Navajo - Part 1, Part 2, and B-Roll/Outtakes (1952)

A young Navajo/Diné boy, Son of the Hunter, must grapple with death, abondonment by his father, his family's limited resources, and being forcibly moved to an indian boarding school. Plus other footage shot during production.
Cultural Narrative: 

Part 1 of the feature film (until 42:30) narrated by Lorencita and Tyrell Willie, students at Diné College, in 2019. Facilitated by Rhiannon Sorrell, Instructor and librarian at Diné College.

Language of narration primarily English, with some Diné Bizaad.


Part 2 (42:30 onward) has not been re-narrated.

B-roll/Outtakes 1 & 2 are extra material shot by the cinematographer but may or may not have been intended for the final production. They have not been reviewed yet by the community.

Notes: This film was nominated for two Academy Awards in 1953. Francis Kee Teller won a Golden Globe in 1953 for the best juvenile actor.


Navajo — Part 1
Titles over an image of the open range and sheep: Bartlett — Foster Productions presents Navajo; Music by Leith Stevens; Edited by Lloyd Nosler; Camera Operator — Ernest Smith; Assistant Cameraman — Craig Smith; Released by Lippert Pictures, Inc.; Western Electric Recording; Copyright MCMLI by B-F Productions, Inc.; Director of Photography — Virgil E. Miller, A.S.C.; Produced by Hall Bartlett; Written and Directed by Norman Foster. Opening text: Film entirely on the Navajo Indian Reservation with the cooperation of the United States Indian Service and the United States National Park Service of the Department of the Interior.

Young Navajo/Diné boy Son of the Hunter (Francis Kee Teller) with short hair and headband seated looking at a herd of sheep and goats, open range around Blue Mountain/Dziłkʼi Hózhóonii (New Mexico), mountain (Hesperus Mountain/Dibé Nitsaa?), and big sky beyond; then closer view of the boy who looks around; closer view of animals grazing; Son of the Hunter gets up and starts to run through various nearby landscape of rock formations and cliff tops to a giant tree that he touches and runs back the way he came; image of him riding on horseback superimposed over him running on foot; he returns to the herd and sits; close view of a owl hooting, seated on a tree branch; Son of the Hunter looks at it and runs away into the herd; closer view of him shooing the herd to move with his arms and then looking at something off-screen; elder man with white hair tying bundles of sticks to a horse’s back (identified as his adopted “grandfather” Grey Singer (John Mitchell); Son of the Hunter walks over to him and helps with the bundles; alternating close-ups of them while talking and bundling; Son of the Hunter returns to his herd as Grey Singer follows leading his horse; they, and two smaller girls (Eloise Teller and Linda Teller), sit on the ground next to fire near a hogan as his mother Good Weaver (Mrs. Kee Teller) chops wood nearby, then sits and puts kindling on the fire; various alternating close-ups as they eat stew and fried bread; Son of the Hunter and Grey Singer ride together on horseback through cliffs, rock formations, and across sandy hillsides; they stop by a pile of stones, or prayer pile (tsenadjihih), and dismount, Grey Singer ties the horse’s lead to a juniper tree and hands a sprig of juniper to Son of the Hunter; Grey Singer picks up a stone and tosses it and a juniper sprig on the pile; Son of the Hunter does the same; close-up of Son of the Hunter squeezing his eyes shut; the two clasp hands and walk off towards and along the edge of the canyon rim overlooking what the film calls “Great Rock Canyon” or Canyon de Chelly/Tséyi’; Grey Singer points to the opposite rock face; closer view of White House Ruin; back to the two looking, canyon view beyond alternating with close-ups of two; they walk hand-in-hand along the rim and the camera pans over the canyon landscape; view from the front of them looking down into the canyon and they turn to leave; both on horseback riding along the rim; they dismount and walk hand-in-hand along the rim and stop to look at Spider Rock; views of the rock; they continue along the rim to a side canyon; view of the canyon below; back to them from the front of them looking down into the canyon, Grey Singer talking; close-up of their faces, Grey Singer talking, Son of the Hunter listening; wider view of the canyon as they depart; the two seated on the ground under a piñon tree collecting nuts; closer views of each of them, Grey Singer gestures to the sky, alternating with views of canyon rim and clouds in big sky, and rock formations and sky; [poor image quality] nighttime, Son of the Hunter sleeping on the ground under the wind blowing through trees, then sits up awake; Grey Singer laying asleep; alternating close-ups of Son of the Hunter and blowing leaves and ominous-looking trees in silhouette; (after hearing a snake) the two jump up and throw stones at the ground; Grey Singer pats Son of the Hunter’s hand and talks to him while gesturing to the off-screen snake; three Navajo people standing next to the wooden Chinlee Valley Store, trading post in background, Grey Singer and Son of the Hunter ride up to the store on horseback; closer view of them dismounting, wind blowing the trees in the background, the former walks off with a bundle wrapped in cloth while Son of the Hunter stays behind; Grey Singer walks into the trading post, a Navajo woman and man standing talking nearby; back to a closer view of Son of the Hunter petting the horse’s head and looks off-screen listening; a group of Navajos — one woman, five men, and an older boy — standing in a group talking; alternating shots of Son of the Hunter; Grey Singer and the white trader called Losing His Pants (Cozy McSparron) holding a white sack exit the post and walk towards camera; back to Son of the Hunter watching; Grey Singer mounts his horse and the trader hands him the sack, then turns to address Son of the Hunter who backs away in fear until the smiling man hoists him onto the horse, then gestures to wait a moment to Grey Singer and walks off; he walks towards and enters the post; close-up of Son of the Hunter watching; then back to the two on the horse and Losing His Pants returns and hands the boy a large rod of peppermint candy that the boy hesitantly takes; the trader begins to walk off, but then turns to hand one to Grey Singer also, pats his knee and walks off; the two ride off; [poor image quality] nighttime (near Rock Standing Up), Grey Singer addressing the sky; alternating with close-up of Son of the Hunter looking up; the boy then sits and sucks on the peppermint stick; [poor image quality] nighttime, silhouette of the two riding up to their hogan and dismounting; [poor image quality] dawn, the two and Good Weaver dismantle and release their sheep from a corral; the hogan in silhouette; close-up of Good Weaver, dark dawn skies behind alternating with sheep leaving the corral and the hogan; Son of the Hunter carries a sheep towards his mother and the exiting sheep; Grey Weaver on horseback and Good Weaver and her son and daughters herding the sheep behind along across barren landscape; closer view of Grey Singer; closer view of the herd and walkers; wide shot of the group traversing along the canyon rim; closer views of Grey Weaver, and the family herding, including closer views of the children; Grey Singer motions them to come along, and they continue through the landscape until dusk, and then nighttime, then daytime again; small grove of peach trees and watering hole; Grey Singer stops on his horse and the family rushes forward towards the water, he dismounts; various shots of Good Weaver, Grey Singer and Son of the Hunter scooping water into their mouths; Good Weaver addresses Grey Weaver who responds standing by his horse, Son of the Hunter listens and smiles; the three rise; the family herds the sheep and goats to the water to drink; the three stack stones to make a wall next to a rock face, they then place brush around an opening of a hogan against a rock face; Grey Singer rides away on horseback and waves to the boy who waves back; Son of the Hunter walks over a ridge and around the canyon floor between giant rock faces; he climbs up a rock to look at a bolder balancing atop, then looks around the back side and sees it’s held up by a branch (a coyote trap); he continues climbing the rocks and adventuring and discovers petroglyphs on a rock wall; he walks along towards a pile of bones of a large animal; close-up of Son of the Hunter looking concerned, then of the bones; as he stands there he looks up; rocks and sand begin to tumble from the cliff top; back to him as they land around him and the bones, and he runs away; Good Weaver and the two little girls exit the hogan and shake out a animal hide and woven rugs near the entrance, Son of the Hunter stokes a fire nearby; closer view of Son of the Hunter by the fire; he and his sister herd their flock between canyon walls; he squats to look for water in dry dirt; his sister walks over to where to sheep are lying unwell or dead on the ground; the boy sits under a rocky outcropping chewing bark from a twig, then throws it down and folds his arms; Grey Singer rides on horseback through canyon walls; the family seated by the fire next to the hogan; back to the elder riding towards them; closer view of the family by the fire, Son of the Hunter standing, smiling, and pointing, Good Weaver gets up; back to Grey Singer as they run over to help him down, he then stands and speaks with the mother; alternating closer views of the two, then the boy listening; the three walk back towards the home, the boy leading the horse; alongside the wall alternating views of the mother and grandfather speaking, the boy listening; the older two then walk towards the entrance; the three walking across a rocky landscape to a break in the formations where he dismounts his horse and various shots as they escort him to an isolated spot under an overhanging rock and place sleeping and other supplies around him as he sits, mother and son embrace; closer views of Grey Singer speaking and the others listening and looking at each other, then all three as he motions for them to leave; wider shot of them walking away as the old man lays on the ground watching them go; closer view of Grey Singer; Good Weaver and Son of the Hunter walking towards the horse and walk off leading it behind; closer view of the elder; Son of the Hunter wrapped in a blanket walks over a rock ledge overlooking where they left Grey Singer, then close up of his face looking down, and his view of the man lying dead; the boy kneels and looks over Grey Singer’s resting place; closer view of the boy looking up and then of the sky where a buzzard flies above, and back to the boy; closer view of Grey Singer and back to the boy; wide view from below where man lies and in the distance the boy gets up and walks away;  by the hogan Son of the Hunter mounts the horse and rides off as his mother and older sister look on, they wave at each other; he rides of quickly, and closer view of the group watching, and then turning to enter the hogan; series of views of the boy riding fast through various landscapes until he reaches a building, dismounts; a Navajo policeman sites on a bench outside a one-story building (in Chinle), talking to a man in shirt and jeans; the boy ties his horse and walks towards the Franciscan Mission, the policeman stands up and walks over to Son of the Hunter in front of the mission church; they talk through alternating close-ups and group shot of the boy and the policeman; the boy begins to run away, but the policeman catches him; they struggle, mission behind them, and he picks him up and carries him off;  a small school bus drives past school buildings (possibly Chinle Boarding School? and playground, children standing in line; it stops and a group of schoolboys gather as Son of the Hunter and others disembark the bus and line up; health clinic  where one white counselor (Hall Bartlett) is writing on a clipboard at a desk while another Ute man (Billy Draper) weighs a boy on a medical scale, Son of the Hunter — who the white man renames Richard Begay — responds in Navajo/Diné Bizaad; close-up of the boy crossing his arms as the Ute man rests his arm on this shoulder; back to the two men talking over his head; back to the boy frowning and looking up at them both; students walking through a school courtyard between buildings; close-up of Son of the Hunter getting his hair cut short, the barber aggressively straightens his head; the boy getting his hair washed in a bathroom sink, then showering, thoroughly scrubbing; the boy being handed a Kleenex tissue by a (perhaps Navajo?) woman who shows him how to blow his nose, other boys pass in the background; a classroom filled with students the boy’s age facing forward in chairs at the school desks, while Son of the Hunter/Richard sits in the middle frowning, closer view of same; the white man jotting down the boy’s weight from before is now in front of the classroom stands addresses the students and holds up a phrase written on a card, blackboard and the Ute man who had weighed him sitting behind him; back to Son of the Hunter/Richard listening and looking as the students around him respond, alternating back to the counselor switching out the cards, and Ute man, in front of the classroom; the boy walking down the hallway and the white counselor calls for a boy called Wilson to stop and hands him a coat from a cardboard box he’s carrying, he tries it on and the counselor begins to hand him a hat; close-up of Son of the Hunter/Richard putting on a coat from a peg on the wall; alternating close-ups of the counselor and Son of the Hunter/Richard watching; the counselor looks through the box for a different hat for Wilson and places a better fitting on his head and warmly sends him on his way; Son of the Hunter/Richard watches the boy as he leaves; the counselor motions him over, and closer view of the boy moving closer; the man places a hat on his head and smiling tweaks his chin, and hands him a coat from the box, helping the boy remove his flannel; schoolyard full of students playing, one group in a circle throwing a ball around, and the white counselor calls Son of the Hunter/Richard over to play; the boy in his new hat and coat scowling back; back to the playground where he watches girls go down a slide and then run with other children towards the school house door as the bell rings; he just stands there until the counselor comes and grabs him by the hand; Son of the Hunter/Richard trying to get comfortable in his bed in the dormitory, then pulls his blanket onto the floor and snuggles in there; closer view of his face; he and other young boys run to a line of bathroom sinks and wash their faces and hands; he and other young boys hand their socks on a clothesline outside; he irons in a washroom while two other boys prepare clothes for ironing; he and a group of boys threading needles and sewing at a table as a (perhaps Navajo?) woman watches; the boy watching others play shooting hoops in the school yard; the white counselor and the Ute man eating breakfast and talking at a table, coffee urns behind; alternating shots of the counselor and Ute man talking and listening; Son of the Hunter/Richard by himself running and pushing the merry-go-round, jumps on and rides; the counselor stops the ride and talks to him; closer view, with girls playing holding hands in a big circle in the background; the man digs in his coat pockets; close-up of his hand holding a pocket knife; same shot with girls in background as he shows the boy the features of the knife; closer view of same; alternating views of the boy looking at the knife and the man trying to give it to him as a gift until the boy grabs it and runs off; Son of the Hunter/Richard sleeping in his bed in the dormitory, then he gets up fully clothed and sneaks out of the room and out a window; [poor image quality] the boy is wandering off through the grounds; outside, daytime, the counselor talking to a (perhaps Navajo?) woman as the Ute man listens, she responds and walks away; the two men talk, children playing and walking past in the background; the two driving in a car down a dirt road past trees; Son of the Hunter is walking over the rim of a canyon; driving in a car down a dirt over sandy, scrubby desert landscape; Son of the Hunter climbing over a rock, rock formations in background; alternating shots of the counselor and Ute man talking to a Franciscan monk, the mission in Chinle behind, closer view of the two men listening to the monk, closer view of the monk talking; nighttime, the two men hiding behind a giant bolder waiting and watching; Son of the Hunter walks up a path past some boulders; closer view of the two men squatting down to hide behind the boulder as they watch; back to the boy who stops walking to listen for a moment; the Ute man peaking over the top of the boulder; the boy looking around where his family’s home by the hogan use to be; closer view of him looking around; he walks over to where the hogan has been burned and is in ruins; alternating close-ups of him looking around and up at rock faces above; the rock faces above him, clouds blowing past in the sky; silhouette of trees against dark clouds and sky; alternating shots of the two older man watching from behind the boulder; the boy looking around; the two men creep out from behind the boulder and run towards where the boy had been standing, but he’s not visible and they look around.  

[Shot list for Parts 2 provided by] Ithen returns to Rock Standing Up, where he remembers Grey Singer's comforting thought that nothing really dies. The next day, the hungry boy goes to the Chinle Valley Store and attempts to trade the pocketknife for food. When he is recognized from circulated descriptions, he runs off. The school is notified, and soon the counselor and Billy trail the boy to the canyon. Seeing his pursuers, the boy covers his tracks, then climbs up the Canyon of Death. At dusk, the counselor and Billy set up camp hoping the boy will come down when he sees their fire. Despite being frightened by human bones and a skull, the boy remains all night, and the next day, Billy hears him pounding the wall to make a coyote trap. Billy climbs and is injured by falling rocks set for the trap. While the counselor climbs to help Billy, Son of the Hunter goes to their camp to get their food. The counselor yells to the boy to get help for Billy, but he runs off. At night, he tries to forget his pursuers, but the wind of the cold night reminds him of the voice of Grey Singer telling him to put aside evil thoughts. The boy then realizes that the men are not his enemies, but friends, and he runs to the valley store for help with the good thought that in everything there is beauty.

About the film from American Cinematographer (May 1952)

Screenshot of American Cinematography May 1952 pdf
Click link below to read article.


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