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Documentary From Diné Filmmaker Explores 'Medicine And Obligations' Of College Education And Tradition

Many college students talk about finding themselves while they’re at school, and figuring out which parts of themselves they’ll carry forward. Northern Arizona University student Tinia Witherspoon, though, says she feels like the decision is being made for her.

Witherspoon is a member of the Navajo Nation and a filmmaker. In a new short documentary, called " Medicine and Obligations," she highlights four students, including herself, and the struggles they face trying to balance life in college and life on the reservation.

“It’s hard to communicate to professors who don’t have the cultural competence to understand the sacredness, the medicine that is involved in having access to your culture, having access to the people who support you," she said. "And along with it being medicine, there are obligations with having to attend school and also attending home.”

Witherspoon’s documentary draws attention to issues that can make it more difficult for students with family on reservation land, from a lack of internet to transportation challenges.

“Often in Diné communities, specifically on the Navajo Nation, not all the roads are paved," she said. "So getting home, sometimes especially with severe weather, it’s not a guarantee that you’ll be able to travel home and get back immediately.”

Witherspoon calls the choice students have to make between Western knowledge and their traditional cultural knowledge an epidemic in Indian Country. The Show also reached out to NAU for comment; the university declined.

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Amanda Luberto was born in California but considers herself a native to the Valley of the Sun. She started as a producer at KJZZ in October 2017, but also interned in the newsroom as a student. She is a proud alumna of Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication.She has been interested in radio since starting school in 2013. She spent two years as the music director for ASU’s college station, Blaze Radio, and one year as station manager. She spent time as a music programming intern in Washington, D.C., at Sirius XM and as a tech broadcaster for Cronkite News on Arizona PBS. Luberto is dedicated and passionate about quality local storytelling and original content broadcasting.Luberto also spent years as the co-founder and chapter leader of Arizona State University’s chapter of I Am That Girl, an international women’s empowerment organization focused on the collaboration of women and building self-love. She believes in the strength of women supporting women.Her favorite podcast episode is This American Life’s “Fermi’s Paradox,” and she highly suggests you listen to it. Off air, you can find Luberto adding to her list of concerts attended, sipping at a local coffee shop or cheering on the Arizona Coyotes.