This color film “El Navajo” is an educational documentary presented by Santa Fe Railway. It is a Telefilm Recording (a format popular in 1935-1940, and represented a motion picture created to be shown on television). The Navajo Reservation spans New Mexico and Arizona during this film’s time period. Women in Navajo dress wave at an oncoming Santa Fe train (38), whose Chicago to San Francisco route passes it (1:03). Views outside the train window see the red desert cliffs (1:27-1:44). On the Navajo Reservation, a plaque for Window Rock states it’s the headquarters for the Office of Indian Affairs. This further dates the movie between 1933-1946 as Harold Ickes is listed as Secretary of Interior (1:50-1:58). Nearby are the St. Michael Mission built in 1902 (2:11), the Indian Day School (2:19), the Ganado Mission, which housed a nursing school (2:28), and Hubbell’s Trading Post built in 1873 (2:38). Sheep provide resources and income (2:48-4:02). Shearing is shown, including branding with black paint (4:03-5:54). Soap made from the amole plant is used to wash the wool (5:57-7:25). Navajo women card, spin, and dye the wool (7:28-8:40). Hand weaving is done on looms to create beautiful rugs (8:41-10:14). A cow is slaughtered and prepared to eat (10:30-11:15). The hides are stretched; a sheep is skinned (11:18-11:59). The post office also serves as a trading post where bartering occurs (12:03-14:34). The process to make moccasins is shown (14:38-16:38). Corn planting hole by hole using a hoe is shown (16:42-17:38). Colorful harvested corn is ground into flour for tortillas fried in mutton fat; the initial woman wears a beautiful turquoise necklace (17:43-19:10). Flour is also kneaded into bread, with the turquoise jewelry still on their hands, and baked in an adobe oven (19:13-21:57). A silversmith heats the metal and pounds it on an anvil, using a sharp tool to make beautiful designs for a belt (22:13-24:12). Jewelry is used as part of the marriage proposal process between the two families as part of a dowry, which also includes horses (24:20-26:05). The sweat bath lodge ceremony is shown, including drying their bodies with sand (26:06-27:48). A baby is prepared for a nap on a cradleboard outside of a hogan, which is a Navajo home (27:47-29:14). The root of the amole makes hair shiny, which is then styled in the Navajo hourglass form on the bride (29:15-30:15). The Medicine Man performs the wedding ceremony (30:24-30:48). The Medicine Man treats a patient outside his hogan (32:23-33:06). Inside, the healing ceremony involves creating an intricate and colorful sand painting surrounded by prayer sticks and fetishes (33:10-38:50). The patient enters for treatment by sitting in the center of the painting and receiving sacred medicine before the painting is then ceremoniously destroyed (38:51-41:50). The movie ends with Navajo Indians on horseback (41:53-42:15).
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