is my hope that this first-time venture will not be the last. We anticipate that the people of Jemez will continue to publish The Eagle Eye in some form, whether it be as a separate newspaper, or as a regularly featured page in the monthly Walatowa newsletter. Whichever method they choose, The Eagle Eye should continue to carry and nurture the voices of Jemez youth. In this way, all youth in all of our Native communities will continue to explore, dream and discover the world in which they live.
Jemez Journalism Camp motto:"I write to understand as much as to be understood. Style is the production of a highly conscious effort, but is not self-conscious."