Navajo Talking Picture: Cinema on Native Ground

By Randolph Lewis | Go to book overview

CHAPTER TWO
Navajo Filmmaker

Arlene Bowman was born in 1955 in Fort Defiance, Arizona, not far from where her father’s family lived in Tohatchi, New Mexico. While still a young girl growing up in the final years of the Eisenhower administration, she moved with her family to the burgeoning sprawl of Phoenix, which was quickly becoming a vast Sunbelt metropolis with a large Native population.1 Her path into the city was not atypical — after all, she was part of a generation of Navajo women whose lives took them out of traditional contexts to a degree that their mothers and grandmothers rarely experienced.

Anthropologist Amy J. Schultz has traced the generational differences among Navajo women in the twentieth century. While those who grew up in the 1930s and 1940s enjoyed a brief period of cultural and political autonomy, Bowman and other Navajo women born between 1946 and 1960 came to know something quite different. These postwar children were raised in “an era of heightened federal pressure to dismantle tribal rights, continued disintegration of shepherding and horticultural economies, increased participation in wage work, and the continued erosion of Navajo language and cultural practices.”2 What set them apart from their mothers would also distinguish them from their daughters: the generation that followed Bowman’s would have a very different experience as well. Schultz claims that Navajo women born between 1961 and 1976 were more likely to benefit from the reforms of the 1960s, including day schools on the reservation, a greater sense of cultural pride, and wider educational opportunities.3 By the early 1990s, a young Navajo woman could speak with utter clarity about her identity. “The point is that you know your language. That makes you a person,” she said. “That makes you have an identity. That’s what you can fall back on.”4 But where did this leave the so-called

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Navajo Talking Picture: Cinema on Native Ground
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Indicenous Films ii
  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Illustrations viii
  • Acknowledgments ix
  • Series Editor’s Introduction xiii
  • Introduction xvii
  • Chapter One- A Brief History of Celluloid Navajos 1
  • Chapter Two- Navajo Filmmaker 49
  • Chapter Three- Reaction 72
  • Chapter Four- Intent 88
  • Chapter Five- Ethics 105
  • Chapter Six- Native Ground 124
  • Chapter Seven- Final Thoughts 161
  • Navajo Talking Picture Production and Distribution Information 175
  • Notes 177
  • Further Reading 209
  • Index 211
  • In the Indicenous Films Series 216
  • Other Works by Randolph Lewis 217
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