Navajo Night Dances (1957)

Film showcases three ceremonial dances performed at night: Great Feathered Arrow Dance, Feather Dance, and Fire Dance. Also features the arrivals of families to the event, making fry breads, and more.

Opening titles: “Cultural Heritage Series, Navajo Night Dances, Copyright MCMLVII by Walter Lewisohn Associates, Produced by Walter P. Lewisohn, in cooperation with The National Council of American Indians, Distributed by Coronet Films, ‘The dances in this film are part of the nine day Mountain Chant Ritual.’” Wide long shot of Monument Valley (Tsé Biiʼ Ndzisgaii) in the background, large overturned dead tree in foreground; panning shot of the Valley; East Mitten Butte and a horse and carriage passing by carrying two (presumably) Navajo men and women, they pass Merrick Butte; a shallow valley with desert shrubs; cloudy sky over top of a mesa; same horse and carriage driving past canyon wall at nighttime, followed by another with different people, followed by a smiling boy on horseback, then another group walking (the women covered in blankets; two women standing next to the horse and carriage, then arranging something on a horse’s neck; a young girl stands a top the central hub of a wagon wheel, then stepping down to where other women sit behind a campfire; a group of people sitting on blankets while a man walks over with a bucket of water which he pours into one on the blanket; on the blanket a woman kneads dough; a man leans against a wagon wheel practicing tying knots with his rope; back to the group on the blanket and woman kneading, another woman joins her in forming dough balls; shot of another woman doing same; a group of girls looking on; a woman from previous hot rolling balls, a toddler boy yawning widely beside her; the first woman frying bread; a man lying in repose looking at the camera, a boy seated nearby; campfire with coffee carafes and frying pan, then the woman pulls a fried bread out of the pan, and returns to flattening a dough ball into a circle and places in the pan; back to the other woman working some dough and smiling, a girl seated behind her; a man sits and smiles; back to two women making fried bread, men and children sitting nearby; a series of views of four men wearing two large eagle feathers on their headbands and carrying another long feather with arrows at their tips walk over to stand next to wagon, then with their right hands move the arrow tip past their mouths in unison and raise it above their heads, they then turn to the side as they drop the arrow heads into their mouths, holding the feather with both hands and turn in circles (Great Feathered Arrow dance); they raise the feather once again above their heads and walk away; a group of children sitting on a rug near a fire, one older girl giving a drink to a toddler on her lap; women and children sitting around bowls full of fry bread, then a man gesturing, sitting at the edge of a group; a woman from before frying bread, surrounded by others, then various shots of another dining group; a group of men, women and children, some  wearing headbands with an eagle feather hunched over looking at something next to the door of a wooden structure; three men stand around while one places unfolded a small rug with feathers in it onto an animal skin on the ground as women and children sit agains the wall watching; a girl wearing an eagle feather headband walks over holding two bundles of eagle feathers and they motion for her stand next to them; then people come and huddle around the rug, picking up or arranging feathers; closer image of a man with a furry and silver headband sits in front of the group of onlookers; back to a wider shot of the girl doing a dance with the feathers by the rug and as she does the eagle feathers dance also — the points are stuck into the rug and an arm mostly off-camera makes them dance with an attached string (Feather Dance); closer image of the furry headband man drumming and another chanting and shaking feathers; closer shot of the feathers dancing, and a bit of the hand and string; close view of another woman and man chanting, then various views of the girl dancing, the feathers, the chanters until they stop and the eagles lay down again on the rug; they all hunch over to gather the objects; large group sitting in a circle, a woman walks over and sits down; as seen through a triangular-shaped space between two leaning boulders there are men and boys dressed in white loincloths and headscarves and face paint dancing around a bonfire; various closer shots (Fire Dance) from the men moving passed the camera, around and around the fire, boulders in the background, they then light their torches (long sticks) by placing the tips in the fire as they pass; the men passing through the opening between the boulders; sunrise over Monument Valley in silhouette; daylight again, people driving away in a wagon, cliffs and then Valley landmarks and big sky in the background; sunrise over the Valley again. Closing credits: “Cultural Heritage Series, The End.”

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