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Tale of the Navajos

Tale of the Navajos(1949)

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The film's working title was The Spell of Chindi. A cutting continuity contained in Copyright Records gives a copyright date of 1946, however, the film itself was not registered with the Copyright Office until 1948. According to a Daily Variety news item, M-G-M acquired the film in August 1948, but Loew's filed a cutting continuity with the NYSA that is dated April 17, 1947. Opening credits state that the film is "A story of the American Indians with every element and detail based on the authentic lore and legends of the Navajo Indians." The film begins with the following written foreword: "This story of youth and adventure comes from a land hidden between America's West and its Southwest-Indian land, where the Navajo still live the tribal life, still worship their tribal gods. It is the story of two boys and of the legends and sacred chants that led them on a great quest through this land of turquoise skies, this land of Eagle and Owl, of Raven and Coyote."
       The Navajo are linguistically and culturally related to the Apache. Many still farm and raise livestock and live in hogans, houses built of earth and stone which are designed to resemble the Navajo sacred mountain. In 1863, Kit Carson led an expedition against the Navajos, killing hundreds and destroying their homes and livestock. The Navajos were then forced to march to Fort Sumner, NM. The government plan to turn the Navajo into farmers failed, and after four years, they were allowed to return to their old territory in Utah, Northern Arizona and New Mexico. The march to and from Fort Sumner is referred to as The Long Walk by the Navajos. On the reservation, sheepherding, weaving and silversmithing became the major livelihoods. In 1975, the Navajos numbered about 160,000, making them the largest single group of Native Americans.
       The Twin Warriors are Navajo culture heroes, who helped stabilize the earth and taught the Indians many features of their culture. The cliff dwellings of the "mystic people" that "Jimmie" and "Ziki" visit in the film are probably those built by the Anasazi, which means "ancient ones" in the Navajo language. The Anasazi lived in the Southwest centuries before the Navajo and shared many traits with later Southwestern Indian cultures.
       According to the Daily Variety review, with the exception of Jimmie Palmer, the cast consisted of Navajos living on the reservation. The reviewer also commented that the film had been made to "cash in on the plight of the Navajo a few years ago" but added that the film was no longer timely. Although it is not clear to which specific problems the reviewer referred, during the 1930s and 1940s the U.S. government had required the Navajos to reduce their livestock by ten percent, a program that was strongly resisted by many Navajos. By 1947, the Navajos were suffering from disease and poverty and much of their grazing land was heavily eroded. In the winter of 1947-1948, a severe blizzard worsened the situation and generated national publicity about the Navajo condition. In response, the Indian Service developed a controversial plan to relocate some groups of Navajos.