This timeline explains where and when the films were shown from 1966 to 2011.
September 7, 1966
Sol Worth wrote to John Adair, telling him that he showed A Navajo Weaver, by Susie Benally, and Intrepid Shadows, by Al Clah, at the Flaherty Film Seminar (1).
October 4, 1966
Worth wrote to Adair, telling him that he’d shown the Navajo films at Swarthmore College, and that he had received one request for the distribution of Benally’s films. He also began to consider entering the films in the Festival Dei Popoli, an international film festival in Florence, Italy (2).
October 26, 1966
Adair wrote to Worth about the possibilities of attending the Festival Dei Popoli. About the subject of the Navajo students accompanying their teachers, he explained,
As to the Navajos going — maybe Al Clah and Susie, or Johnnie and Suzy…I agree, let’s not propose it until we know if Hitchens can get us a central spot. I know the way Europeans feel towards les peaux rouges and their being with us would not only lend eclat (my French kick) but add interest in the people-themselves-as-film-makers-angle (3).
Wednesday, February 22, 1967
Adair wrote to Worth from Florence to tell him about the reception of their films at the Festival Dei Popoli:
Contrary to the reception of the films at Penn. they were received with only mild — at best interest here. Jean Rouch concluded the seminars – there were about 30 people present – some anthropologists, and French & Italian & filmmakers. There was no simultaneous translation so I was never sure of how much was getting through. Furthermore there was only time to show 2 films (I showed Susie’s + her mother’s) as there were so many other films to be reviewed and discussed.
All in all it is still fortunate that you did not come as you would have been in a rage and really blown a fuse especially because of limited time for presentation. I’ll give you more details of the presentation + the reception when I get back to the states – in brief – the use of film as a means of research rather than just for audience viewing seems to leave them cold. Jablonko made a tape of my session so I will leave it to play for you (4)
May 24, 1967
Clah wrote to Worth requesting a copy of his film, Intrepid Shadows, which he intended to show. At the time, Clah was working at the Museum of Navajo Ceremonial Arts in Santa Fe, New Mexico, as the “the curator or assistant to the museum.”
Evidently, quite a few people have seen my film, “Intrepid Shadows” in San Francisco. Of course, I was not there last year. Talking about my film, I was wondering if there is a way I can get hold of it? You see I want to show to different clubs in Santa Fe. They have been asking me about the film for a long time. I had few telephone calls last week, inquiring about the film. I told them I will try to get it. The museum of Navajo Ceremonial Arts wants to see if they can get the public to come sometime to the museum to see the film.
I would really appreciate, Sol, if you can help me on this. I have no intention to charge any fee to these clubs and friends – mostly because I want for them to see my film (5).
For a complete summary of this exchange see Films & Negatives.
Tuesday, October 17, 1967
Worth wrote to tell Adair that he was going to Washington, DC., where he would give a talk and show the films (6).
May 4th, [otherwise undated]
Adair wrote to Worth
Here for American Ethnological Society meetings. Drove up from Gallup where I continue on the year’s leave through July or thereabouts. Back to SFSC in September
Lita Osmundsen was here. She told me something you may know – but then may not. Gregory Bateson showed Intrepid Shadows at “The Castle” last summer and lectured on it. She said a tape had been made and that she would send me one. Had you heard this? (7).
The films were shown at a panel discussion at the University of New Mexico, [source: Elizabeth Weatherford, Curator of film and video, National Museum of the American Indian.]
Mike Anderson, Mary Jane Tsosie, and Richard Chalfen “presented several of the Navajo films in a symposium during a 1982 film conference entitled “The American Indian Image on Film: The Southwest,” organized by the Native American Studies Program at the University of New Mexico (8).
Adair and Chalfen returned to Pine Springs. They learned that “Susie Benally’s son, Antonio, borrows her film “to show it to a school in Phoenix, and has not returned it since.” They also learned that Mary Jane and Maxine Tsosie had “screened their copies of The Spirit of the Navajo to their young students and colleagues” (9). In addition, they learned what Johnny Nelson had done with his films:
Johnny Nelson (Navajo Silversmith and The Shallow Well Project) was very happy to tell us where he had shown his film over the past years. For instance his daughter, Roberta, had asked him to show his films at nearby Showlow. People at the neighboring Lupton Chapter House also have asked him to screen the Silversmith film, and he has shown it in the Pine Springs Boarding School. Benny Silversmith, chapter president for Pine Springs and Oak Springs, has also requested screenings, including his Shallow Well and even his practice Summer Shower film…this surprised us, because we didn’t recall that he had a print of this footage (10).
Eunice Kahn, Archivist of the Navajo Nation Museum and Kate Pourshariati, Film Archivist and Cataloger at the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology (Penn Museum), presented a screening at the Navajo Nation Museum in Window Rock, Arizona.
Eunice Kahn filled the house with a largely Navajo audience, many of whom were extended family of the seven original filmmakers. Introductions were made by museum director Manuelito Wheeler, as well as by Kahn and Pourshariati. Robert Johnson, the Navajo Nation Museum’s Cultural consultant, gave a blessing.
The films were well-received. The one recurring critique by the audience was that a soundtrack would have made the films more useful to younger Navajo audiences. The audience emphasized the series as a cultural legacy, which would pass on traditions. This seemed more important than any academic purpose for which the films were originally intended by the research team.
Some of the most interesting comments from the audience included observations about the difference in old age from the 1960s as compared to today. For example, family members noted that people over age 100 seemed to be in better health than people in their 70s and 80s today.
Nelson attended and gave a long speech in Navajo and in English. Below is an excerpt of his speech in Navajo:
Hello everyone. It is nice to have the film return. I wasn’t sure where it went and I’m happy to have it back. Thank you to everyone for coming from far away. Thank you very much. The children are now grown with white hair and they are saying hello to me now, so hello back to you.
My wheelchair is what I use now, but I used to walk around. I recently fell so that’s why I use a wheelchair now, but everything is OK. Thank you everyone for coming here and watching the film that was made in 1966, the men came and who did they want to help. They told us the film was to be made by us and not them. How you think about it, how you make it, we were told. They showed us how the camera works. Runs and puts together, and what it does. That’s all we were taught.
They told us to think about how our families would see and understand the films. The men came b/c they wanted to know how we thought, the men, John and Sol Worth. We were able to make films. I was able to partake in it too. I made a portion that the voice recording but that’s not in it. It was both English and Navajo to help you understand. But that’s not in the film, but I hope you like what you see in the film (11).
Nelson emphasized that at one time he made a sound track for both of his films, and perhaps others, together with John Adair. At the time, he believed that these soundtracks would be added to the films at a future time. He felt strongly that these tracks should be located. Unfortunately, they were never found in the Penn Museum collections. Currently, we’re are investigating the possibility that they are located at the Wheelwright Museum of the American Indian in Santa Fe, New Mexico.
Other aspects of Nelson’s speech related to changes in traditions and loss of certain traditional practices. With Nelson’s permission, we hope to include excerpts from his speech and an interview with him in the DVD release.
Benally also attended the 2011 screening. She spoke briefly to the audience, saying “I am very thankful for everyone coming. Thank you everyone, is all I wanted to say” (12).