Indigistory Receives Distinguished Partnership Award

Gordon Henry, Professor in MSU’s Department of English, is among a group that recently received the Distinguished Partnership Award for Community-Engaged Creative Activity presented at the Michigan State University Outreach and Engagement Awards Ceremony on February 21.

The award recognizes highly engaged and scholarly community-based creative activity that positively impacts both the community and scholarship. It was bestowed to the partners of Indigistory, which include Henry as well as John Norder, Director of MSU’s Native American Institute, and Christine M. Poitra, Specialist at MSU’s Native American Institute.

Indigistory is a community-based digital storytelling project that was created in 2012 as a platform for Native American youth, community members from the Bay Mills Indian Community, and the Saginaw Chippewa Tribal College. The program provides a digital platform, support, and resources for Native youth to share their digital stories about their families, tribal histories, cultures, languages, and lifestyles with Native and non-Native audiences.

image of two women and two men at awards ceremony, holding awards
At the MSU Outreach and Engagement Awards Ceremony, from left to right: Sara Gross of the Michigan History Center; John Norder, Director of MSU’s Native American Institute; Christine M. Poitra, Specialist at MSU’s Native American Institute; and Hiram Fitzgerald, Associate Provost of University Outreach and Engagement.

Each year, the Indigistory project offers a film camp at Michigan State University – the Native American Youth Film Institute (NAYFI) – for Native American middle and high school students, where students have created more than 40 films featured in eight festivals around Michigan. Henry co-founded the NAYFI with Ellen Cushman, a former Professor in MSU’s Department of Writing, Rhetoric, and American Cultures who now is the Associate Dean of Academic Affairs, Diversity and Inclusion at Northeastern University in Boston, Massachusetts.

An interdisciplinary program, Indigistory has a range of collaborative community partners that share in the decision-making and leadership of the project. Community partners include the Saginaw Chippewa Tribal College, Inter-Tribal Council of Michigan, and Michigan History Center. MSU partners include the Native American Institute, College of Arts & Letters, and HUB for Innovation Learning and Technology.

Funding received from the Michigan Humanities Council has allowed for workshops and the NAYFI to be offered at no cost, giving youth the opportunity to collaborate with their peers, experience filmmaking, and be exposed to a higher educational setting for an extended period of time. In addition, the films made by the students are shown in film festivals that are free and open to the public, exposing non-Native audiences to new perspectives.