The Institute of American Indian Arts (IAIA) Archives recently received $19,808.00 from the Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR) to digitize, rehouse, and make available the audio archive of "Seeing Red," an important radio program from WBAI-New York hosted by activist Suzan Shown Harjo (Cheyenne and Hodulgee Muscogee) and her husband Frank Harjo (Wotko Muscogee) from 1968-1975. The seven-inch reel tapes are part of a recent donation by Harjo to the archives and are
a significant piece of the narrative surrounding the rise of the American Indian Movement (AIM) and subsequent legislation in self-determination and sovereignty of Native nations. The recordings include a multitude of essential interviews with Native American leaders, including Chuck Trimbull (Oglala Lakota), Vernon Bellencourt (Anishinabe-Ojibwe Nation), Wendall Chino (Mescalero Apache), Clyde Bellencourt (Anishinabe-Ojibwe Nation), Vine Deloria (Standing Rock Sioux), Dennis Banks (Ojibwe), and Russell Means (Oglala Lakota).
The grant is titled "American Indian Activism on the Radio: Preservation of the 'Seeing Red' Archive" and is part of the Recordings at Risk program of the CLIR. The "Seeing Red" Project is one of only twenty projects selected from a pool of seventy-seven applicants.
Recordings at Risk
, generously funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation through 2021, is a national regranting program administered by CLIR to support the preservation of rare and unique audio, audiovisual, and other time-based media of high scholarly value through digital reformatting.
Seven-inch reel-to-reel audio recordings from the Suzan Harjo Papers will be cleaned, preserved, digitized, and made available for public use through a recent grant from the CLIR. Photo by Jason S. Ordaz. Courtesy of IAIA.
The "Seeing Red" archive is an important contribution to the history of American Indian activism in the 20th century that can supplement existing colonial historical narratives with alternative narratives. By reformatting the audio and making the new digital files widely available, scholars and the public can better understand the current realities of American Indian politics through a historical lens. These recordings will help teachers and scholars to further understand and disseminate the early development of 20th century American Indian political policies.
The "Seeing Red" archive is also important in the development of radio as a voice for disenfranchised peoples. Pacifica Radio-the parent of WBAI-New York-presented a "unique commitment to the unconventional and nonconformist posture (which) provided entrée to the airwaves for many would be Native broadcasters." Furthermore, this collection will help the Pacifica Radio Archives (PRA) fill in some of the gaps within their larger collection as they do not own any of the "Seeing Red" programs. Courtesy copies will be provided to the PRA after reformatting and made available on their website.
Ryan Flahive, IAIA Archivist and faculty member said, "We are thrilled to receive this CLIR grant to preserve and make available these important recordings; their historical importance and potential uses in classrooms, publications, and exhibit galleries will be of great benefit to our growing community of scholars and artists."