Speak Your Piece: a podcast about Utah's history

Season 3, Ep. 14: Returning Home: Diné Poetry, Essays, Art & Journalism from Utah's Intermountain Indian School (1950-1983, Brigham City, UT)

August 26, 2022 Brad Westwood, Senior Public Historian, Utah Dept. of Culture & Community Engagement Season 3 Episode 14
Speak Your Piece: a podcast about Utah's history
Season 3, Ep. 14: Returning Home: Diné Poetry, Essays, Art & Journalism from Utah's Intermountain Indian School (1950-1983, Brigham City, UT)
Show Notes

Date: November 29, 2021 (Season 3, Episode 14: 102 minutes long). Click Here to see the SYP webpage page which includes art from the book, photos of the co-authors, recommended readings and a site plan for Intermountain Indian School, circa 1980s. Are you interested in other episodes of Speak Your Piece? Click here.

Podcast Content: This episode is about literary and creative expressions--works of poetry, essays, art and journalism--produced by Diné or Navajo junior high and high school students, and older students ages 18 to 24, who returned to complete their high school years at IIS. For nine months of each year, most of the school's student body boarded chartered buses that took them to and from Brigham City's Intermountain Indian School (IIS: 1950-1983). Living hundreds of miles from their families and communities, these children, some as young as five years of age, lived in dormitories and attended school on a sprawling and somewhat isolated north Utah campus.

Our guests for this episode: Farina King (Diné, historian, Univ. of Oklahoma), Mike Taylor (English and Native American Studies, BYU) and James Swensen (photographic/art historian, BYU). Each read their favorite poems and excerpts, shared personal insights and discoveries, and expressed their awe and wonder, at the youthful creative output covering relationships, youthful love, protest, homelands and family, and above all else, their affirmations of Indiginous knowledge and identity.

The IIS campus, which was managed by the Bureau of Indian Affairs, remains partially standing, located just below the incline to Sardine Canyon on US Route 89. Tens of thousands of Navajo students attended what was for its time, the largest Indian boarding school in the USA. During the school's last ten years the school became Inter-tribal facility, inviting both Navajo and students from other tribal nations.      

This richly illustrated book describes, interpretes, and amassing hundreds of Diné student works into one volume. This book expands the known canon of mid 20th century Indigious art, literature and journalism. King, Taylor and Swensen’s analysis, and their gathering of youthful Diné creative works, are both nationally and regionally significant, for Indigious Studies, American history, and our nation’s interest in seeking out, and making publically available, more inclusive works in the Humanities and in the arts.

Bios : Dr. Farina King
--a citizen of the Navajo Nation--is the Horizon Chair of Native American Ecology & Culture, and an Associate Professor of Native American Studies at the Univ. of Oklahoma. King specializes in twentieth-century Native American Studies.  Besides this book she is the author of The Earth Memory Compass: Diné Landscapes and Education in the Twentieth CenturyDr. Michael P. Taylor is Assistant Professor of English and Associate Director of American Indian Studies at BYU. He is a coauthor of Returning Home (the book in discussion). His research engages Indigenous archives to expand Indigenous literary histories and support community-centered initiatives of Indigenous resurgence. Dr. James R. Swensen is an associate professor of art history and the history of photography at BYU. He is the author of Picturing Migrants: The Grapes of Wrath and New Deal Documentary Photography (Univ. of Oklahoma Press, 2015), In a Rugged Land: Ansel Adams, Dorothea Lange, and the Three Mormon Towns Collaboration, 1953-1954  (Univ. of Utah Press, 2018) and co-author of Returning Home  (the book in discussion).