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Interview with APPL’s 2014 Excellence Award Winner – Capitol Reef Natural History Association

March 27, 2014

partnership honorable mention

APPL’s 2014 Excellence Award winner is Capitol Reef Natural History Association (CRNHA) whose book, Why the Moon Paints Her Face Black, took top honors in both the Children’s Media and Partnership Program / Project categories in our annual Media and Partnership Award program. The book was created as a result of a partnership between the Paiute Indian Tribe of Utah, linguistics student Chloe Brent, Capitol Reef Natural History Association, Capitol Reef National Park and the National Park Service Colorado Ecosystems Study Unit (CESU).

Our Member Service Coordinator, Nancy Kotz, recently had the opportunity to speak electronically with Shirley Torgerson, Executive Director at CRNHA, to learn more about the story behind the creation of this award winning publication.

APPL: This project involved a variety of partners including an undergraduate student, tribal members and park employees. What was the collaborative process like?

Torgerson: I got involved in the process when the project was well on its way. Chloe Brent, the author was the one most involved with the tribal members. When I heard about the project I could tell right away, after listening to her, that she had developed a great appreciation and really love for the Paiute people.  Eleanor Tom was also very happy to share her story with Chloe.  I knew that I wanted be a part of this exciting project. The last paragraph of our news release that we put in our local papers sums it up well:

This cooperative project demonstrates the best qualities of a partnership; the cooperation of people from many diverse fields and organizations working together to move an idea, from its first inception, through the long process towards a finished product.  “Why the Moon Paints Her Face Black” has drawn on the talents and efforts of many individuals and organizations to produce a book which expands our understanding of Paiute traditions, develops our relationship with the universal language of storytelling, and contributes to the preservation of this thread in the fabric of our culture.

APPL: What was it like to partner with a tribe and help them share their oral traditions through words – written and spoken – and art?

Torgerson: When the project was completed, and we had the book in hand Chloe and I attended the Paiute tribal meeting and presented the book and CD to them. Some of the Paiute people in attendance could not speak their Paiute language and was so appreciative to have this to keep and to pass on to their families.

 APPL: What advice would you give to other nonprofit public land partners considering this type of project?

Torgerson: I didn’t look at this project as a money-making project. It was a project that was dear to my heart. I grew up in a small community where the Paiute families lived and I understood how very important this publication would be to them now and for many generations to come.

I enthusiastically nurtured the project through editing, production, printing and distribution.

Shirley Torgerson with APPL Executive Director, Dan Puskar, at the 2014 APPL Awards.

Shirley Torgerson with APPL Executive Director, Dan Puskar, at the 2014 APPL Media & Partnership Awards.

 About Why the Moon Paints Her Face Black:

The Paiute Indian Tribe of Utah has a rich history and cultural ties to Capitol Reef National Park. Southern Paiute is not a written language. Linguistics student Chloe Brent works to document and preserve endangered languages and conceived a project to record a traditional Southern Paiute cosmological story in both English and Southern Paiute in cooperation with the Paiute Indian Tribe of Utah. The CESU provided funding to Utah State University for a Chloe to complete her language translation project. Capitol Reef Natural History Association and Capitol Reef National Park funded the design and production of the children’s book which is now available in bookstores throughout the region. The book includes an audio recording of the story and brings to life a language known and spoken by few.

About the APPL Excellence Award:

Since 2005 APPL’s has bestowed our annual Excellence Award to a deserving publication, product or program selected from among the category winners of our Media and Partnership Awards. The award goes to a category winner that stands out for its quality, is accessible to a wide audience of public land visitors and exemplifies innovative partnerships.

One Comment leave one →
  1. March 28, 2014 2:43 pm

    Thank you for that insightful interview, Nancy! And thank you to Shirley for speaking so openly about such a marvelous project. One of the many things I love about the APPL community is everyone’s willingness to share their successes and their lessons learned so that others may benefit. Here is yet another example of that openness. Bravo!

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