Citation
Using digital media as a form of sustainable development in disadvantaged communities

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Title:
Using digital media as a form of sustainable development in disadvantaged communities
Creator:
Morse, Bradley Dean
Publication Date:
Language:
English
Physical Description:
ix, 148 leaves : ; 28 cm

Subjects

Subjects / Keywords:
Sustainable development -- South Dakota -- Pine Ridge Indian Reservation ( lcsh )
Digital media -- South Dakota -- Pine Ridge Indian Reservation ( lcsh )
Digital media ( fast )
Sustainable development ( fast )
Pine Ridge Indian Reservation (S.D.) ( lcsh )
South Dakota -- Pine Ridge Indian Reservation ( fast )
Genre:
bibliography ( marcgt )
theses ( marcgt )
non-fiction ( marcgt )

Notes

Bibliography:
Includes bibliographical references (leaves 144-148).
General Note:
Department of Anthropology
Statement of Responsibility:
by Bradley Dean Morse.

Record Information

Source Institution:
|University of Colorado Denver
Holding Location:
|Auraria Library
Rights Management:
All applicable rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier:
66461643 ( OCLC )
ocm66461643
Classification:
LD1193.L43 2005m M67 ( lcc )

Full Text
USING DIGITAL MEDIA AS A FORM OF
SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT IN
DISADVANTAGED COMMUNITIES
by
Bradley Dean Morse
B.A., Colorado State University, 2000
M.A., University of Colorado at Denver, 2005
A thesis submitted to the
University of Colorado at Denver
in partial fulfillment
of the requirements for the degree of
Master of Arts
Anthropology


2005 by Bradley Dean Morse
All rights reserved


This thesis for the Master of Arts
degree by
Bradley Dean Morse
has been approved
by


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Morse, Bradley Dean (M.A. Anthropology)
Using Digital Media as a Form of Sustainable Development in
Disadvantaged Communities
Thesis directed by Associate Dean Tammy Stone
ABSTRACT
This thesis looks at the potential of digital technology as a form of sustainable
development on the Pine Ridge Indian reservation. Grounded theory and
participatory research that drove this project allowed community members to identify
a social concern. Dependence on bicycles as transportation has caused the death of
several young people in Oglala. I was invited to help develop a film to educate the
community so this problem would not continue. In 2004 I conducted filmed
interviews with people close to one victim who died in Oglala. Over the course of the
next academic year I edited the film to be viewed by focus groups during the summer
of 2005. A collaborative document, the film A Film Dedicated to the Memory of
Nicolas Blacksmith, describes the nature of this social issue that exists in Oglala, and
is an example of how digital media can be used to empower communities. .
This abstract accurately represents the content of the candidates thesis. 1 recommend
its publication.
j
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DEDICATION
This thesis project and film is dedicated to the warm, welcoming and dignified
people of the Oglala village. In Oglala one can find the definition of the human spirit.


ACKNOWLEDGEMENT
My heart-filled thanks go to my advisors, Jim Igoe, Kathy Pickering and
Tammy Stone for their professional insight and personal friendships. Everyone in the
LBC must be acknowledged for his or her role in shaping my future. I would also
like to thank my Mom, Dad and Lisa for believing in me all these years, I love you.
Thank you Lisa for not charging double rent for my basement office. Special thanks
go to Erica Ferro who possesses everything that is good in this world. One.


CONTENTS
Tables..........................................................ix
CHAPTER
1. AN INTRODUCTION TO PINE RIDGE................................1
Specifics to the General: The Use of Grounded Theory......4
The Specifics of Nicolas Accident......................7
The Roots of Poverty...................................11
Housing and Transportation.............................24
Organization of the Thesis.............................26
2. ORGANIZING THEORY TO APPROPRIATE MEDIA....................29
Political Economy of Pine Ridge........................32
Appropriation of Media by Indigenous Groups............44
At the Intersection of Participatory Research,
Community-based Film and Gramscis Organic Intellectual...60
Summary................................................67
3. METHODOLOGICALLY SPEAKING.................................69
Inductive Research a.k.a. Grounded Theory..............71
Participatory Research.................................78
Focus Group Methodology................................86
4. PROJECT RESULTS...........................................96
Creating Media: At the Intersection of Theory and Methods.96
vii


Participant Observation: Creating Space and Familiarity to
Receive Results from the Bicycle Film.....................100
The Focus Group Experience................................104
Focus Group #1............................................106
Focus Group #2............................................110
Focus Group #3............................................113
Putting the First Three Focus Groups to Work for the Fourth
and Final Focus Group.....................................116
Focus Group #4............................................121
Results from the Focus Groups.............................123
Making an Argument for the Use of Digital Technology as a Form
of Sustainable Development for Positive Social Change and
Community Empowerment.....................................125
Conclusion................................................136
5. CLOSING WORDS................................................138
Future Work...............................................143
BIBLIOGRAPHY
144


TABLES
Table
4.1 Film Suggestions by Oglala YO Participants
IX


CHAPTER 1
AN INTRODUCTION TO PINE RIDGE
The overall goal of this thesis is to explore possibilities of using digital
technology in collaboration with people at the Pine Ridge Reservation as a catalyst
for positive social change through Lakota community-based sustainable
development. Specifically, this thesis is based on participatory applied research that
I have conducted with local community members to produce an
educational/informative film for consumption on the reservation and fundraising
reasons off the reservation.
While conducting fieldwork in the summer of 2002 with Dr. Kathleen
Pickering from Colorado State University, I was the unfortunate witness to an
accident that Dr. Pickering was involved with. She was driving back to the Pine
Ridge village after an annual Leonard Peltier freedom march that takes place in the
Oglala community near the site of the shooting after the second Wounded Knee
incident with federal Marshals. As she crested a hilltop outside of Pine Ridge the
speed limit decreases, as did she in her vehicle. The driver behind her did not
decrease her speed and she ran into the back of Dr. Pickering. I happen to be at the
local convenience store down the street called Big Bats. Big Bats is the local
1


hangout for many people. It is the only 24-hour store in the village of Pine Ridge;
thusly, it is where you can find people you might be looking for in the community.
I was tired after a day of surveying alone in the village. Happy to have some time to
reflect on all that had happened that day; I was writing an entry in my diary. As is
the case with all news in this small community, word traveled quickly that there was
a car accident on the north end of the village. Being done with my interviews for
the day, I decided to go up the hill and let my curiosity be my guide. When I
arrived at the scene of the accident I recognized the totaled white Volvo Wagon. It
was not long after that that I saw Dr. Pickering standing in the middle of a crowd
that consisted of reservation paramedics. Happy to see a familiar face, Dr.
Pickering asked me to go to the Indian Health Services (IHS) with her, where she
later calmed down and was okay after the accident. We both climbed into separate
Bureau of Indian Affairs (BLA) Criminal Investigation cars at the scene of the
accident and headed to IHS. In the back of the vehicle I was in there was a bicycle
that had been demolished. I asked the tribal criminal investigator what had
happened and he told me that a car had hit a child while he was riding his bicycle in
the Oglala village. The next summer I was introduced to the family members who
lost Nicolas Blacksmith in the bike-car accident. We discussed how bicycle
fatalities are an all too often occurrences on the reservation. They were determined
to do something about this tragic accident so that other families on the reservation
would not have to experience the pain of losing a young child. After making the
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decision to take action, my part, as an anthropologist, was to facilitate their action
and help them think about possible ways to solve the problems they had identified
within their own community. This thesis is the result of these coincidences that
sparked this inductive research.
This introductory story serves as an illustration about the inherent risks and
dangers that are involved with living on the reservation. Two accidents occurred on
the same day. The fact that this is not an unusual occurrence shows how common
accidents are on the reservation. Many of these accidents, particularly those
accidents that involve the highways and vehicles, happen because of structural
constraints, which surround how the reservation has developed and the histories
associated with that development. These accidents make it necessary to consider
decision-making and the influences on making decisions. How and why choices
made by reservation residents are not necessarily understandable by taking a narrow
perspective of the decision-making process that occurred on one single day, as
would be the most common thing to do when thinking about Nicolas accident. To
isolate choices this way neglects the historical process and structural constraints that
shape people, the way they think and the activities they choose to participate in.
Therefore, it is incredibly useful and insightful to take a longer, more detailed
approach to understanding decision making. Nicolas Blacksmith chose to ride his
bicycle on the highway, but to understand why he made this decision forces us to
3


take a harder look at the structural constraints and specific histories of the Lakota
Sioux, and how these influences shape contemporary decision-making.
Specifics to the General: The Use of Grounded Theory
As the introduction to this chapter indicates this project is inductive in
nature. It began with a string of coincidences that caused me to think about
particular kinds of problems and brought me into contact with people who were
struggling to find solutions to them. Nicolas death was tragic, and all that much
more tragic for being commonplace. As such it provides a concrete starting point
for understanding the historical structures that shape day-to-day life on the
reservation.
Such an approach calls for grounded theory, which begins with specific real
life events and extrapolates from them to understand larger structural processes that
can be generalized. More specifically, as a result of the coincidences that I
experienced while on the reservation, I recognized the issues surrounding
transportation, the highways and the fatalities that are occurring at an alarming rate,
but I never suggested that a project be conducted to curb these incidents. The
Blacksmith family independently identified the problem of highway fatalities and
expressed their concern and desire to do something about it. As an anthropologist
using grounded theory, my goal is to seek theory that explains the high rate of
4


accidents on the highway, while simultaneously doing this research in a way that
includes the community as participants and in a medium that will be consumable,
useful and informative for the community. Therefore, this thesis does not probe the
phenomenon to seek generalities, but rather engages the phenomenon to seek
specifics to explain the phenomenon. The main purpose of using grounded theory
method is to develop theory. To do this, we need a research or questions that will
give us the flexibility and freedom to explore a phenomenon in depth (Strauss
1990: 1990).
Why do tragic fatalities occur on the reservation highways, some involving
pedestrians, at such a high rate? While this question, in this broad and global form,
is too unstructured for a qualitative research format, it is just the type of question
required by a grounded theory research project. The question tells us that accidents
that take place on reservation highways will be investigated. Of course, in a
grounded theory research project it is important to also look at the perspectives of
community members to see what they think about the events on the reservation.
This aspect of the research is covered by the creation of a film for educational
purposes where community members are given input and content analysis through
the process of focus groups. Determining how and why fatal accidents occur on the
reservation is a priority of the project. But the primary objective of the research is
using new technologies in new and innovative ways to describe a community
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problem from the perspective of the community members in hopes of stimulating
positive social change, so these accidents happen less frequently.
This chapter is not intended to be a holistic historical narrative that
reconstructs the history of the Lakota Sioux or their collective tribal experience of
culture change as a direct result of colonization, westward expansion or the
implementation of the reservation system by the United States Federal Government.
While the Lakota Sioux did experience a great degree of culture change, as did all
other North American Indian Tribes that encountered European Americans, the
degree of culture change and attempted assimilation policies experienced is only
important insofar as this thesis goes, as they shape daily decisions that are made in
routine situations. The historical narrative that is constructed here is intended to
provide insight into why certain conditions exist on the modem Pine Ridge Indian
Reservation in South Dakota. More specifically, this historical narrative aims at
describing specific historical occurrences that influence day-to-day decision-making
and that describes the constraints on daily activities that these historical occurrences
have created for contemporary reservation residents. Nicolas Blacksmiths decision
to go get something to eat at a federally subsidized lunch program during the
summer months is a decision made because he was hungry and dependent on this
form of rations because there was nothing to eat at home. This coupled with the fact
that his only form of transportation was a bicycle, having only a highway to get
6


between his subsidized cluster housing and his school, and people driving on the
highways in a reckless manner resulted in Nicolas tragic accident. Nicolas
accident was not caused by one decision made independently of historical
occurrences and was a product of history and the social constraints of that history.
The Specifics of Nicolas Accident
Nicolas was visiting his Aunt Wilma who lives in the Oglala community in
the trailer lot that sits just fifty feet from Highway 18. To get to the community,
Nicolas had to ride his bike east on Highway 18 from the Lakeside community
where his mother lives. It was summer time so there was no school for Nicolas to
attend. Summertime on the reservation can be an oppressive time for the youth due
to the lack of activities to occupy the seemingly endless summer days. For that
reason, Nicolas was riding his bike to visit his relatives. He arrived at the trailer
court early in the morning and few people were up and around to visit with. Nicolas
then decided to go to the Loneman School where, during the summer time, there is a
federally subsidized breakfast and lunch program for school-aged children. To get
there though, he would have to ride his bike in the opposite direction from where he
just came.
The Oglala community sits southeast of Loneman School. There is a stretch
of highway, approximately three miles long that connects the community and the
7


school. This stretch of highway is the only means that vehicles, bicycles or
pedestrians have between the community and the school. If one were to walk from
the community to the school as the crow flies, you would encounter a dozen barbed
wire fences, cattle and private property. In terms of the decision that Nicolas made
to ride his bike on the highway was the most logical, efficient and routine decision
to be made by any resident of this area. His Aunt Wilma concurs; she is a frequent
pedestrian on the highway. She has stated that after Nicolas accident she counted
the number of bikes that traveled by the scene of the accident one afternoon for a
period of about two hours. Her count reached 38 bicycles (personal communication
2004).
Highway 18 is like any other state highway that crosses a modem
reservation. It is poorly maintained. The lanes are narrow and the shoulders are a
mere six to 12 inches wide. The speed limit at the location of the accident was 65
mph. Because of the dispersed settlement pattern on the reservation and the great
distances between any two landmarks, people tend to drive too fast for the quality of
both the vehicles being driven and the surface that they are driven on. In addition to
the local traffic, there are also summertime tourists and large semitrucks that use
these highways and drive too fast as well. For all of these reasons, the highways on
the reservation are not a safe place for either pedestrians who hitchhike on the
narrow shoulders or bicyclists.
8


Despite the known dangers of riding bikes on the highway, Nicolas chose to
do so not out of ignorance, but out of necessity and a lack of other options. His
reward for going to Loneman School would be a free meal and the company of
classmates and community elders who work at the subsidized program. As he
traveled west on the highway towards the school he approached a bridge after
descending a small hill. Before he could react or get off the highway, a speeding car
descended the same hill and collided with Nicolas. Later that day he was taken to
Rapid City for emergency attention. The doctors were skeptical about his chances
of making it through the night. Nicolas did, however, make it through the first night
and many of his relatives traveled to Rapid City to be close to him. That morning
his relatives were forced with the agonizing experience of saying goodbye.
There are several factors that make the topic of this thesis a very important
subject matter. First, these types of accidents occur routinely on the reservation. For
this reason, attempting to create awareness of these dangers should be a priority.
The aim of the educational film that the project developed in collaboration with
local community members is awareness. While awareness is an important goal,
awareness cannot be arrived at if there is not a complete understanding of why the
problem exists. In each of the past three summers, there has been at least one child
killed on the highways by a motorist. Therefore, an important thing to keep in mind
about this situation is that it is not an isolated event. Evidence of the dangers
9


associated with the highway is littered across the landscape in the form of roadside
signs marking the locations where intoxicated motorists have died in car accidents.
The signs read Why Die? Unfortunately, even in their unmistakable abundance
they have not curbed the dangerous behaviors of driving impaired or recklessly
racing other vehicles. Moreover, it seems that everyday I was on the reservation
doing fieldwork I would see an ambulance with its lights on driving across the
reservation. One has to wonder about the frequency of accidents that this visual
phenomenon represents, and, more importantly, investigate why there are so many
accidents involving the highways.
Second, accidents such as Nicolas are not isolated in time and are not the
product of events that transpire on one day. Rather, these accidents can be dissected
for the factors that contributed to their happening. Once these factors have been
identified, their histories can be traced to arrive at an understanding that is inductive
in nature and that specifies why these accidents are so numerous and continue to
happen.
The rest of this chapter is dedicated to the identification, dissection and
historical reconstruction of the factors that contribute to the occurrence of accidents
on the highways that cross the reservation. Included in this analysis are the roots of
poverty on the reservation, why people on the reservation are dependent on food
10


rations, why people live in cluster housing instead of scattered homesteads and why
the highways are located where they are, why there are no sidewalks for pedestrian
use, and other forces of the current global political economy.
The Roots of Poverty
Many decisions that are made by people living on the reservation are
constrained by economic forces. Pine Ridge reservation encompasses Bennett,
Jackson and Shannon counties. These are three of the poorest counties in the United
States. Moreover, there are 1,039 people living below the poverty level in Bennett
County, which represents 29.6% of the population of this county; 5,011 people are
living below the poverty line in Shannon County, which is 38.1% of this countys
total population (US Census 2002). However, to get a clear idea about the
significance of economic constraints on the reservation and the depth to which it
penetrates the lives of the people, it is useful to take a more detailed look at poverty.
In other words, an understanding of todays dilemmas as faced by reservation
residents cannot be achieved without looking at where the problem first arose.
The Lakota Sioux, prior to the reservation days, had the fortunate reputation
of being a strong tribal group that dominated a large track of land. This reputation
was forged out of the experience of being displaced from their homelands in
present-day Minnesota (Venables 2004). On the northern plains that became their
11


new home range, the tribe hunted buffalo as its main form of subsistence. The
buffalo became a dominant function in their economic framework. A necessity of
this lifeway was the horse to cover the large landmass they controlled and to track
the buffalo herds for hunting. The geographical move that was required of the
Lakota Sioux represented an enormous cultural and economic shift, a shift that they
had the good fortune of being successful at. This change in cultural lifeway lasted
from approximately 1650 to 1880 when the American government completed their
military conquest of North America (Venables 2004; Hassrick 1964).
Pre-reservation social organization was highly fluid in nature, and the
economic system adhered to this organization. The smallest unit that was
recognized was the single-family unit. A collective of single-family units that
shared relations along the lines of blood, marriage or social convention composed
the tiyospaye. This was considered to be the most basic of social organizations.
The tiyospaye would be found on the prairie traveling, living and working together
to meet the necessary objectives for survival (Pickering 2000; Price 1996). There
were certain basic principles that the tiyospaye had to live by and respect. Mutual
demand for generosity and sharing between the single-family units that composed
the tiyospaye was the bond that kept this social network together. This was a
successful living strategy for the Lakota Sioux that lived within harsh environments
with unpredictable food supplies and dramatic climate changes. The fluidity of the
12


tiyospaye social structure was represented by the ease with which an individual or
single-family unit could break off from the existing tiyospaye and join another
tiyospaye or form a new tiyospaye. This was a remarkably resilient social apparatus
that could bend with the conflicts of the times, but that would not break under the
stresses placed on it by environmental, social, political or economical weight. In
each of the tiyospaye there was an elder that was elected based on their ability to
work with the entire group as a leader. These leaders would then meet with leaders
from other tiyospaye in what was more or less a council of tiyospaye leaders. The
roll call for this council was strictly male, and the council would make major Lakota
Sioux decisions. The councilmen represented the feelings and opinions of the
people they lived and worked with. These councilmen did not receive any particular
advantage by representing their tiyospaye in the council in terms of wealth or
material advantage, but they did receive the respect of their tiyospaye if they
represented them in a fair and honest manner. As time passed, however, the
councilmen would have to begin considering the approaching wave of white settles
and the stance they would take in relationship to land rights, a radically changing
economic system and practices and their diminishing homelands (Macgregor 1946;
Venables 2004).
Prior to 1880, this form of self-government work tremendously well. I do
not mean to romanticize the Lakota Sioux as a pristine group of noble savages
13


that lived in harmony with natures every whim (Krech III 1999; Price 1996), but
this type of social organization worked for this certain group. In fact, the Lakota
Sioux were known to have a great degree of individuality (Biolsi 1995), and this
system worked well with this collection of individuals. It is important to note that
the tiyospaye was the dominant social organization of the Lakota Sioux until 1880.
This is only 125 years ago, or three to four generations. Therefore, it is not
unreasonable to think that many of the people alive today and who live on the Pine
Ridge reservation have lucid memories of the lifeway before the reservation
lifestyle was imposed. In any case, it is not difficult to empathize with the reality
that Native Americans were knowledgeable of a different type of lifestyle
experienced by recently departed ancestors. The significance in having this
knowledge is the difficulty of adjusting to a new type of lifestyle on the reservation,
and a new economic system was a major part of this shift.
While many of the tribal members could imagine that their lifestyle was
coming to an end it was not as abrupt as one day participating in a buffalo hunt and
the next day standing in line for rations provided by the nearest federal fort, but the
impact of not living the way one desired was enough to alter the ability of leading a
successful way of life on ones own terms. As the above has explained, the
economic conditions during the time of the tiyospaye were intimately linked to
social organization and the concepts of sharing and collective living. However,
14


from the implementation of the reservation system and the different Indian policies
that the federal government implemented there was an attempt to fracture this type
of lifestyle.
The first major Indian policy that affected the residents of the Pine Ridge
reservation was the General Allotment Act of 1887, otherwise known as the Dawes
Act named after its main proponent in the senate Henry Dawes. The main thrust of
this legislation was that the all North American Indian lands would be divided up
and allotted to individuals. There was also a rigid formula that would be followed
for the allotment process. Each family would be allotted 160 acres; 80 acres would
go to every unmarried person over eighteen years of age and to every orphan under
eighteen; and all Indian lands left over w'ould be put up for sale (Venables 2004:
243). The only problem with the lands that were for sale is that most Indians had no
money, or even the means to make money to purchase back the land that was taken
from them through this legislation. The intention of this policy was to transform the
American Indian into a farmer, instead of the stereotyped nomadic savage that the
majority of white America imagined the Indian to be. Many believed that if this
occurred that most Indians would naturally accept the Christian way of life
(Venables 2004). Therefore the goals of this Act were twofold: the acquisition of
land and the assimilation of the Indian into the dominant economic model of
capitalism where they would be individual entrepreneurs. Most residents of the
15


reservation did not successfully take to this type of economic system. The concept
of working land that one owned for themselves and not for the community as a
whole was alien. Poverty was the result of this federal policy and would continue as
the status quo throughout the 20th century.
The passage of the Indian Reorganization Act (IRA) in 1934, also known as
the Howard-Wheeler Act, retained the protective trust relationship that the federal
government held over the American Indian. This approach to Indian-Govemment
relations was taken because the government felt that the Indian was not competent
in the new economic system they found themselves in. This is portrayed in a quote
made by the Rosebud Reservation Superintendent, these Indians are not far enough
away from the old buffalo days to succeed as cattle growers (Biolsi 1995: 35).
This superintendent was also quoted as saying that Indians had little conception of
how money is obtained or how it should be invested (Biolsi 1995: 35). Therefore,
the IRA branded the Indian a ward of the state to be looked after because of their
inferior knowledge of the economic system they had been thrust into.
The era of Termination Policy is a direct result of the costs associated with
World War II and the need to reduce expenditures here in the United States
(Venables 2004). There were not enough funds for all of the programs that were
underway on the reservations as a result of the IRA. Many politicians believed that
16


it would be best to simply absolve ties that existed between Indian tribes and the
federal government. This marked a resurgence of ideals that existed during the
presidency of Andrew Jackson and the Dawes Act. If the ties between the federal
government and the Indian tribes were to be broken, then all the treaty rights would
no longer apply. What all of this meant, however, was that if the relationship
between the government and the Indian tribes was severed the reservation system
would end and the American Indian would be integrated into dominant society and
the process of acculturation would be complete. A major element of this
acculturation would by the final induction of the American Indian into the global
economic system as consumers in mainstream society (Pickering 2000).
The idea for Termination was based on a report that was prepared for the
Hoover Commission in 1949. This repost basically stated that the reservation was a
bad idea, that education, health and economics were in a dismal situation and that
the reservation system was only holding the American Indian population back from
joining the melting pot of America (Venables 2004). All together, by 1961, the
United States Congress had terminated its relationship with 109 tribes throughout
the country (Deloria 1985), but Pine Ridge still had a formal relationship with the
federal government. This era of Indian policy did not last long. It was clear that the
federal government was attempting to deal with American Indians the same way
that they were dealing with the African Americans. Many African Americans
17


wanted to be fully integrated into mainstream society. This was not the case with
most Indian tribes. The Termination policy simply vanished in the 1960s because of
a lack of supporters in the Congress and the Senate. Indians by this time understood
the power of going to the polls and having their voices and opinions counted. It was
simply too dangerous for any hopeful politician of being elected to back the
termination policy. The people of Pine Ridge were never faced with a serious threat
of being federally terminated, but this period of time must have been
psychologically stressful for all tribes. President Nixon put the policy of
termination to rest by stating, Indian people will never surrender their desire to
control their relationship both among themselves and with non-Indian governments,
organization and persons (Deloria 1985: 44), and by doing so ushering in the
current Indian policy.
Self-determination is a goal sought by all indigenous people around the
world. The importance of self-determination is that it allows the indigenous group to
choose their own form of government, their own elected officials, and the way their
society will interact with mainstream society (O'Brien 1985: 42). The most basic
element of self-determination is the issue of jurisdiction, or the amount of control a
tribe has over the matters that occur in their own designated territory without the
interference of the federal government. President Nixon seemed to be changing the
direction of Indian policy when he publicly announced the end of the Termination
18


era. With a few token pro-Indian political moves he persuaded many that he was a
reformist for the Indian population and issues. But many people were cynical about
this approach to Indian policy and saw it as a backslide into policies of assimilation
of the past. "In reality, Nixon's policy was nothing more than a variation on the old
themes of exploiting and manipulating Indian people and a continuation of old
policy goals of assimilation set by previous administrations" (Venables 224: 337).
On the Pine Ridge reservation some of these hopes for self-determination
were realized. The act was passed, ideally, so that local needs and Indian interests
could be served, especially those needs created by poverty. While there were more
Indians being hired for the BIA jobs, these new hires were still bound by the same
regulations and policies that the rest of the employees had to follow. Therefore,
there was a feeling on the reservation that things did not change that much, and that
the BIA still held some degree of power over events on the reservation (Pickering
2000). Additionally, the power that the BIA had over some aspects of the
reservation lifestyle is difficult for some people to accept. Unlike, mainstream
communities where officers are elected to serve and they campaign based on voiced
political positions so that people will know what to expect from them, the
community does not elect BIA officials, but other government officials appoint
them.
19


Another important element of this policy is the improvements it strives to
make on reservations by allowing the reservation to take on challenges in terms of
running their own programs once run by the BIA. Programs that were once
overseen by the BIA and now are being operated by the Oglala Sioux Tribal
Government include reservation law enforcement, ambulance services and day
care. These initiatives are successful in bringing jobs to local Lakotas as well as a
sense of worth for serving one's own community, but often create or reinforce
dependence on the BIA (Pickering 2000). Therefore, it is not clear whether or not
the period of self-determination has helped the residents of Pine Ridge or has simply
maintained the status quo. "As a result, Lakotas today are extremely ambiguous
about the tribal governments on Pine Ridge...on the one hand, the tribal government
is the repository of all the remains of the sovereignty of Lakota people...on the other
hand, the current configuration of tribal government is not a traditional Lakota
institution but it itself is a product of decades of federal government policies and
actions" (Pickering 2000: 116).
Furthermore, the uneasiness of straddling two cultures, traditional Lakota
culture on one hand and dominant mainstream society on the other, affects the
economic needs of reservation people. A major principle of democracy as it is
understood in mainstream society is the importance of voting. This structural
component of democracy is actually a constraint for most Pine Ridge residents. In
20


pre-reservation times the process of decision-making consisted of long
conversations until consensus was reached. With the new form of government on
the reservation, the process of governing demands those decisions are made by a
vote that is scheduled on a strict time line. Many traditionalists believe that the best
way to express ones opinion is to stay away from situations they did not agree with
all together. This may have worked effectively in the past when the tribe did not
have to worry about interacting with a formal U.S. government, but it does not work
within the new from of government, it actually works against them. The difficulty of
adjusting to reservation life is as an important issue today as it was when the Lakota
were forced onto the reservation (Pickering 2000, 2004).
From an economic standpoint, the changes in Indian policy that have
happened over the last 100 years have dramatically altered the economic system that
the people on the reservation participate in. The General Allotment Act, for
example, forced a tribal people to become economically individualistic. This
means, in principle, that when people were down on their luck they were not able to
rely on other people to get them through the tough times as they did in the tiyospaye
system. Culturally speaking, this is a monumental difference in seeking the means
to survival.
21


Currently, many of the jobs that are available are positions within the tribe or
through the BIA. An implication of employment with one of these two institutions
brings the pressures of giving jobs to relatives. Nepotism, therefore, plays a
dominant role in the way that employment fluctuates on the reservation. My uncle
was going to run for office, and I was going to try to work for him if he got in at the
tribal office, but he decided not to run (Pickering 2000: 28). When work is located,
there are pressures that come from family and social networks that make keeping
that work difficult. Often family members will leave the reservation to find work
and to be able to send a paycheck home. However, this has a negative impact on the
tiyospaye (Pickering 2000) because when people leave the reservation the tiyospaye
have fewer people to rely on for resources, including emotional and economic
support. There are also issues when family members have to work together in the
formal employment sector. If there is an issue where one family member is not
working as well as they should, it is difficult for family members to mention the
lack of effort they see in the other employee/family member. In this situation, both
family members are compromising their performance, and both might end up
unemployed.
Wage labor is centered on the western concept of time. In a factory workers
are required to punch a clock. By logging their time in the factory they will be
compensated by their employers. In general, proceedings on the reservation do not
22


necessarily happen according to any formal time schedule. This sounds strange to
many people because it seems so disorderly and chaotic. By spending a little bit of
time on the reservation one begins to understand how and why things happen at the
speed and rate at which they do. There is a general agreement amongst the Lakota
Sioux that events happen when they are supposed to and not any sooner. This is
difficult for researchers who want to gather data for their reports, such as myself,
but one needs to adjust to local customs when doing anthropological research.
While compromise might be needed for the researcher, it is also required of
reservation residents if they want to keep any formal labor. Several factories have
been built and run on Pine Ridge, and all of them have failed. Dr. Kathleen
Pickering argues that it is due to the unwillingness to conform to the western ideal
of a rigid concept of time (Pickering 2004). As a result, it is difficult for people to
keep permanent employment when they are not acclimated to work hours.
When one considers the historical reconstruction presented here of the social
constraints introduced by the implementation of the reservation system and the
traditional culture of the Lakota Sioux, it is easier to understand why there are such
high rates of poverty on the reservation. The roots of poverty are visible because
they represent the contemporary poverty that can be seen on the reservation today.
Specifically, Nicolas Blacksmith rode his bike on the highway to get something to
eat at Loneman School. Poverty is an issue to be taken into consideration in this
23


situation because of the presence of a subsidized food program for children. Nicolas
had to take part in this program because of the limited resources available to him at
home. His decision is motivated by each of the Indian policies of the federal
government and the poverty that has formed as a result. However, there are still
other influences that motivated his choice.
Housing and Transportation
Housing on the reservation is limited because of the absence of any private
housing builders. The main source of housing comes from the U.S. Department of
Housing and Urban Development (HUD) (Pickering 2000). In contemporary times
there are two general trends for housing. First, there are some people that have
stayed on their allotted land that they received through the General Allotment Act of
1887. The main thrust of this legislation was that all North American Indian lands
would be divided up and allotted to individuals. Second, in each of the reservation
villages there are developments called cluster housing, built by HUD in the 1960s.
These homes resemble the housing development patterns of suburbs and were
intended to modernize the communities on the reservation and provide more
efficient access to water and electricity. Both of the housing types have their own
problems, however, and will be looked at in turn.
24


The homes on the allotted land are very isolated. They are scattered
throughout the reservation and present a real problem with access to the BIA
highways and resources such as groceries, schools and emergency services. Travel
becomes very difficult for the people who have remained on their allotted lands. In
the case of an emergency, the tribal police force and the tribal paramedics have long
journeys to get to locations where people are in need. The cluster homes have their
own issues as well. Built in a dominant American suburbia fashion, the single-
family homes are not adequate for the tiyospaye social organization that exists on
the reservation. Additionally, the homes have been run down with the continued
over occupancy, and need to be repaired. In either of the housing situations, travel
is an issue for almost all people on the reservation. Those people on the allotted
lands need a vehicle to get from place to place, and this is a financial burden that
some cannot carry.
Transportation in the cluster-housing developments depends heavily on
hitchhiking or the use of bicycles. As was mentioned before, there are few people
on the reservation that have sustained employment, and therefore do not have the
resources to maintain and fuel a vehicle. People under the age of sixteen depend
heavily on the use of bicycles to get around the community, and back and forth to
school. In Nicolas's case, there were not many options for him to get to the meals at
the local school. His main form of transportation was his bicycle. Even if there
25


were other options, Nicolas asking for a ride to the school from one of the members
from his household or tiyospaye could likely pull that person away from work or in-
home subsistence strategies such as cooking or craft making.
Community planning is also an issue in terms of transportation. There are
not sidewalks that line the highways or between significant features in the
community, like the cluster housing and the school. Therefore, Nicolas chose to
ride his bike on the highway because of a limited number of options that he had to
choose from. These options were also limited by the historical circumstances that
placed the cluster housing development and the school several miles from one
another, and the only obvious path between them being Highway 18. Asa result,
transportation was a crucial element in the decision-making process that led to
Nicolas decision to ride his bike to the federally subsidized meal. There are many
times when other people in the community make this same choice, but
transportation should not be a life-risking endeavor, especially transportation to a
school.
Organization of the Thesis
The following chapters are organized in a manner to present a clear and
coherent argument for the use of digital media as a form of sustainable development
in disadvantaged indigenous communities.
26


Chapter two will cover social theory that lends credibility to this argument.
Political economy of the Pine Ridge reservation as well as the political economy of
media on the reservation will be examined. Then, after this examination, the
appropriation of media by other indigenous groups will be looked at to see how this
type of work can potentially benefit the Pine Ridge reservation. Antonio Gramscis
ideas of the subaltern and organic intellectual round out this chapter. His ideas lend
credibility to the idea that there are people in this community who are willing and
able to appropriate media for their own goals and objectives.
Chapter three describes the methods I have used to gather the data necessary
for this thesis and to make the film A Film Dedicated to the Memory of Nicolas
Blacksmith. Within this chapter there are sections on inductive research,
participatory research and focus groups. Inductive research is a guided
methodology that allows a researcher to enter the field without a formally set
agenda and developed hypothesis to be tested. Participatory research was an
important element in this project because I hoped that the community in which the
research is based would benefit from my effort. Therefore, a participatory approach
was taken to include the ides, beliefs and concerns of Oglala residents to potentially
empower and help this community become more self-sufficient. Focus groups were
used to view the film A Film Dedicated to the Memory of Nicolas Blacksmith. The
viewing provided a chance to get feedback from Oglala residents for content
27


analysis and input of the film, and their individual perspectives on using digital
media as a form of sustainable development.
Chapter four is primarily dedicated to the examination and review of the data
I received in the focus groups. This chapter has preliminar results about this thesis
project and speaks to a growing body of work rooted in this thesis that I hope to
pursue in the immediate future.
Chapter five is a summary chapter with parting words on my future work.
28


CHAPTER 2
ORGANIZING THEORY TO APPROPRIATE MEDIA
The overall goal of this thesis is to explore possibilities for using digital
technology in collaboration with people at the Pine Ridge Reservation as a catalyst
for positive social change through community-based sustainable development.
Specifically, this thesis is based on participatory applied research that I have
conducted with local community members to produce an educational/informative
film for consumption on the reservation and for fund raising off the reservation. In
the 1990s some researchers have begun to explore reflexive uses of video in
ethnography, using video images and technologies not simply to record data, but
as media through which ethnographic knowledge is created (Pink 2001: 77). In
writing this chapter I have attempted to take the theory of political economy and use
it to explain why there has been a relatively recent increase in Indigenous media.
Following these trends I have also attempted to show how indigenous media,
particularly digital film, is a phenomenon ready to be explored and appropriated on
the Pine Ridge reservation. Theoretically, it is important to explore this area of
potential media production as a form of empowerment and resistance to hegemonic
media production.
29


Michele Foucault advances the idea that those who produce and control
knowledge are endowed with the ability to define truth (Fillingham 1993).
Controlling new kinds of media presents new opportunities for the production and
control of knowledge. Foucault perceives culture as regimes of power and
knowledge, and he believes that power is the ability to determine what everyone
thinks is true. Power, as Foucault perceives it, is a fluid entity that has the ability to
induce group behavior, while simultaneously inhibiting other kinds of group
behavior (Barrett 2002).
Foucaultian thought does not relinquish the influence of power relationships
and agree with the traditional anthropological view that culture is a text to be read,
ala Geertz. Foucault would rather investigate the power relationships inherent in the
production of media the writing not the text (Roseberry 1988). Some media
scholars call this media imperialism, describing the relationship between media and
power (Browne 1996). This form of imperialism is not done in a military fashion,
but instead follows the rules of international business and can be traced through
political economy. Countries, usually wealthy northern countries, export their
media with the belief that the national values that are expressed in the media will
convert or condition favorable feelings towards the exporters view of the world.
This in turns creates media hegemony.
30


Drawing upon the work of Antonio Gramsci, its
proponents consider media products as transmitting
the values of one (often small, usually powerful)
portion of society to society in general. Society in
general, drawing much of its value system from the
media, unconsciously and perhaps uncritically absorbs
the values of that elite segment of society, making it
difficult for alternative approaches to gain any
toehold. It even may be that the elite itself is
unaware, largely because its held those values for
years, decades, even centuries, that it is imposing
them on the larger society (Browne 1996).
Counter hegemonic movements in media are important, then, to provide a resistance
and counter-narratives to those truths constructed by major media organizations.
Technological empowermentspecifically, technologies like videobrings with it
a change in the traditional view of mass media (Meadows 1994: 2). Additionally,
because there is such an abundant lack of media coverage on Indigenous issues, it is
important for reasons of cultural preservation and teaching that Indigenous groups
create discourses that challenge the hegemonic status quo. The potential of creating
media for empowerment has been well documented for disenfranchised groups.
They see the video-tape as an empowering visual medium: it offers women, HIV
infected people, and other marginalized groups, an opportunity to reproduce and
understand their world as opposed to the dominant representation depicted in the
mass media (Pink 2001: 86).
31


Therefore, the organization of this chapter explores and builds upon a
political economy of communication. It then turns to the appropriation of media by
Indigenous groups in order to illustrate how other communities have used media to
their own advantage. Finally, it engages Gramscis concept of the organic
intellectuals that represents one of the central theoretical premises of my work. This
is where theory fuses with community members in Pine Ridge who are the
individuals and groups that are capable of producing digital films for awareness
building, empowerment and positive social change.
Political Economy of Pine Ridge
The strength of a political economy theoretical approach is the depth and
breadth from which this theoretical position views phenomenon such as media.
Political economy has its roots in the work of Gunder Frank in Latin America and
later work by Immanuel Wallerstein in North America (Roseberry 1988). Frank
developed the concept of the underdeveloped. Developing nations could not
achieve the riches that western countries had achieved because they were
fundamentally different and unable to develop because of their subordinate
structural position to western countries. Developing countries were different
because they had to rely on providing economically established countries with the
ingredients for their modernized manufacturing. A whole chain of constellations
of metropolises and satellites is established to extract economic surplus (raw
32


material, mineral, commodities) from Third World villages to local capitals, to
regional capitals, to national capitals, and finally to the cities of Western countries
(So 1990: 97). Wallerstein incorporated Franks idea of the underdeveloped into a
comprehensive approach called world-systems theory. Within this theory there are
three distinct country categories that are described and defined in relationship to one
another: core, semiperipheral and peripheral.
Core states acting on the behalf of the capitalist
class, extract minerals, cheap labor, and new
markets from other regions. Semiperipheral states
have a core-like relation to peripheral regions, but a
peripheral-like relation to core states.
Semiperipheral societies can be either a rising
peripheral society, or declining core state. As a
whole the semiperipheral blocks polarization
between core and periphery, thus stabilizing the
system (Barfield 2000: 498).
The essential assumption of value here is that cultures after World War II are
intimately linked due to the emerging dominance of a world economy. The strength
of the world-systems approach is placing anthropological subjects in a wider context
that included the effects of economic, political and social movements (Roseberry
1988). This allows culture to be looked at as a part within the global system. After
viewing culture as a part of a system, a comparative study can be helpful in looking
for generalizations about the backlash traditional culture experiences when
influenced by a global system.
33


It is here that one sees the assumptions associated with Marxist thought
starting to make their mark on the perspective of political economy. The Marxist
scholar Althusser incorporated the concepts of mode of production and social
formation as a relief to the extreme claims made by dependency theory (Althusser
1979). Theirs was a degree of articulation between capitalist and non-capitalist
countries. Rey attempted to put non-capitalists countries in a three-stage scheme in
relation to how these countries were to eventually become a part of the capitalist
community. His method was based in looking at phenomenon from an alternative
vantage point; Rey attempted to approach the articulation of noncapitalist and
capitalist modes historically, analyzing the development of commodity markets, the
imposition of colonial rule, the investment of different forms of capital, and so on
(Roseberry 1988: 168). Dependency theory was a new perspective that looked at the
economic crisis of the Third World from a periphery, rather than a core perspective.
Therefore, his theories were also based on the assumption of a unilinear chart of
progression. He, too, emphasized history in his work; Rey called it a double
history. Described as a telling from both the core and periphery, a double history
gives a researcher insight on how individual subjects see the past from economical
and political frames of reference.
These theoretical models serve as the foundation for political economy.
Without the dependency and world-systems theoretical predecessors and the true
34


beginnings of political economy that is the Marxist ideals of modes of production
and social formation, political economy could not function as a credible approach
for looking at the global phenomenon; it is this global approach of looking at the
world dynamics that makes political economy possible.
Contemporary political economy is not Marxist in any absolute terms.
Political economy can be taught from a non-Marxist perspective; however, it loses
most if its strength because the economic dynamics proposed by Marx are present in
the current economic structure, even if his prediction of a socialist utopia has not
been realized. Political economy as it is used today has three characteristics that
many scholars have agreed unite the theoretical approach (Cobb 1993; Marcus and
Fischer 1986; Ortner 1984; Roseberry 1988). First, there is a global perspective that
is taken because communities, societies or even countries cannot be viewed as a
closed system without connections to the larger, global community. Second, a
historical framework is crucial in understanding the ethnographic present.
Neglecting historical opportunities and constraints limits the understanding of why
things are the way they are or are not in todays world. Third, almost all political
economy studies can be viewed as Marxist at some level because they incorporate a
historical and materialist basis for analysis with economic elements such as division
of labor, modes and means of product and consumption, commoditization and
commodity fetishism.
35


In core countries such as the United States there is a possibility of having
marginalized, underdeveloped areas. Pine Ridge is such a place. While the
reservation is located in one of the worlds richest countries, there are many
historical and structural barriers that make conditions on the reservation dissimilar
to the conditions of the core area. This situation can be conceptualized in
comparison to the relationships that are present in the core, periphery and
semiperiphery in the broader global dynamic. Labor, for example, is one of the few
commodities that local reservation residents have control over. However, many
times this commodity leaves this marginalized, underdeveloped area and is
consumed in core areas such as Rapid City, South Dakota or Denver, Colorado.
How might we apply these perspectives to the question of Media? Media is
a pervasive and saturating embodiment of what Foucault would call the production
of knowledge, and therefore truth. As with any other major structural component of
historical construction, i.e. capitalism or wage labor, media has had a history that
has allowed it to grow and stretch to every continent and touch almost every person
within its reach. Vincent Mosco argues that the point in time where media truly
became a concern in political economical terms is with the corporatizing of media.
One of the chief influences on the development of a political economy approach
was the transformation of the press, electronic media, and tele-communications
from modest, often family-owned enterprises, into major businesses of the
36


twentieth-century industrial order (Mosco 1996: 73). This transition made mass
production, and uniquely articulated from its conception, mass consumption of
media a global phenomenon like no other before its time. Political economists had
previously viewed business and political issues through the looking glass of political
economy, but never before had they looked at an issue like media that touched so
many people and shaped opinions and minds on such a large scale (Mosco 1996).
What has made the proliferation of media so important to document and
study is the concentration of ownership. Again, this is what Foucault warns us
about. If information is controlled and disseminated from only a few sources, Time
Warner or Walt Disney for example, there is a monopoly on information and the
resulting truths that these corporations choose to disseminate. This is made possible
by several techniques devised by media corporations to have ownership of the
process of delivering news to the general public. The first technique is vertical
integration, where a company acquires the means of production for specific media
outlet so that they own every facet of creating news to delivering it to you doorstep.
The other technique is horizontal integration, where a company acquires these
means of production in one specific type of media, but in different localities so that
the message being broadcasted or printed is the same in different geographic
locations (Mosco 1996). The best example of a political economy examination of
this phenomenon is the film Manufacturing Consent: Noam Chomsky and the
37


Media. In this study, treatment of international news is looked at through filters of
economic and organizational relationships. First, Chomsky identifies media
companies size, ownership and profit relationship to the market. Then he
deconstructs the relationships that these organizations have to advertising firms,
marketing firms and composition of ownership and their wishes to turn a profit.
Obviously, there are strong relationships that indicate that these media outlets are
profit driven and this is indicative of their relationship to other service function
firms (Herman and Chomsky 1988).
What does the political economy of media have to do with Pine Ridge? In a
world-systems framework, Pine Ridge is at best an underdeveloped locality within a
core in the global picture of the political economy. Pine Ridge does not produce
much in the way of commodities for sale to the larger world economy; additionally,
Pine Ridge does not necessarily provide resources for a semiperiphery or core
country besides labor when reservation residents leave the reservation to find wage
labor. Therefore, in the following paragraphs I describe the articulation of the Pine
Ridge reservation with the broader political economy and how that influences the
lack of media, besides the KILI radio broadcast, created by reservation residents to
be consumed locally on the reservation.
38


To begin with, values on the reservation are different than they are in the
dominant world economy or core. This means that Lakotas define themselves
differently than people within the core and this has a major influence on the
articulation of the Pine Ridge political economy with the dominant political
economy of the core. It is typical in dominant society that people identify and
define themselves by their occupation and income, whereas on the reservation
people willingly accept a lower standard of living to remain on the reservation
(Pickering 2000). These characteristics are how westerns relate to the rest of the
world. However, in Pine Ridge, people identify in a completely different manner.
According to Lakota values, people are defined by their relatives, rather than by
their occupation or their material wealth (Pickering 2000: 27). Therefore, people
construct different strategies to make ends meet. If a family can get some form of
public assistance and they can also rely on their families for monetary support or
services, many people are able to leave jobs that can be more of a deterrent to
making ends meet than being unemployed.
Employment is seen as a deterrent because federal funding and public
assistance is lost when a person is employed whether it is full or part time. In the
dominant political economy structure, being employed is a mandatory requirement
to have money to pay for housing, cloths, food and other services one might need.
On the reservation, people actually leave jobs because they are better off without
39


the income (Pickering 2000). Being better off means that there is public assistance
to help make ends meet and there is more time to spend with family and completing
other obligations. The following passage is testimonial from a reservation resident
of the adverse conditions finding and maintaining wage labor can introduce.
Its working people who have a harder time making
their payments. The system is really set up to work
for people on welfare and against the people who are
working. If youre working, you have to pay a third
of your income to HUD for housing, you dont
qualify for Food Stamps or energy assistance, plus
you have all the costs of babysitting and gas and cars
Whereas people who arent working may even have
negative rent, with all the social services and
economic supports at hand (Pickering 2000).
It is not an accident that this testimonial is so insightful. The residents of Pine
Ridge and Rosebud on the whole are extremely astute politically, having observed
the impact of larger political and economic forces on their reservation economies for
decades (Pickering 2000:120).
From the perspective of a political economist, Pine Ridge is connected to the
global economy through historical integration by force and coercion. The Pine
Ridge economy was pulled into the mainstream American economy, and larger
world economy, over time. As the process unraveled in military and social terms,
the residents on the reservation became dependent on the larger and more robust
40


economy of the United States for their day-to-day commodities. For example,
gasoline prices rise at the same rate of the traditional core areas in the United States,
but are higher overall. Because of the long distances that have to be traveled by
reservation residents the high cost of gasoline affects many people. In a similar
manner, and inextricably connected, groceries are expensive on the reservation.
Because of the long distances that people have to travel to border towns to buy
groceries, the price of groceries on the reservation are high because there is a
demand for groceries and a profit to be made by these business owners. This
situation is made worse for those people who cannot afford to travel to the Wal-
Mart discount stores in Rapid City or Chadron, Nebraska. Therefore, the economy
of Pine Ridge is connected to the broader political economy on a global level. This
connection is obvious because of all the ways reservation resident are dependent on
non-reservation groceries, fuel, services, wage labor or building resources to name
only a few. With my experience on the reservation I have come to realize that
economics and development are tricky situations on the reservation. It is clear that
the political economy of the reservation is linked to the core-state of the United
States; however, the economy on the reservation acts differently on occasion, an
example would be a plethora of rummage sales or donations from the outside, but
never truly independently of the political and economic forces elsewhere because of
their fundamental economic connection.
41


Many American Indians live on the reservation despite the poverty, disease
and social ills out of choice (Pickering 2000). Remaining on the reservation also
allows for the continuation of traditional religion, culture and kin relationships. The
reservation has become their territory and they will defend it as best as they can for
as long as they are able to. In regard to outside academics (myself included) and
governmental agents, many reservation residents would prefer to have no help from
outside sources. Vine Deloria Jr., of the Sioux Nation, talks about this problem in
relationship to task forces:
The name of the game in the government sector is
TASK FORCE REPORT. Every two years some
reporter causes a great uproar about how Indians are
treated by the Bureau of Indian Affairs. This, in turn,
causes great consternation among Senators and
Congressman who have to answer mail from citizens
concerned about Indians. So a TASK FORCE
REPORT. [...] We are tasked forced. [...]Some
years ago at a Congressional hearing someone asked
Alex Chasing Hawk, a council member of the
Cheyenne River Sioux for thirty years, Just what do
you Indians Want? Alex replied, A leave-us-alone
law! [...] The Primary goal and need of Indians
today is not for someone to feel sorry for us. [...] We
need the public at large to drop the myths in which it
has clothed us for so long. We need fewer and fewer
experts on Indians (Deloria 1988: 42).
In personal conversations and formal interviews I have heard the same type
of pleas from community members on the reservation. Despite the unarguable
connection to the global political economy, many people on the reservation just
42


want to be left on the reservation to maintain and teach their Lakota cultural ways to
their children. For this reason alone, it would be tremendously helpful for the
community to be able to develop their own media sources. Documenting, archiving
and teaching from these media sources would allow the reservation some
independence from western experts. Development projects tend to suffer from
neglecting the insight that can be garnered from local community members. It is not
for the lack of intelligent people or people with ideas to come up with media
strategies; it is a structural problem because there is a lack of opportunities for
people to get involved in starting their own projects.
We dont have any shortage of ideas around here. Its
the people in the community that know whats needed
to solve our problems, not the people out there that
end up controlling all the funds that come onto the
rez. We need people who will support the people in
their own ideas, who will listen rather than always
talking about whats wrong with this place. People
are doing their own things around here, they just dont
get the big payoffs, and they just get what they need to
get by (Pickering 2000: 121).
As this passage suggests, there are people on the reservation that have ideas and
want to do things for the future of their community. During the summer of 2005 I
heard people who wanted to make films about keeping the Lakota language, STDs,
gang violence, diabetes awareness and obesity awareness, and these are only several
suggestions that have been made. Furthermore, there is a group of people that have
43


started the long process of creating a television station to broadcast over public
airwaves. However, the institution this group is working through has had
reservations and will not allow the project to continue. This is unfortunate because
other indigenous groups have truly benefited from the creation of their own media.
In the next section the efforts, obstacles and benefits of Indigenous groups in
Australia, Canada and Latin America are described to demonstrate how Pine Ridge
could benefit from these activities.
Appropriation of Media by Indigenous Groups
At the outset of this section it needs to be made clear that I do not speak for
the people on the Pine Ridge reservation, and in no way do I represent their
collective tribal interests. Instead, I have reviewed the literature about Indigenous
media in other countries and only wish to portray that knowledge here so that those
people who are interested in making visual documents and media can learn from the
experiences of other Indigenous peoples who have gone through this process
themselves.
There is a large body of literature about the appropriation of film by
indigenous communities in Australia, Canada and Latin America and their use of
media in cultural preservation and on the use of media to confront social issues. In
these scenarios indigenous people have collaborated with westerners that have
44


expertise and technical skills to undertake these kinds of projects. In the process,
they have learned these skills and then appropriated the mediums of radio, television
and film according to the needs and agendas of their communities. This literature
serves as the background context of social theory on which this thesis is based.
Anchoring the importance of this literature is the likelihood of empowerment from
creating and disseminating media that has relevance to the society from which it is
created. Therefore, the following section will explore the experiences of other
indigenous groups and what they have done through the appropriation of media in
other countries. This is important to demonstrate; awareness building,
empowerment and social change are possible results of creating media in a
sustainable manner in disadvantaged communities and learning about how other
communities have accomplished appropriation of media will make it easier in the
Pine Ridge community.
Theoretically, creating narratives can give a group autonomy and self-
determination. Historically, however, very few indigenous groups have been able to
create their own voice that stands alone and against the hegemonic discourse of
mainstream media, especially in the United States (Browne 1996). European
narratives have given agency to Europeans, construing natives as passive
recipients of good actions (development) and bad ones (extermination or coercive
control), but only rarely and grudgingly giving agency and a speaking part to the
45


other of their imaginings (Hartley and McKee 2000: 4). In theoretical terms, this
thesis calls for the introduction of digital film as a medium to be appropriated by
community members on the Pine Ridge reservation. By doing so, it can be argued,
that with the ability to create narratives and discourses, people on the reservation
will create a voice to empower their community and alleviate social ills that exist in
their community.
While American Indians are no stranger to the mediums of radio, television
and film, their depiction in these mediums is something less than to be desired
(Kilpatrick 1999). If indigenous groups had agency and control over the images and
concepts that are portrayed in mass media there might not be an ethical issue to
consider. Due to their lack of agency in the way they are portrayed in mass media
there is an issue of ownership that needs to be thought about and rectified. Hartley
and McKee have argued that historically the indigenous person has had little control
over their depiction in media.
What would you call a small group of people,
proportionally insignificant as a percentage of the
population as a whole, who are subjected to
compulsive, unrepresentative, continuous media
coverage across all media forms from the national
daily press to fishing and fashion magazines? What
do you call people who, in stories about their banal,
everyday lives, are taken to embody (often in the
breach) the core values and major difficulties facing
their society? What do you call people whose image
46


I
is largely created by media; who serve as character
and plot in the ongoing public narration of the story of
who we are (Hartley and McKee 2000)?
The answer to all of these questions is quite simple and somewhat surprising:
celebrities and stars. The comparison of Indigenous peoples to celebrities seems
strange to begin with, but with further evaluation it becomes clear that this
comparison is surprisingly accurate. Rarely does society truly know who celebrities
and stars are as real people. Rather, society knows all of the scandalous rumors that
are written in print mediums and shown on the television. Society gets to know a
person that is constructed in marketing boardrooms and packaged in a variety of
different mediums. Similarly, Indigenous people from around the world are over-
represented in terms of their statistical proportion to the overall population (Hartley
and McKee 2000). As a result, Indigenous people are stereotyped for the sake of
understanding for the general population. It is not so much that the media that is
created is biased or racist, but that there is simply a poor understanding of who
Indigenous people truly are. Some authors have made the argument that it is not the
medias fault that this has happened. It is the primary responsibility of media
outlets to create news. In doing this, the obscure or complicated is made easy for
the general public to understand (Hartley and McKee 2000). These generalities
allow people in the general public to operate in the world with a minimal
understanding of the people around them. However, these generalities are often
47


!
i
i
i
unrepresentative of what they intend to illuminate. Therefore, the creation of an
accurate portrayal of the twenty-first century Indian is another reason why the
creation of media is an important project on the Pine Ridge reservation, in addition
to the goals of awareness building, empowerment and positive social change
mentioned previously.
Many Indigenous groups have appropriated media in the hope of preserving
language. Through colonization many groups have been displaced by new cultures
and the use of their language has diminished (Browne 1996). In fact, in many of the
interviews I have conducted on the Pine Ridge reservation, many people told me
that because of the boarding school experience they are reluctant to speak their
native tongue. There are many stories of children being beat and punished by
boarding school teachers for speaking their traditional language (Personal
Communication 2005). These reluctant speakers tend to be the elderly populace on
the reservation. Because of this experience they did not teach their children how to
speak Lakota. These children who have become non-speakers are now adults and
have children of their own. Due to the fact that they were never taught their
language, they are unable to teach their children. Therefore, it is understandable
that people on the reservation have expressed interest in appropriating media to use
as a resource for maintaining their traditional language heritage. In the following
48


paragraphs I describe an example of this type of appropriation that has taken place
in two different communities, the Maori and Emabella, half the world apart.
Although language preservation has taken a predominately radio-based
approach, this type of Indigenous media has been successful in many parts of the
world. Additionally, I would argue that radio is the natural predecessor to the
development of film, video or television programming because it is one element of
media, audio, while the other types of media demand both audio and video.
Naturally, it is easier to begin learning about the production of media when you only
have to concentrate on one element, rather than two.
Many languages appeared to be losing a battle with
time until indigenous language radio materialized.
Maori, Irish, Sami, Lakota, and a number of others
had reached the point where even their ardent
supporters wondered whether they would be spoken
any longer as the twentieth century came to a close.
Revival, preservation, or extension of indigenous
languages served as the principal motivator for groups
speaking those languages. Now that such use has
become increasingly common, and is likely to
continue in the foreseeable future, its appropriate to
ask a fundamental question about indigenous language
electronic media activities: when such activities begin
to occur, what do they do to/for an indigenous
language (Brown 1996: 166)?
Language revival is an important issue because it is nearly impossible to revive a
dead language (Browne 1996). The Maori of New Zealand have had some success
49


in using their radio station as a resource to bring their traditional language back into
greater and wider use. Community interest in hearing the old sounds of their
language increased when Radio New Zealand (RNZ) started to make recordings of
elderly storytellers, educators, politicians, singers, and others who could reflect on
the past and in their own language (Browne 1996: 168). Browne argues that there
is no hard, scientific evidence that language revival as a result of the creation of a
broadcasting station has had a positive impact on language preservation. He
continues to assert, however, that there is anecdotal evidence in the form of
increasing numbers of people enrolling in language courses and increased interest in
popular music that is sung in traditional languages.
In Pine Ridge, the local broadcast station is KILI radio. Through the
interviews I have conducted on the reservation, I have discovered that there is a high
degree of dependence on this form of media. In the mornings there are dedicated
time slots for elders to talk about community events, happenings and concerns.
Some of the time these time slots are filled with traditional Lakota speakers. This
allows reservation residents a chance to hear their native language on a daily basis.
In addition to this positive element of the KILI broadcasts, there are reasons that
KILI is so important as a local, grassroots media producer. Because the reservation
residents are so geographically dispersed, radio serves as a communication
technology that can be used to shrink the distances between people and between
50


people and events, community meetings or governmental assistance programs. As
was discussed in the introductory chapter, transportation is a major issue
confronting reservation resident. Many people do not have the means to maintain
and fuel a vehicle. Radio broadcast allow people to obtain information they would
otherwise not be privy to. Ultimately, this medium saves people money and
resources because they are informed about what is happening in the community and
do not have to spend their resources driving aimlessly about the reservation to
obtain this information.
There are other examples of indigenous media appropriation that go beyond
radio and into the realms of film and video. I argue that these latest products of
indigenous expressive culture are part of self-conscious efforts to sustain and
transform culture in aboriginal communities, an activity that is linked to indigenous
efforts for rights to self-presentation, governance, and cultural autonomy (Ginsburg
1997: 119). Perhaps the very first community to develop a community-based
broadcasting system was Emabella in southern Australia. This is a relatively small
community with a transitory population that ranges from 500-1,500 people, and
consists of a community store, a town office, a police station, a primary school, a
health clinic, a church, an art association, and local broadcast facilities (Ginsburg
1997), which mirrors the composition of many of the villages in Pine Ridge. This
community achieved the infrastructure they needed for their facility and the use of
51


an inexpensive satellite dish for short-range broadcast through a self-imposed
taxation on the cold soft drinks that are purchased in the local community store. As
a side note, this strategy might very well be an effective approach to consider on the
Pine Ridge reservation. I have observed, especially being on the reservation
predominately in the summer time that people consume a large quantity of soda, and
the revenue collected from this self-imposed taxation, would, hypothetically, be a
large sum.
In the beginning of the life of Emabella Video Television (EVTV),
community members sought to be independent from governmental grants, so they
focused only on using funds generated from the self-imposed tax, and they were
successful. Since the inception of EVTV in 1983, the small production facilities in
Emabella have produced over eighty hours of edited videos and countless hours of
community television. The inner workings of this broadcast phenomenon are based
in traditional community values. There is a community committee made up of male
and female elders who supervise the content of the broadcasts.
Their concerns range from monitoring the content of
work shownso that images are not circulated that
violate cultural rules regulating what can be seen (e.g.,
tapes of womens sacred ceremonies are only
accessible to appropriate senior women and are never
edited)and the timing of viewing so that television
transmission, whether locally produced or the national
52


satellite feed, does not interfere with other cultural
activities (Ginsburg 1997: 133).
What the institutionalization of elderly as the content control of the produced media
has achieved is the prioritization of cultural ceremonies, stories, history and dances
of the group. This institutional practice has saved detractors from making the
argument that television is an evil invention of the western post-industrial world,
and that its incorporation into an indigenous society can only cause harm and reduce
still existing traditional traits and characteristics. Instead, the medium, technology
and skill have been appropriated from the western world and used in a fashion that
is productive for the community in which the media is created. While people still
might want to make the argument that television, film, and video have no place in
the indigenous public sphere (Hartley and McKee 2000), the assumption that native
people will always remain native like in the arenas of dress, art, customs, housing,
etc, is an inaccurate assumption that proves to be more ethnocentric than insightful;
ethnocentric because it is usually easier to understand ones own place in the world
when other groups of people, concepts or cultures remain static over the course of
time.
Perhaps the most important element of EVTV is the influence it has on over
not only the producers of the media, but over their audience as well; this influence
creates opportunity for empowerment and the greater chance of positive social
change the community can expect over the course of time. I am proposing that
53


when other forms are no longer effective, indigenous media offers a possible
meanssocial, cultural and politicalfor reproducing and transforming cultural
identity among people who have experienced massive political, geographic and
economic disruption (Ginsburg 1991: 94). It has been observed that Emabella
community members have taken a more involved and participatory role in
environmental issues. Programming has had an influence over the Emabella
society, they extend the power that ceremonies have to revive sacred aspects of the
landscape, and while at the same time they provide an activity that reinforces the
social relations that are fundamental to this kind of cultural production (Ginsburg
1997:134). The social relationships that Ginsburg refers to are those social
relationships that have existed in the past and have eroded over the course of time.
The nature of these relationships is a community that is well networked, where each
of the individuals in the community know where to locate cores of traditional
knowledge. Because each of us cannot know everything, the production of media
that has traditional culture as its subject allows the community to go through several
important exercises that allow the community to retain that knowledge. First, to
produce an edited video about a particular aspect of culture you must first locate
those experts in the community who know about that aspect to teach you everything
they know about it. Second, then you must interview those people to gather your
data, all the time learning about your subject. Third, after you have all your data
you have to edit it in a logical and comprehensive manner so that it will be
54


intelligible and entertaining for your audience. I would argue that this is the step
where the media producer really internalizes and will remember the data. This is
due to the fact that as an editor you have to watch, and review, and watch again the
clips of multimedia that you will be editing into a video. Finally, as the media
producer you have the opportunity to present the video to the community.
Regardless of the breadth or depth of these exercises, or their order for that matter,
there is a learning process within this greater creative and productive process.
There are several other elements of positive social change that Ginsburg has
observed in the Emabella community; they include greater cultural identity, increase
of economical opportunities for the people in this community to be cultural
performers and greater general knowledge of their own heritage (Ginsburg 1997).
As a tribal group, the Pitjantjatjara, the people of Emabella have defined what
makes them Pitjantjatjara in relationship to all the other small tribal groups that fall
under the generalized title of aboriginal. This in turn strengthens the community, as
well as a broader regional strengthening because the Pitjantjatjara are closely
networked with other regional aboriginal tribes; the knowledge of themselves
translates to stronger aboriginal national and international identity that can be
portrayed in the media. Another positive outgrowth of this situation is the economic
opportunities that have been produced as a byproduct of EVTV. Of course there are
the elders who work as content control on the media committee; then, there are
55


those citizens who become the actual producers of the media. For example, for
simple video productions there are several skills needed, each of which can be
learned by different people in the community and then used to create the videos for
local consumption. A cameraperson, sound person, editor, researcher, scriptwriter
and director are the five people, at minimum, that a simple production would need
to create a basic video. However, the economic opportunities extend further than
this basic operating and creative five-person production team. Through the
development and actual creation of the films and videos, the benefits to which I
mentioned above, the people of Emabella have created a reputation that precedes
them throughout the world. They are often invited to cultural gatherings to perform
their traditional ceremonies and dances. Overall, the EVTV cultural force has been
very successful in appropriating media and bending it to their own needs. Neil
Turner, an EVTV advocate and technical consultant who has been instrumental in
the development of this phenomenon describes the benefit of EVTV for the
Emabella community as such:
Its production is seen as a cultural imperative
involving the whole community, not as the
prohibitively expensive preserve of mystified elite
offering luxury handouts. In fact, EVTV has turned
the cultural hegemonist model on its head, using video
to promulgate their own cultural product nationally
and around the world. They perform their inma
(ceremonies) in cities to enlighten those unfortunate
who have lost their pre-literate oral heritage. The
Seven Sisters has now been sent over the central
56


satellite footprint to Adelaide, Canberra, Sydney, the
Philippines, Hawaii, Austria, Berlin and London
(Turner 1990: 45).
In addition to Turners description I would add that these public events, whose
widespread distribution was made possible by the creation EVTV, have helped
reduce stereotypes of the noble savage or simple primitive (Krech El 1999) that
many westerners have about native peoples. The production of film, video and
radio broadcasts is not a simple enterprise. To have done it so successfully for so
long illustrates for the outsider an image of the Pitjantjatjara who are progressive,
intelligent and sophisticated people who are at the same time in touch with their
tribal existence and heritage.
The empowerment that has been realized in the Emabella community is
possible quite simply because they controlled the entire process. Control in the
creative process of appropriating media is crucial for the survival and longevity of
indigenous media.
This also applies to the indigenous media production in Canada. Prior to the
1970s, the majority of Inuit communities did not have access to any
telecommunication technology or media, print or visual. With dizzying speed these
items were introduced to the communities without the input from locals on the best
57


way to introduce them to the population that had no previous experience with these
technologies (Meadows 1994; Daly and James 1992).
Although efforts were made to construct a television
system in rural Alaska based on participatory model
of development, local participation was blunted by a
technocratic consciousness that enshrined efficiency,
technique, and speed as imperatives that overrode
serious considerations of cultural values (Daley and
James 1992: 40).
Because this was the case, the state television project failed on the grounds that the
technology was introduced to quickly without fully understanding the time it would
take to develop a truly participatory approach to the creation of this communications
project. Robert Walp, the former leader of the Governors Office of
Telecommunications was quoted by Daley and James as saying, Where progress
has been made in Alaska we have generally erred on the side of doing, rather than
planning, largely because of impatience to meet sharply felt needs and also because
the funds were quickly appropriated (Daley and James 1992: 40). Clearly, at least
in the development of this particular project, the interests of the community were a
concern and were considered in the configuration of the state program. However, as
with the majority of other development projects, this project suffered from the
pressures of a western world that does not necessarily fit well with the values of
indigenous communities. Community residents were more concerned about the
media that would be imported into their community than the fiscal responsibilities
58


that accompany the development of this type of infrastructure, which takes a great
deal of coordination and planning.
There are many goals that indigenous media production can potentially
realize. These potential goals as represented in this chapter include: 1) cultural
preservation, 2) education and awareness raising about social issues, 3)
representation of indigenous culture to mainstream society, and 4) advocacy
activities. I have covered these examples because in the case of this work these
examples from other indigenous communities are probably more important than
knowledge from western experts and academics. Furthermore, these experiences in
other indigenous communities can be instructive for community members in Pine
Ridge interested in creating their own media.
In the next section of this chapter I introduce the concept of the organic
intellectual as theorized by Antonio Gramsci. I believe that if indigenous media is
going to become a legitimate force on the Pine Ridge reservation it has to be
developed by community members for community members. Allowing the
community to retain autonomy in this process will increase the chances of the type
of success evident in Emabella.
59


At the Intersection of Participatory Research, Community-
based Film and Gramscis Organic Intellectual
Antonio Gramsci describes the process of culture change by eliciting
descriptive imperatives from several theoretical concepts that he developed. These
concepts include the intellectuals, the subaltern, the inability to effectively use
language, and hegemony. It is important to look at these concepts individually to
understand how they will later fit together within applied anthropology to produce
culture change, as well as how ethnographic film relates to the broader picture of
culture change and applied anthropology.
Gramsci was predominately concerned above all with culture change
(Crehan 2002: 71). From this interest he posited the question: how might a more
equitable and just order be brought about, and what is it about how people live and
imagine their lives in particular times and places that advances or hampers progress
to this more equitable and just order? (Crehan 2002: 71). It is from these concerns
and desires that Gramsci theorized the following terms in hope of achieving that just
order.
Before starting the description of how Gramsci work relates to this thesis,
however, it is critical to clarify how Gramsci used the term culture and how that
usage differs from traditional use of culture, as a concept, in anthropology.
60


Anthropologists, when they use the term culture, are usually implicitly accepting
three assumptions of the word identified by Crehan.
These assumptions are that culture are in some sense
patterned wholes with their own logics (and that it is
the business of anthropologists to tease out these
logics), that cultures, again in some sense, constitute
some kind of bounded wholes (however porous their
boundaries), and that there exists a basic opposition
between tradition' and modernity (Crehan 2002:
66).
Gramsci, on the other hand, had different assumptions about the concept of culture.
His interest in questions of culture stemmed from a revolutionary political project
(Crehan 2002: 71). Culture, for Gramsci, was the way that class was experienced
and lived. According to Gramsci culture is a highly fluid and dynamic entity. The
way life is lived is influenced by a plethora of historical processes that intersect at
any given moment in time, thusly creating the conditions that are experienced by the
group and the individual. Ultimately, culture is thought in action, and is the
practical efforts of groups and individuals to understand their place within the world
in which they find themselves (Crehan 2002). Similarly to Marx, Gramsci put his
greatest emphasis on class struggle, or lived culture, to explain what different
competing classes go through for control. It is in the subordinated cultures, or the
subaltern, that Gramsci finds the organic intellectual who is capable of producing
counter-hegemonies.
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Intellectuals influence culture change. Gramsci asserts that all humans think
and as a result have the potential to be intellectuals; however, not all people in
society have the function of intellectuals. Gramsci defines those who function as
intellectuals by categorizing them in two types, 1) the traditional intellectuals who
are professional intellectuals, literary, scientific and so on, whose position in the
interstices of society has a certain inter-class aura about it but derives ultimately
from past and present class relations and conceals an attachment to various
historical class formations, and 2) the organic intellectuals who are the thinking
and organizing element of a particular fundamental social class (Gramsci: 3). The
organic intellectual assumes two functional roles in society: organization and
directive. Other members of society look for the intellectual to create new
knowledge and disperse this new knowledge, and therefore these are the
responsibilities of the intellectual (Crehan 2002). Accordingly, the creation and
dispersal of new information by the organic intellectual ties in nicely with the
attributes of digital media. Therefore, digital media is a tool to be harnessed by the
community with the direction and organizational skills of the organic intellectual.
It is the directive role in the political process that makes organic intellectuals
so important to the communities to which they belong, known to Gramsci as the
subaltern. Basically, the subaltern is any group in society that is subordinate to the
ruling class and therefore is shaped by this dominating class (Crehan 2002).
62


However, because a governing class rules them it does not mean they are
unconscious of their oppression. On the contrary, it is their inability to effectively
use language, not their ignorance of their position in society, which keeps them
oppressed. Being historically on the defensive shapes the subaltern conception of
the world and this relates to the subaltern groups inability to effectively use
language. A key dimension of inequality for Gramsci is the inability of subaltern
people to produce coherent accounts of the world they live in that have the potential
to challenge the existing hegemonic discounts in any effective way (Crehan
2002:104). It is here that the organic intellectual must assume the functions of his
responsibility in society. Organic intellectuals are those rare individuals that have
an equal amount of prestige, leadership and intellectual ability to generate a
coherent alternative to the hegemonic constructs that can explain things as
effectively as hegemonic constructs. The role of the intellectual is the articulation
of this discourse, the subaltern are aware that their condition is shaped by many
forces uncontrollable by them, but the intellectuals are those who can express this
oppression, and the dynamics of this oppression, clearly for the subaltern group. The
discourse that they produce is the ammunition that will combat the dominant
hegemonic discourse in attempt to create culture change.
Hegemony is truly Gramscis conceptual legacy. Political Scientist James
Scott has defined hegemony as the process of ideological domination (Scott-
63


Smith 2002). Hegemonic discourses are those ideas that people consume
uncritically while simultaneously keeping them oppressed. Crehan moves beyond
this rather simplified conceptualization to define hegemony as particularly sensitive
to time, a ceaseless power struggle where power is never totally secure is likely
to include an extremely complicated intertwining of force and consent, and of the
entanglement of accounts of reality with hard realities that are more than discourse
(Crehan 2002: 175). This definition illuminates the power of hegemony and the
ways it penetrates peoples everyday realities at multiple levels. Coupled with the
inability of the subaltern to produce coherent conceptions of their world, despite
their knowledge of what is oppressing them, this group must rely on the intellectuals
because of their prestige, natural leadership abilities and repertoire of skills,
including organization and direction, to create avenues for them to challenge the
hegemonic discourse.
Turning to the question of how these concepts are relevant to applied
anthropology, I believe there is room for facilitating culture change by eliciting the
knowledge of people who are residents in structurally oppressed communities to
create counter hegemonic discourses to spur culture change in the form of
ethnographic film. We live in a world in which, increasingly, people learn of their
own and other cultures and histories through a range of visual media film,
television, and video that have emerged as powerful cultural forces in the late
64


twentieth century (Ginsburg 1994:367). It can be inferred from this quotation that
ethnographic film provides space for the applied anthropologist to facilitate the
production of counter hegemonic discourses that could potentially challenge the
current dominant hegemonic discourse as peddled by the mass media and
oppressive regimes. Many of the elements that Gramsci described that advances or
hampers progress to this more equitable and just order can be addressed within the
pursuit of ethnographic film.
First, while the applied anthropologist is in the field they can seek out
knowledge, expertise and experience of community residents and organic
intellectuals who might have some skills beneficial to the project or the eliciting of
perspectives on problems facing their communities. Because the organic
intellectual has a special prestige within the community and a repertoire of skills not
found elsewhere, namely organization and direction, the organic intellectual will
hopefully be able to use digital media to construct alternatives to hegemonic
discourses. However, it is vital to get input from more than just the organic
intellectual. An earnest attempt to get a consensus of the community, rather than
just the input from the organic intellectual will help avoid hegemony on a smaller
scale. Most importantly, however, is the creation of new knowledge that is the
product of the ethnographic film. In my own research on the Pine Ridge Indian
Reservation, most households have satellite cable, and most households consume
65


this media uncritically, It is almost expected that modernization brings with it a
homogenization of culture, most often ignored by technological decision makers
(Meadows 1994:2). Ethnographic film allows disadvantaged communities a new
and sexy medium to create knowledge. In summation, the organic intellectual
creates the space in which new discourse can bloom. It is they who produce the
broad cultural conceptions of the world that underpin particular power regimes, and
in the case of the organic intellectuals of an emergent class help to bring into being a
new culture (Crehan 2002:156).
Second, in regard to the problems facing the subaltern as a collective
community, the development of film projects provide a medium that can solve the
problems of articulating conceptual views of the world where the oppressed live.
These kinds of media responses represent a cultural frontier, offering the
possibility of, in Jan Pettmans words reclaiming language, and of building a
culture of opposition (Meadows 1994:3). Furthermore, with the help of the organic
intellectual, the organization of the dispersal of this new language (film) and its
message will facilitate the budding counter-hegemonic movement. The function of
organization that the organic intellectual directs is invaluable. For any group to
achieve dominance and to make its conception of the world hegemonic, and then to
reproduce that hegemony, demands organization (Crehan 2002:132). Lack of
organization, in Gramscis view, is the most averse characteristic in the subaltern
66


character that prevents them from shedding their subordinate position in society.
Organizationally, the organic intellectual will confirm that these projects are an
appropriate place to concentrate community skills because they are in tune with
what the community as a consensus perceives, and it will allow their messages to be
dispersed throughout the oppressed community.
When communities have the ability to empower their own intellectuals and
there is a medium for the intellectuals, in collaboration with the rest of the
community, to disperse their created knowledge, a resistance to the homogenized
dominant culture starts to appear. What makes this approach to culture change so
appealing is that it is a grassroots movement that locates the problems, as well as the
skills and individuals to rectify those problems, within the community, without
imposing any unneeded western biases, and provides the potential for an
unprecedented phenomenon: the appropriation and use of the new technologies by
indigenous peoples for their own end (Turner 1992:5).
Summary
This chapter illuminates how subscribing to a specific set of theoretical
concepts and approaches it is possible that an understanding be gleamed from a set
of phenomenon. Specifically, the political economy of the Pine Ridge reservation
allows us to see how disadvantages like poverty are possible in the middle of a core
67


country. Additionally, the political economy of communication on the reservation
has an influence on the hegemonic forces that keep the reservation community
oppressed. I have suggested that by working with community members via organic
intellectuals, who are community members that have prestige in their community
and also have developed certain skills of organization and direction, it is possible to
appropriate media to induce positive social change in the form of preserving cultural
knowledge and creating new cultural knowledge.
The next chapter seeks to describe the methods used in this project to
achieve these stated goals. It is necessary to make the methods I used transparent so
that the reader understands how this project, and its product A Film Dedicated to the
Memory of Nicolas Blacksmith, attempted to make this film a product of the
community from which it rose.
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CHAPTER 3
METHODOLOGICALLY SPEAKING
In completing this thesis a multi-methodological approach was performed to
accomplish all of the aims defined prior to the research. The aims that I defined for
this project were to create a film that would be an example of sustainable
development and awareness building in a disadvantaged community using the new
technology of digital film. The film was also intended to have an element of
community participation so that it reflected cultural sensitivities as they are found in
the Oglala community on the Pine Ridge reservation. To accomplish these aims,
considering the limitations of funding and time, I used three types of methods to
produce a film that meets the aims stated above. The three methods that I used are
inductive research or grounded theory, participatory research and focus groups. The
following sections describe the appropriateness of each of the three methods used in
this research project.
These methods were chosen because as I entered the field my research goals
and desires changed. Originally, I was interested in the contested landscape that
exists in the south unit of the Badlands National Park. While these issues are still of
importance, when I entered the Oglala community several different community
69


members approached me with concerns they had about the safety of their children
and their community as a whole. The main issue that was expressed to me and
manifested in cultural customs was the death of Nicolas Blacksmith. I was invited
to attend his memorial dinner. When an academic enters the field without
knowledge of the local context there is an introductory period where the researcher
must be initiated into the society. The most important element of this introductory
period is the transition from an outsider whose interests are unknown to a person
that most community members come to understand and perhaps trust if the proper
rapport is established.
Additionally, 1 have become aware of local issues and problems that tribal
members have to address on a daily basis. In short, I feel confident that this time in
the field has allowed me to construct a fairly robust social network and people are
pleased to see that I have returned summer after summer, rather than simply
acquiring the data required for my education and dismissing the social issues and
problems on the reservation. As a result of the social rapport that has been
established, my research goals have changed to reflect the needs within the
community. I have decided to participate in the Pine Ridge community in a way
that has been deemed valuable by a small group of community members in Oglala.
Therefore, in this thesis project the community I elude to is the community of
Oglala, and more specifically the younger people within this community whom I
70


hope will be responsive to the idea of using digital technology as a form of
sustainable development.
These methods are adaptive to the context in which the research is taking
place to make possible the media appropriation goals I have strenuously identified
alongside Oglala community members and local youth. Grounded theory is what
allowed me to come into contact with people who were concerned with a problem
that existed on the reservation fatalities of young people on the highways.
Without being open to issues and needs on the reservation, this project would never
have been possible. Participatory research can be used to describe this project
because community members identified this problem and sought me out as a
facilitator for the film project. It is also the goal of this project to describe how
communities can empower themselves, a goal of participatory research. Focus
groups were used to engage the community for their input to be able to gage
whether the film was appropriate to the cultural traits of Lakota people.
Furthermore, it was a concern that the film be appropriate so that local people would
be open to its message and how it depicted them as Lakota people.
Inductive Research a.k.a. Grounded Theory
As I have previously stated, grounded theory was the overriding
methodological approach that guided this body of work. The following section
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describes grounded theory and how it is used for qualitative research, as well as
explains how grounded theory was appropriate in this thesis and how it was used to
inform the researcher.
As a result of the events that led to my introduction to the Blacksmith
family, the tools used here through the method of grounded theory is that of digital
technology; because of its relatively easy access and usability, it is potentially a
form of sustainable development in disadvantaged communities such as the Pine
Ridge reservation. This approach to sustainable development has been realized by
the use and direction of inductive methodology. Grounded theory advocates that
through observation a theory will be discovered or generated that better fits the data
than attempting to make the data fit the theory that a researcher embraces and takes
into the field to verify. But, before we get into great detail on this approach, let us
first define what grounded theory means to qualitative research.
In the most basic sense grounded theory is theory that was derived from
data, systematically gathered and analyzed through the research process (Strauss
and Corbin 1998: 12). Furthermore, grounded theory holds that concepts and
hypotheses should not precede the gathering of information, in that theory is
rooted in the reality observed and it is the researchers task to discover it
(Corbetta 2003: 55). An attractive aspect of this type of methodological approach is
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that the researcher is immersed in the data as it is being collected. Because the
researcher does not go into the field with an obligation to materialize preconceived
notions of what will be found, the data collection and data analysis process is
simultaneous. When there is a discovery that is meaningful to the research, that
discovery changes the investigative and exploratory arc of the project. This process
is very different from the overly rigid standard qualitative research approach. The
typical process of qualitative research follows these progressing and linear steps: 1)
theory (deduction), 2) hypothesis, 3) data collection, 4) data analysis and 5) results
(induction) (Corbetta 2003: 59). Grounded theory, in contrast, begins with
description, which leads to conceptual ordering that eventually results in theorizing.
In greater detail, description is the retelling of a story, incident or accident in this
case, without interpretation of the events or explaining why they happened.
Conceptual ordering is the process of classifying events within a matrix where each
event has a relationship to other events and determines causes and effects.
Conceptual ordering is not, however, linear. Rather, this type of ordering allows for
relationships that are not necessarily chronological or linear. Therefore, events that
have happened in the past can have an influence on contemporary phenomenon
despite their separation in time and space. Theorizing is where the researcher
constructs an explanatory model that integrates phenomenon by illuminating their
relationships for the sake of understanding (Strauss and Corbin 1988).
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The most crucial element of the definition of grounded theory is that there is
a process that occurs while doing research. Within the inductive, exploratory
process of a certain arena of data, in this case the high rate of accidents that occur on
the highways on the reservation, grounded theory asserts its effectiveness as a
methodological approach to qualitative research. Exploration is another key
element of the grounded theory approach. In other words, this method allows the
researcher to go into a community without preconceived notions of what they are
going to find. Rather, theory emerges as a result of the research that is conducted.
Theory derived from data is more likely to resemble the reality than theory
derived from putting together a series of concepts based on experience or solely
through speculation (how one thinks things ought to work) (Strauss and Corbin
1998:12). Moreover, it can be dangerous to go to the field with an idea of what one
is going to find and what that phenomenon ultimately means, especially when one is
trying to fit local phenomenon into an existing theoretical form.
More extreme versions of grounded theory go as far as suggesting that the
researcher ignore the existing literature on the given subject they will be looking at
(Corbetta 2003). While this extremist view neglects the scholarly tradition of
academics building upon that which is learned by their predecessors, it is difficult to
argue that any academic is truly capable of unlearning everything before going to
the field to study a phenomenon. I would argue that it would only be possible if the
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academic were assigned an arena of research that they were not knowledgeable
about in the first place and were not privy to any information about the subject in
preparing to go to the field. This scenario would also be utterly chaotic, and as a
student working on his thesis, I attempted to prepare myself as fully as possible,
without consciously forming a theoretical hypothesis.
For this thesis project it is important to note that an abbreviated grounded
theory was used. Abbreviated grounded theory methods were used because of
constraints in time and funding. Ideally it would have been extremely insightful to
conduct extensive amounts of fieldwork. Additionally, I did not go through the
pains of unlearning theory, methods or history of the Pine Ridge reservation to go
into the field completely void of any preconceived notions. The techniques that are
advanced by grounded theory which I used allowed me to identity a potential
participatory, applied project in which I could give something back to the
community that allowed me to do research in their homes, schools and youth
programs. As was stated in the definition of grounded theory above, there are three
steps in the grounded theory process that I used: description, conceptual ordering
and theorizing (Strauss and Corbin 1998).
The description portion of this project came in the summer of 2004 when I
was first introduced to the Blacksmith family and their story of losing their relative.
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The family invited me to make a film about the accident that happened on Highway
18. They thought that this would be a good idea so that other families would not
have to experience the loss of a family member. The first event that I was invited to
was the memorial dinner in which Nicolas was honored one year after the date of
his death. In preparation for this event, his family was required to find resources to
buy a bison to feed the community that would attend his memorial dinner. Nicolas
aunt asked me to come over the day of the memorial and help with the cooking and
preparation of the meal for the dinner. Through the course of the day I was
introduced to and got to know several of Nicolass family members. Over the next
several weeks I interviewed Nicolas aunt several times to get the description of
what had happened on Highway 18 that resulted in Nicolas death. As a result of
the participant observation, interviews and informal conversations, I was able to put
together a film that described Nicolas accident and how the family coped with their
loss.
During the academic year of 2004-2005 I focused on the conceptual ordering
of the events that took place on the reservation in the previous summer. More
precisely, I was attempting to attribute events with meaningful properties and
dimensions so that they would construct a clear illustration of why accidents on the
reservation occur at such an alarming rate. As the reader recalls in chapter one, a
historical narrative describes the nature of poverty on the reservation that did not
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allow Nicolas to make a variety of choices. Instead, Nicolas was forced to make a
choice that many people on the reservation make because of a lack of other
alternative choices. His choice was not a bad choice per se, but it resulted in the
worst kind of consequence. Conceptually thinking about the reasons why poverty is
so high on the reservation as well as the results of poverty (i.e. lack of infrastructure
such as sidewalks) informs the researcher about the historical component to current
problems. Ultimately, a better understanding emerges from conceptually ordering
the reasons why certain things happen on the reservation. With this understanding,
it is easier to imagine possible solutions to issues such as the high rate of fatalities
on the highway, which is the third and final step in the grounded theory approach.
Theorizing is the most difficult, but probably the most important step in the
grounded theory process. While this stage is difficult, it can be the most rewarding.
Furthermore, theorizing really never ends as a process. Theory changes as times and
conditions change. Strauss and Corbin define theory as a set of well developed
categories that are systematically interrelated through statements of relationship to
form a theoretical framework that explains some relevant social or other
phenomenon (Strauss and Corbin 1998: 77). In terms of this project, I am asserting
that community directed media production stimulates the innovation, empowerment
and organization necessary for genuine sustainable development. At this point in the
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research I am unable to state whether this assertion is wholly accurate because I
have not held the public viewing and fundraising portion of the project as of yet.
However, in terms of sustainable development, considering the relatively low cost
of getting video equipment and computers to do nondestructive editing on, digital
film can possibly be a great form of development for communities with few
resources.
Participatory Research
Participatory research started as a grassroots movement and was
predominantly informed by Paulo Freire and Robert Chambers. In the simplest
terms, participatory research is research that makes a sincere effort to include the
attitudes, beliefs and concerns of those community members who reside in the
location where the research is taking place. The key element of participatory
research lies not in methods but in the attitudes of researchers, which in turn
determine how, by and for whom research is conceptualized and conducted
(Cornwall and Jewkes 1995: 1667). Therefore, in regard to this thesis, participatory
research is an idea or concept that I subscribed to and by doing this it has shaped the
methods by which this research was conducted. This section, then, seeks to describe
why participatory research was an important element in the completion of the
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research for this thesis. In doing so, it is important to identify who a participant is
and why their input is important.
The objective of participatory research is community empowerment, self-
sufficiency and social change (Stoecker 2003). Therefore, this approach is not
purely academic or scholarly; rather, it attempts to rectify social ills by engaging
local communities rather than posturing western scientific knowledge over poor
communities. Robert Chambers asks the most basic question, the pivot on which
participatory researches rests, Whose knowledge counts? (Chambers 1994a: 957).
Paulo Freires work elaborates on this question posited by Chambers and provides
an argument for whose knowledge counts. Freire argues that humans have a
unique ability to change their reality due to their ability to think, and eventually
understand the things that are oppressing them. He explained this ability through
the concept of conscientization: the process by which the capacity for critical
thinking by the oppressed of themselves and the community and, ultimately, the
society they live in is enhanced (Blackburn 2000:7). Based on this argument,
researchers conducting participatory research aim to empower the powerless, who
are powerless because of inequalities they face while trying to access resources due
to their differences in class, caste, race, age and gender (Cornwall and Jewkes
1995:1670).
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The key element at work in participatory research is that the community is
providing invaluable insights on the problems within their own communities and
coming to understand those problems better as a result of participating. Community
members should also become partners in devising strategies or interventions that are
culturally sensitive and appropriate and which have the best chance of effectively
addressing the problem (Chambers 1983). This element is important because the
bias of the achievers. The university graduates Chambers describes are concerned
with helping the disadvantaged but who were educated in a western model and
might possibly be oppressing the poor. This bias is made more strenuous by
Freires idea that with their approach conditioned by Western biases in
accomplishing goals (Wallerstein and Duran 2003; Blackburn 2000), local concerns,
issues and expertise will be glossed over in order to complete a project. These
biases have to be offset to avoid the traditional outsider expert response to poverty
and health problems that have historically failed in the era of modernizing the global
south after World War II (Robbins 2002; Latouche 2001). Ideally, participatory
research is a process in which researchers and community members collectively
move through successive stages of reflection and action, all the while the host
community is participating in the research, therefore becoming agents orchestrating
the strategy instead of subjects upon which the strategy acts (Stoecker 2003;
Themba and Minkler 2003; Cornwall and Jewkes 1995).
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This approach rests on the foundation that a socially and geographically
constructed community is also a source of identity. Strength is garnered in the
community because of social ties that exist amongst the community members, and
the members strive to meet shared needs (Israel, et al. 2003). Furthermore, an
important part of the ideology of community is the notion that through the sense of
sharing and coherence of community members it is possible for some members to
speak on behalf of others (Jewkes and Murcott 1996:561). More specifically, those
persons in a community who are suffering the greatest do not need to be overly
scrutinized by the outside researcher because other community members can
express the problems that are afflicting the whole of the community in general and
the suffering individuals in particular. In this scenario, the natural leaders emerge as
organizers, the organic intellectuals as Gramsci identifies them, in the community
and communicate for others, thusly expressing another facet of participatory
research: building on strengths already in the community (Israel, et al. 2003;
Chambers 1983).
Making the development process more equitable is also a goal of
participatory research. Theoretically, participatory research cuts out the middlemen
and bureaucracies of development so that more money for the elements of a
development project that benefit the community will reach local people (Berner and
Phillips 2005; Beebe 1995). Good participatory research lengthens the research
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phase of the project by taking the time to talk to community members to find out the
most important issues, and making sure that everyone willing to speak to these ends
is given the opportunity to do so. This circumvents the large international
development models that are often costly and overly sophisticated for the real needs
people are experiencing, which makes alternatives such as participatory research,
and the creation of digital films describing local problems, attractive to funding
agencies and governments. Most importantly, however, participatory research, by
its very nature, must engage in long term time commitments to achieve the goals of
community empowerment, self-sufficiency and social change. A trusting
relationship between researchers and community members facilitates a productive
relationship. Too often researchers enter a field and promptly leave when their own
academic needs are satisfied. Rapport, which can only be developed and nurtured in
long-term relationships, is a crucial element of the participatory research agenda.
This approach aims to build relationships of solidarity (Stoecker 2003:102) that
facilitate the exchange of knowledge, expertise and skills throughout the
community, which takes a long time to develop, but continue long after the
researcher leaves the field.
In this research program the participant is anyone willing to view the film
about Nicolas accident and provide insight to how the film could be made better for
inducing awareness or positive social change on the reservation. This approach is
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taken in an attempt to humanize and personalize the film as well as the data
collection process.
The personal nature of qualitative inquiry derives from its
openness, the evaluators close contact with the program,
and the procedures of observation and in-depth
interviewing...that communicate respect to respondents
by making their opinions the important data source for the
evaluation (Patton 2002: 175-176).
The participatory element is crucial for this research because the film was created
for the consumption of reservation residents. Therefore, in the developmental phase
of the film, it would be of no help for the film to be viewed by people who do not
live on the reservation or who are not familiar with the reservation. Through this
definition we have also defined what participation means in this research program;
those people who are willing to view the film and take part in a focus group
discussion.
But why go to the trouble of having community participation? Through the
participant and their participation there is a refiguration of power structures that is
key to any research project that attempts to include participation from community
members. Participatory research is primarily differentiated from conventional
research in the alignment of power within the research process (Cornwall and
Jewkes 1995: 1667). This means that the research is not simply for researchs sake.
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There is a need for the research, and the community ought to be able to identify
what the importance of the research is and how it will benefit the community at the
very least. In the case of this research, community members, namely family
members related to Nicolas, voiced their concern about the alarming rate at which
children were being killed on the highway. Remember, the goals of participatory
research are self-sufficiency, social change and community empowerment (Stoecker
2003), and when community members have an equal part in the development of
research projects the research program can be argued to be participatory. In terms
of this thesis, it is important to highlight where the community has been successful
with these three goals. The following will look at each in turn to illuminate how
this project has made achieving the goals of participatory research possible.
The long-term goal of this research is to develop a film collective on the
reservation that is interested in digital film as a form of sustainable development. It
is the hope of the researcher that by creating a film about bicycle safety the
community will see that it is possible to make films about community issues or
problems not only to inform the community members and increase awareness, but
also to raise money for the implementation of safety features and safety programs in
the community. It was clear through direct observation of attention and facial
expressions that the children in the focus groups who watched the film were excited
about seeing themselves, friends and relatives on film, but they were also paying
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close attention to the message that was being presented to them, evident through
their personal comments to me after the focus groups. It seems that film is a
medium that excites and keeps the interest of this younger age group; the group that
this particular film aims to empower through the creation of a medium and a voice.
Self-sufficiency in the skills of story boarding, photography, sound editing and film
editing will promote the self-sufficiency of the reservation residents who choose to
use digital technology as a form of expression and sustainable development. If
community members have the ability to identify problems in their own community,
create films about these issues for educating each other as well as people who are
not from the reservation and fund raise for the resources need to rectify these issues
the self-sufficiency of the reservation will increase dramatically. If a pool of people
on the reservation learned these creative skills they could in turn teach other
members of their community. This set of skills is something that could free the
reservation residents from dependence on outside agencies for the allocation of
resources, once the initial costs are meet. Self-sufficiency is a goal of participatory
research as well as a goal of this thesis.
Social change is an immediate indication that participatory research has been
effective. The film on bicycle safety could potentially be successful in this manner
because the medium in which the message was conveyed to children in the Oglala
community. Film is an engrossing medium because it has a visual and an audio
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component and more opportunities for the viewer to remember the message. In
discussions that took place at the focus groups the children talked about Nicolas as a
person that was their friend and peer. Because Nicolas was a familiar face the film
was more accessible in portraying the message of bicycle safety. Basically, the
message was that fatalities can happen on the highways that go across the
reservation and they can happen to people who are just like you.
The researcher, similar to the focus group moderator, is not a controller of
the research, but a facilitator who attempts to make the project relevant to the
community in which it is being conducted. Because this project aims to increase
awareness and empower the community in the process, a primary step in the
process of restoring confidence is creating spaces in which people can be
empowered to engage in a process through which they can identity and confront
their problems (Cornwall and Jewkes 1995: 1669). Doing research in this fashion
brings the skills and the expertise of the local community members to the surface.
In time, community members will not be so dependent on outside experts to
facilitate the work to change community problems.
Focus Group Methodology
Focus group interviewing is a strategic approach for acquiring data or
community insight from a small group of people in a relatively short period of time.
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The dynamic nature of the focus group is what is lauded by social scientists as its
strongest point and is reason for its high rate of use by social scientists today.
Advocates of focus groups argue that they are an exceptionally good way to
generate large quantities of rich qualitative data relatively quickly" (Agar and
MacDonald 1995: 123). The methodology informing focus groups was developed
at the University of Chicago within the Sociology and Anthropology departments.
The desire in these academic departments was to create an interviewing style that
would allow the researcher to obtain data on specific perceptions in a relative quick
manner that was representative of the community rather than perspective of one
individual. The idea was to encounter people in their natural environment and use
that data to construct portraits of the world that the people under study actually
lived (Agar and MacDonald 1995: 130).
Unlike asking participants to come into a setting or facility that is foreign to
them to be interviewed, the focus group method advocates going to the participants
in their own natural setting, which allows a richer data acquisition (Allyn and Bacon
2001: 111; Greenbaum 2000). What makes the focus group approach to data
gathering effective, particularly in the process of research for the completion of this
thesis, is that the focus group was set in the natural surrounding of the participants
in their home village of Oglala. Additionally, focus groups can be thought of as
community events that allow people to come together in a way that is not typical to
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their normal routine. Focus groups provide an ostensibly attractive medium for
public participation in the research process: they are sociable events; they are time-
limited; and they require no technical skills of the group members (Bloor, et al.
2001: 13). In methodological terms, the focus group is an advantageous method
because it allows the researcher to draw community members into the research
program (Krueger and King 1998). Participation on behalf of the community lends
the program credibility and is vital to participatory research; in other words, the
researchers findings can be compared and verified by the data collected in the
community. Participation by the community can only help the research program,
and it can be made easy through the use of the focus group. The idea that there is
safety in numbers (Greenbaum 2000: 11) allows each of the participants to interact
freely and express their opinions without thinking that their input will be singled out
and used against them in some manner.
The researcher becomes the moderator who orchestrates the focus group.
The moderators job, like the standard interviewers, is to draw out information
from the participants regarding topics of importance to a given research
investigation (Allyn and Bacon 2001: 111). Beyond this broad definition there no
set rules, guidelines or procedures that the moderator must adhere to. There is no
accepted standard for what tasks a moderator should perform, the role of this
individual is not fixed or predictable (Greenbaum 2000: 24). In fact, it is the
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ability of the moderator to adapt and incorporate what they have learned in one
focus group and make it applicable to the next focus group by making any changes
to the questions or activities that will take place in the remaining focus groups that
makes a successful moderator. This dynamic process makes the focus group
methodology a reflexive approach to gathering data.
The moderators top priority is to facilitate the informal group discussion
from which the data is gathered. The loose format is intended to allow a free
exchange of ideas between the participants. An important implied role of the
facilitator is the ability to use moderating techniques that will peel away the onion
and delve into the real reasons for the attitudes or behaviors that are indicated
(Greenbaum 2000: 26). In the process of creating and maintaining the dialog, the
moderator is to be attentive to the dialog and the points that each of the participants
is making. This is important. The importance of this technique is to be able to
synthesize the different aspects of the discussion that each of the participants
highlights. If there are different opinions or perspectives that the participants are
expressing, it is the responsibility of the moderator to encourage discussion between
the participants with differing perspectives in the hope that they can come to terms
with their disagreement or fully articulate the details of the disagreement, which will
be beneficial to the data set. As a result of this process the richness of the
information generated during the session can be dramatically improved as each side
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draws on more reasons for its views (Greenbaum 2000: 11). The moderator must
also pay close attention to the dynamics of the group. This means that if there is a
participant that is not engaging in the conversation due to being overpowered by
other participants, the moderator has to ask, in a polite manner, that the dominating
participant allow others to express their opinions (Bloor et al 2001: 48).
Additionally, the moderator must keep their eye on the participants that are not
willingly engaging and ask them directly about their thoughts and opinions. This
might help those people who are reluctant to talk in front of groups of people they
do not know.
Qualitative methods all share the ability to 1) explore and discover, 2)
highlight context and depth, and 3) interpret researchable topics. However, focus
groups give the researcher the ability to do these things in a community-based
environment that allows for greater richness of data to be gathered (Allyn and
Bacon 2001:111; Greenbaum 2000; Morgan 1988: 12). Additionally, the process of
a focus group allows sharing and comparing amongst the participants involved in
the discussion. This means that the participants have a better idea about what their
peers in their own community think, and could possibly foster further conversation
and collaboration on community projects in the future. Each of the three areas,
exploration, context and depth, and interpretation, will be looked at in turn to
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describe this methodological application in a more concrete manner to reveal how
focus groups where vital to the completion of this thesis.
Exploration and discovery of opinions and feelings of the community of
Oglala were very important in this research. In creating a visual document that
would be of use to the community it would need to be sensitive to the feelings and
perspectives of the community members in Oglala. Exploring and discovering the
emotional responses that I would receive as feedback when showing the film titled
A Film Dedicated to the Memory of Nicolas Blacksmith was an important step in
revealing the real opinions of the quality and potential success for building
awareness in the community. Because this film is about the death of a friend,
family member or simple acquaintance, and since in the small Oglala community
most everyone will know Nicolas by name or reputation, I needed to know whether
the film could be viewed and learned from on its on merits, or if the topic, because
of its very nature, would be difficult to learn from because it centered on someone
from this small community. Exploring the range of emotional responses of the
focus group participants was instructive in that it allowed me to see whether or not
people would pay attention to the message of the film or whether they would be
consumed by memories and a flood of emotional feelings that would not allow them
to see what was being presented to them. This exploration lead me to the discovery
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