Jason Aesnap

UNM Fine Arts Library
Words are Powerful

Staff Video


Have you ever wondered what your librarian is like outside of the stacks of books and archives they surround themselves with? Meet Jason Asenap, a journalist, filmmaker, and writer who happens to work at The University of New Mexico in the Fine Arts Library.

“I’m the reserves guy so they send me a list of books that they want to put on reserve back here,” said Asenap. “It doesn’t seem that important, but to me, it’s oddly satisfying to get it done…and I have helped the instructor put that course together.”

When you’ve always been drawn to the arts, it’s only natural to explore the history behind it. After being a part of the graduate Art History program for a semester, Asenap struggled with the balance of excelling academically without having his family around.

“I missed Christmas with my parents,” mentioned Asenap. “There was a lot going on for me at the time, but I think that was for me – if school was that difficult, maybe I wasn’t supposed to be doing that.”

By working in the library, he can choose how involved he wants to be in academia. While he even believes his job can sometimes feel unimportant, by seeing and helping these professors build their courses, he can study and learn how to excel in his other life, the life of a Native American filmmaker.

“The irony in that is that I don’t consider myself an indigenous filmmaker, or native director,” said Asenap. “I just want to be a director…I am a director.”

Not only is he a director, he also considers himself a screenwriter and a journalist. Asenap is what every creator aspires to be; the whole package. However, after an inspiring article about his opinion on native representation in film, specifically about Johnny Depp, he discovered how powerful words can be.

“I guess how I got into [writing is that I was writing for Indian Country Today. I started writing for them back in 2012 where I wrote an editorial or a personal opinion sort of piece about defending my tribe’s adoption of Johnny Depp. He was kind of oddly controversial for other tribes, and I didn’t really understand because it didn’t have anything to do with them. But we got a lot of flack for that, so I wrote this piece, kind of defending our adoption of him.”

Following that article, Asenap was asked to come on the show Al Jazeera, a news channel in Doha, Qatar to talk about his position on the topic on an international stage.

Currently, Asenap writes for High Country News and is still writing about native topics, native representation, and the arts. One of the more responsive articles he’s written was ‘Why Do White Writers Still Continue to Write About Indian Country?’”

“We’re just still set dressing, we’re not the leads.  Our characters die, or they’re depressing, and they get killed in some cases.  And we’re supposed to be happy with this little representation of things and I’m like, “No, that’s not good enough!”  We need to have our own protagonists, and our own stories, and be the leads.”

Jason’s passion for cinema, the arts and the power of the written word is inspiring. UNM is lucky to have someone who has a huge voice for native representation in the arts working amongst us.