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Helene Hagan immigrated to the United States in 1960. She is the mother of three children. After obtaining a License-es-Lettres from the Faculté des Sciences et des Lettres, University of Bordeaux in France in 1969, she obtained a Master's Degree in French Literature from Stanford University in 1971. She pursued her doctoral studies in anthropology at Stanford University, California. She is of Berber and Catalan ancestries. Her paternal family "Coll" is from the Pyrenees Mountain village of Prats-de-Mollo.
She directed a Photo Project with elders on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, South Dakota, with a grant from the South Dakota Committee on the Humanities, for the benefit of the Archives of the Oglala Lakota Community College from 1983 to 1985, with subsequent showing of the photo exhibit she created in National parks and at the Rotunda, Washington, D.C. She subsequently taught at John F. Kennedy University in California for a number of years, while helping Lakota artists by opening an art gallery "Lakota Contemporary Designs" in Marin county (1985-1990). She was instrumental in the creation of a series of 11 community television programs under the title "Circles" on American Indians in Marin and Sonoma Counties, followed by another series on the Amazigh culture of Morocco, which she personally videographed "Tamazgha, Berber land of Morocco." (15 half hours.) Finally, she initiated and produced six television half hours, securing a long-time friend, American Indian activist and actor Russell Means as host, taped in Santa Monica for community television. (The Russell Means Show, 1999-2003).
Helene Hagan has authored numerous articles published in a variety of newspapers and journals. Among those are her well-known article on "Plastic Medicine People" originally published in the Sonoma Press Democrat, and "Apuleius, Amazigh Philosopher" published in The Amazigh Voice, a scholarly journal which also recently published an article of hers titled "The Argan Tree." (2005) She is the author of five books The Shining Ones: An Etymological Essay on the Amazigh Roots of Archaic Egyptian Civilization (2000), Tuareg Jewelry: Traditional Patterns and Symbols (2006), Tazz'unt, Ecology, Ritual and Social Order in the Tessawt Valley of the High Atlas of Morocco" (2011), "Fifty Years in America, A Book of Essays,(2013) and "Russell C. Means The European Ancestry of a Militant Indian" (2017). The first book pioneered the hypothesis of a link between an archaic Egyptian culture, the proto-Berber culture of North Africa, and the Tuareg-Berber cultures of the Sahara desert, focusing on rock art research, archaeology, and comparative linguistics. The second book traces the origins and development of Tuareg (Amazigh) art from rock art to modern jewelry design and production.The third is an anthropological study of a small community of Berber people in the mountains of Morocco, and the last an anthology of essays written over several decades on American Indian and Amazigh issues. Helene E. Hagan was twice elected and served on the Board of Directors of Amazigh Cultural Association in America (A.C.A.A.), between 2002 and 2006. She inherited a large collection of personal papers and unpublished manuscripts of Paul Radin, which she inventoried and deposited in the Special Archives of Marquette University, with the support of a Wenner-Gren Anthropological grant. She serves as lifetime Associate Curator for that collection. In 2007, she was one of the professors selected for the First Berber Institute in America, created under an NEH grant to the University of Oregon at Corvallis. She introduced participant professors of various universities to the various art forms of North African Amazigh people. pottery, weaving, jewelry, painting, and cinematography through a series of seminars. In 2008, she founded the annual Los Angeles Amazigh film Festival which has presented to anglophone audiences a variety of films from North Africa. celebrating Amazigh poets, writers, producers, directors, actors, artists and musicians in a unique such event in the United States.
Tazzla Institute for Cultural Diversity
Helene Hagan is the Executive Director of the Tazzla Institute for Cultural Diversity, which she founded in 1993. Through the work of the Tazzla Institute, a 501c(3) non-profit organization, Helene E. Hagan has been able to promote and defend Amazigh culture, rights and identity at the United Nations through a variety of channels, such as "Creating Peace through the Arts and Media," a UNESCO Culture of Peace program, and P.I.P.E (Partnership of Indigenous Peoples for the Environment.) The Tazzla Institute is the supporting nonprofit organization for the Los Angeles Amazigh Film Festival the first film festival in the United States to focus on film content dedicated to the Amazigh world of Berbers and Tuaregs of the vast North African territory called "Tamazgha", which extends from the Oasis of Siwa in Egypt, through Libya, Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco, the Canary Islands, the Sahara desert to the north of Niger, Mali, and Burkina-Faso.
In 1993, she created the Tazzla Institute for Cultural Diversity (originally the Institute for Archetypal Ethnology) and Amazigh Video Productions, a project of the Institute in Community Service television. Through this project and the Marin 31 channel, she created three series, one of 11 half-hour programs titled "We're Still Here" on American Indians in Marin County; a second on Amazigh (Berber) culture of Morocco (12 programs); a third series of 4 one-hour programs was on the ecology of the San Francisco Bay, a series for the training of students of the Environmental Forum of Marin. In Los Angeles, and for Adelphia communications in Santa Monica and Eagle Rock, Helene Hagan produced a series hosted by the well-known American Indian Movement leader, author, and actor Russell Means, and several programs in a series titled "Amazigh News" (1998–2006) featuring human rights reports on Morocco, Algeria and on the Tuareg people of Niger and Mali. Also included in that series was a special half-hour program called "Heart of the Sahara" on Berber-Tuareg artisans of Mali.