Jolyana Begay-Kroupa still remembers waiting for the seasons to change when she was a child so she could hear the winter stories her Navajo grandparents would tell.
But Begay-Kroupa, now a professor of the Navajo language at Arizona State and Stanford universities, worries that “because my two boys grew up in the city … away from the Navajo elders they never got what I got … listening to Grandma and Grandpa tell certain stories in the winter.”
That’s why the preservation of 300 reels of tape, holding thousands of hours of Navajo oral history, is so important to people like Begay-Kroupa and Irving Nelson, program supervisor for the Navajo Nation Library and “one of the lucky ones” with access to the tapes.
Misplaced for years, only to be discovered sitting in a jail cell, their backups destroyed in a fire, their entire contents never cataloged, advocates say it’s vital that the “knowledge, legends, stories, traditions stored on these tapes” are preserved for generations to come.
The library is asking the Navajo Nation Council for $230,520 to digitize the five dusty filing cabinets of tapes so the collection can be protected, distributed to schools and made available to others.
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Additional Coverage by Danny Lewis via Smithsonian.com: “Navajo Nation Library Wants to Digitally Preserve Thousands of Hours of Oral Histories”