Winona State University will premiere student-made documentary films on the life stories of five Navajo elders at 5 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 13, in Somsen Auditorium.

Twelve WSU mass communication students collaborated with nine students from Diné College, the tribal college of the Navajo Nation, to research, interview, photograph and video record Navajo elders over an 18-day period in June 2012. The students, participating in the 2012 Navajo Oral History project, wrote, edited and produced documentary films that will be archived at the Navajo Nation Museum and Library as well as at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of the American Indian.

The documentaries were part of a collaborative project led by Tom Grier of WSU and Miranda Haskie of Diné College in Tsaile, Ariz. This is the fourth year of the Navajo Oral History program.

This year’s films focus on Agatha Spencer, a long-time employee of Diné College from Chinle, Ariz.; and four men who served as Navajo Code Talkers during World War II: Kee Etsicitty of Vanderwagen, N.M.; Samuel Tom Holiday of Kayenta, Ariz.; Chester Nez of Albuquerque, N.M.; and Joe Vandever of Haystack, N.M. Nez is the last surviving member of The Original 29 Navajo Code Talkers, the Marines who helped create the code that was never broken during the war.

Student teams completed service projects for the elders and interviewed the elders several times. They also interviewed friends, colleagues and family members and did background research while on the Navajo Nation.

After the premiere event, short versions of the films will be available for viewing online at:

The premiere will include comments from faculty and students involved, including visiting Navajo students from Diné College.

WSU students involved in the 2012 Navajo Oral History Project are: Shannon Bolte (Rochester, Minn.); Joel Farber (Hastings, Minn.); Kelsey Foss, (Sparta, Wis.); Emily Gust (Verona, Wis.); Liam Krause (Deerfield, Wis.); Kelly Kusilek (Cannon Falls, Minn.); Elena Lavorato (Oakdale, Minn.); Sammi Luhmann (Robbinsdale, Minn.); Laura McCormick (Apple Valley, Minn.); Rachel Rivers (Wabasha, Minn.); Stefani Schmidt (Winona, Minn.); and Elisenda Xifra Reverter (Girona, Spain).

Light refreshments will be served before the presentation of the films.

The reception and premiere event is free and open to the public.

For more information, email Grier.