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The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

Professor adding score composer to list of accomplishments

Jay Adkins, SE Campus music associate professor, practices on the piano. Adkins recently completed the score for the award-winning documentary Our Spirits Don’t Speak English: Indian Boarding Schools, shown last month at the Angelika Film Center in Dallas.  Photo by Sarah McVean/The Collegian
Jay Adkins, SE Campus music associate professor, practices on the piano. Adkins recently completed the score for the award-winning documentary Our Spirits Don’t Speak English: Indian Boarding Schools, shown last month at the Angelika Film Center in Dallas. Photo by Sarah McVean/The Collegian

By Shay Freeman/reporter

Jay Adkins, SE Campus music associate professor, practices on the piano. Adkins recently completed the score for the award-winning documentary Our Spirits Don’t Speak English: Indian Boarding Schools, shown last month at the Angelika Film Center in Dallas.  Photo by Sarah McVean/The Collegian
Jay Adkins, SE Campus music associate professor, practices on the piano. Adkins recently completed the score for the award-winning documentary Our Spirits Don’t Speak English: Indian Boarding Schools, shown last month at the Angelika Film Center in Dallas. Photo by Sarah McVean/The Collegian

The story of how boarding schools tried to erase Native American culture has become a film helped by a SE Campus professor.

They wanted to kill the Indian but save the man, said Jay Adkins, music associate professor. Adkins worked on the score for the award-winning documentary Our Spirits Don’t Speak English: Indian Boarding Schools, shown last month at the Angelika Film Center in Dallas.

Exploring the results of the Native American displacement, the film includes visuals, interviews, narration and images. Adkins said the documentary examines a little-known aspect of the government’s plan for handling what the film calls “the Indian problem.”

“ I am honored to be a part of this project,” he said.

His musical inspiration for the film came from Native American culture and the images depicted in the film.

The film describes how Native American children were taken from their reservation homes and forced to assimilate into mainstream society in boarding schools created and run by the government. While there, they were forbidden to speak their native tongue or celebrate their culture.

Learning English, however, proved to be beneficial to Native Americans. With their new knowledge, they could read the treaties and government contracts that had not been upheld.

“ They began to take control of their own fate,” he said.

In their doing so, changes have occurred.

“ In the last 30 years, Native Americans have embraced their culture while being an American,” he said.
Now most boarding schools are actually run by Native Americans, and they emphasize the culture that was once stripped away.

This film had a large impact on Adkins’ life. Born in Oklahoma, he thought he was fully aware of Native American culture and their many struggles. The information about the boarding schools was shocking, Adkins said. Remembering his Native American classmates gave him a close connection to the film.

Completed in May, the film has since won several awards at national and regional film festivals.

Adkins began piano lessons at 9 years old and has played ever since. An employee of the District for 30 years, he has taught harmony and ear training courses, piano, music appreciation and music history, He also has served as musical director for more than 20 musicals in TCC’s drama departments.

Adkins has scored several film projects including a short comedy film for a local North Texas company and one other documentary on Native American issues. He looks forward to working on other film projects in the future.

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