Producer Profile

Rhiana Yazzie has been entertaining people with her creative writing since the third grade—just ask her mother.

“My mom tells me that my teacher said the whole class would always look forward to the story that I had written,” said Yazzie (Navajo). “It was sort of like, oh yeah, I have been writing stories for a very long time.”

So when it came to choosing a profession while attending the University of New Mexico, Yazzie already had a good idea of what she wanted to do.

Outside of southwestern America and Mexico, the life of Spanish explorer Juan de Oñate is somewhat unknown.  The man commissioned by Spain in the 15th century to colonize and spread Catholicism in the area is seen by some as a conqueror or a hero--or ruthless destroyer by others.

When El Pasoan and filmmaker Cristina Ibarra, 35, read a New York Times article about the El Paso City Council approving money to erect a statue of conquistador (conqueror) Oñate, she knew she had a compelling project. 

John Gregg has known for a while that moving away from Lincoln, Neb., was a possibility. But the longtime AIROS manager and now project coordinator for Native Radio Theater has decided it’s time after 12 years producing Native American radio for NAPT.

Gregg’s wife, Martha, completed her Ph.D. in mathematics and the family will move to Sioux Falls, S.D., where Martha will be teaching college this fall.

He picked up his first projector and roll of film during his first job at a movie theater at age 12 and filmmaker J. Carlos Peinado hasn’t put them down since. For writer, director, producer and now professor Peinado, filmmaking is more than a passion. It’s a way of life.

Growing up in the heart of the Black Hills as a boy, South Dakota Public Broadcasting producer James P. Sprecher could not imagine then how often he would someday feature Native people in his films, as the Black Hills, or Paha Sapa, are a source of spirituality and the place of origin for surrounding tribes.

Although Tracy Rector has always enjoyed working with youth, it’s hard to imagine her working in film. A graduate of Evergreen State College in Washington, Rector wanted to pursue herbology and work with Native medicine. She went on to earn her B.A. in communications and Native American Studies, and then a master’s degree in education from Antioch University in Seattle.

There was a time that Robert Vestal would have proclaimed competitive wrestling to be his life. When his back gave out, it put an end to that dream but not without shining a light, a spotlight, perhaps, on another.

Vestal, writer and director of a new radio play called The Bullfrog Lover, which is a fable derived from interviews recorded by anthropologist James Mooney in the 1800s with the Cherokee. It is performed by Cherokee high school students from North Carolina with Vestal's guidance.

Vision Maker Media says goodbye to Blue Tarpalechee (Muscogee-Creek), who has been a project coordinator with Vision Maker Media since 2011. In this role, he coordinated educational resources for the organization and served as associate producer for the highly anticipated upcoming series "Growing Native," hosted by Chris Eyre.

His work is widely regarded throughout Indian Country as the best contemporary storytelling of the joys and trials of being Native American. Even People Magazine called him “the preeminent Native American filmmaker of his time.”

Julianna Brannum and Stanley Nelson, producers for the Wounded Knee segment of the upcoming five-part We Shall Remain series, knew that their audience would be largely non-Native American. They also knew that educating such an audience about the pivotal events that led to the occupation of the tiny town of Wounded Knee in South Dakota would be a challenge. And even for Brannum, who is Comanche and had familiarity with the subject, she knew that all this would be a learning process.

Tohono O’odham tribal members playing accordions and saxophones in the southern Arizona desert is more reminiscent of old world polka than a present-day tribal favorite among the O’odham Nations.

Daniel Golding, the filmmaker behind Waila! Making the People Happy, grew up in Arizona listening to such melodies—a historical blend of European instruments infused with modern-day electric keyboards and guitars. The music the O’odham call waila is derived from the Spanish word for dance, baila.

If you had asked Sina Bear Eagle or Aden Marshall, hosts of AIROS Native Network’s radio show,Native Sounds-Native Voices, about Native American music almost a year ago, their answer would be limited.

Since the pair began hosting the show in September, the two, both college students in Lincoln, Neb., have been exposed to many unexpected sub-genres under the Native music umbrella including punk, rap, and even polka.

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