Friday, March 11 – Thursday, March 17

In March of 1966, Worth and Adair spent a week exploring different Navajo communities in New Mexico and Arizona. Their goal was to decide on a location for their project, and make connections with people who would be willing to allow their communities to participate.

Friday, March 11

Worth and Adair arrive in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Worth meets Navajo people for the first time. The following paragraph opens his field journal:

As the plane drew close to Albuquerque the cabin interior was suddenly flooded with light. For the first time since leaving Philadelphia I saw the sun. Looking out at the terrain as the plane lost altitude for a landing I got my first idea as to the distances involved in this part of the country. Cities seemed to be spaced hundreds of miles apart. Way off to the north over the mountains that hid my view was probably the Navajo country that we would be going to. There were no cities in between (B14FF27p1).

Saturday, March 12

Worth and Adair travel to Santa Fe, New Mexico, where they go to the Indian School in search of connections. They explore the facilities, and Worth is impressed with the quality of artwork he sees. He speaks with an art teacher, Mr. Parsons,  about the potential of his project. In what may have been his first ever encounter with Navajo people, he observes some students watching television, and remarks,

…I watched they broke out into quiet and gleeful giggles. They were watching an old cartoon film, the story was about a french cat who was preparing himself or herself (I couldn’t tell) for a date…The Indian boys were eating it up. I don’t know whether I wanted to scream, or begin to laugh hysterically. These were my new culture. These were the Navajo Indians who I thought would make films differently from Americans (B14FF27P7).

Sunday, March 13

Worth and Adair enter “Indian country.” They stop briefly in Gallup before arriving at Pine Springs. Worth sees a hogan for the first time, and meets Johnny Nelson on his first trip to the Pine Springs trading post. He also meets Clarence Birch, the Pine Springs school teacher, and Sam Yazzie, a renowned medicine man and grandfather of his future students, the Tsosie sisters. Later, Worth and Adair accept Johnny’s invitation for dinner at his home.

On meeting Johnny Nelson, he writes,

[I] Told him that so often that people like myself came and made movies trying to explain the Navajo life but that now I wanted to chance to teach Navajos to do it. Johnny instantly got the idea and what was more exciting he instantly said yes what a wonderful idea. I think there are several people here who would be very interested (B14FF27P21).

On meeting Clarence Birch, he writes,

…I started talking with Clarence again, telling him what we wanted to do…suggesting to him that perhaps we might use the schoolhouse. Was it vacant during the summer. Would it be possible in his opinion to house some students there. Could we bring some equipment in. To everything Clarence answered an enthusiastic yes (B14FF27P25).

Monday, March 14

Worth begins to make arrangements for the transport of film to and from a laboratory in Denver. Then the researchers travel to Window Rock, “the Navajo tribal headquarters and also the headquarters of the Bureau of Indian Affairs” (B14FF27P37). Worth explains,

Here we were going to try to meet the tribal people and also the government people and see whether we could get both tribal permission and government permission to work at Pine Springs. All of our arrangements would be to no avail if the tribal council was not willing to do this, and if the government would not give us a place to stay (B14FF27P37).

They receive positive feedback from government officials, and move on to make arrangements to rent a car when they return in June.

Tuesday, March 15

Worth and Adair leave Window Rock to explore the potential of other Navajo communities, visiting Chinle, Canyon de Chelly, and Piñon (B14FF27P43). However, Worth prefers Pine Springs for the following reasons,

1 – John was better known, and longer known in Pine Springs than any of the other communities. 2 – John knew more people and had better relations with entire clan systems at Pine Springs than in the other communities. 3 – In Pine Springs we had met the schoolteacher who seemed to be the easiest, the best person to work with of any of the government people at the reservation. 4 – The trading post situation seemed better at Pine Springs than at any of the other communities. 5 – Pine springs was the closest to the Gallup airport from which it would be necessary to ship all film. 6 – While Pine Springs was closer to Gallup, in many ways it was more primitive than any of these other communities. There were no TV sets except in the schoolteacher’s house, there seemed to be more tribal customs that were being held on to by the people here than in many of the other communities (B14FF27P44).

Wednesday, March 16

Worth and Adair return to Pine Springs and continue to make arrangements with community members. Johnny Nelson suggests Peggy Burnside as a potential student, and the researchers spend some time talking to her. Peggy invites them to a curing ceremony, which is the first Navajo ceremony Worth witnesses. Later, they return to Albuquerque (B14FF27PP46-56).

Thursday, March 17

Worth returns to Pennsylvania, while Adair returns to the art school in Santa Fe, where he searches for potential students (B14FF27PP57-65).


Next: June 1-5