Indians of North America Series: The Navajo. Edited film documents the history of the Navajo with special emphasis on the transitions from a hunter gatherer society to farming and then to shepherding, the ever present conflict with the United States government and a discussion of the future of Navajo culture and traditions. Film addresses the issue of land seizure by the United States, The Republic of Texas and Mexico, focusing on the ultimate surrender of the Navajos to the U.S. Army in 1863, the forced "Long Walk" 250 miles to New Mexico, and their subsequent life on a reservation. Once on the reservation, film explores the educational policies for Navajo schoolchildren which included forbidding children to speak Navajo or openly discussing any aspect of tradition or culture, the effects of the Christian missionaries, the policies of the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the marketing of Navajo blankets and jewelry for the outside world. Footage depicts "Hogans," Navajo homes made of a thick branch framework covered with mud and earth; Navajo beadwork, blankets and jewelry; 1934 black and white government film; World War II footage of Navajo men in the armed services; schoolchildren on reservations; the site of the Navajo surrender to the U.S. Army in 1863; Navajo youth today in public schools. Interviews with various Navajos reveal the use of Navajo language for codes during World War II, the importance of respect and kindness to animals and nature, and the necessity to instill a knowledge and appreciation of Navajo culture and traditions in Navajo youth today.
Human Studies Film Archives, Smithsonian Museum Support Center, Suitland, MD