Trail to Health (1947)

Shot at the Albuquerque Indian Sanitarium. On the topic of Tuberculosis symptoms, early detection, and healthcare in American Indian communities. [Note: there is a short section of the original film (5:04-6:12) that is audio only due to film decay.]

Opening titles: “U.S. Department of Interior Presents TRAIL TO HEALTH; Characters: Bart (Bartolo Jaramillo), His Wife (Delores Chewiwi), Mac (Telesfor Trujillo), Hospital Dr. (Rob’t. Saylor, M.D.), Mobile Unit Dr. (A.W. Dahlstrom, M.D.); Cameraman (Tad Nichols, F.C. Clark, Jr.), Produced by U.S. Indian Service, 1947; Director (F.C. Clark, Jr.)”; illustrated map of the western United States with Indian reservations dotting the map in a lighter colors, one indicating perhaps the location of this story; homestead of six adobe brick square homes, sun shade and people walking, mountains and field of saguaros in background; Native man in collared shirt and trousers walking away from an entrance to a sweat lodge (?), overhead view of green, planted field nestled between cliffs; older Navajo woman and man riding horses in foreground, donkey alongside, cliffs behind; two (possibly) Hopi women, one carrying wood on her head the other picking fronds from a yucca plant; Taos Pueblo and kids playing; two Native men guiding a horse and plow in a field; two women herding sheep — one on foot, one on horseback; probably Navajo men wrangling steer by hand; shot of Main Street, Gallup, New Mexico; Native men and boy sitting on a sidewalk (?) like onlookers; crowds walking down Main Street, Gallup; “TUBERCULOSIS” in capital red letters across screen; two women in flowery dresses standing next to a bedroom dresser and one hands the other a wad of cash; boy sitting on cabin porch; toddler boy eating something out of a white box; elder Navajo woman sitting with her yarn spinner outside against a wooden wall; man shoveling soil in planted field; (Pueblo or Zuni?) woman polishing pottery; back to various shots of a man (now identified as “Bill”) shoveling in field; he bends over to spit and then close-up of the blood hitting the dirt; back to him spitting; Bill now in a doctor’s office as the white doctor stands from his desk to shake his hand; closer view of the two as Bill removes his hat; Bill shitting shirtless as the doctor taps his back and listens with his stethoscope; various shots of the doctor talking to Bill, both seated; Hopi ceremonial Butterfly dance with women and men dancers (perhaps at an intertribal get together at a pueblo?); men riding in a rodeo, cars parked at the edge; a man stamps out a small fire burning; close-up of a bigger fire; a man trying to divert a raging fire in a forest, back to close-up; two shots of three young male Native patients in robes and pajamas sitting together outside a building; two Native women standing and chatting on an outside patio; a young Native man lying in a hospital bed; then another man who breathes hard; back to the doctor talking to Bill; the doctor pulls out an X-Ray; super tall look-out tower in clearing in a wooded area; a Native man in silhouette inside the tower looking out across the wooded area with binoculars; view through the binocular’s lens of smoke from a fire far off in the distance; back to the man lowering the binoculars; back to Bill and the doctor as the latter puts the X-ray on the viewer, then points out the lung area; and back to them talking/listening; exterior shots of different Indian service hospitals and sanatoriums; a different Native man without a shirt stands with his back to the camera in front of an X-ray machine, a woman tech stands beside him; the tech now a little ways away holds a part of the machine connected by wire and says something; back to the patient turns around, smiles, and walks away; back to the technician, and back to a Native woman in a robe standing and being X-rayed, she smiles and walks off; different shots of a group of Native people lined up outside a large mobile medical X-ray unit van (with New Mexico logo), mesas in the background; a Native man identified as “Bart” leads a black horse away from an enclosure, mountains in background; Bart enters the mobile X-ray van followed by another man; he then exits; the white mobile unit doctor stands in the van’s doorway addresses folks waiting outside; inside the van, shows of the doctor reviewing X-rays of chests, a white field nurse writing alongside; doctor pulls an X-ray from the viewer and compares it with an index card, and speaks to the nurse; close-up of the nurse listening; the doctor places the X-ray in a large paper envelope and hands it to the nurse who leaves with it; a large black sedan pulls up to a square adobe home; the field nurse exits the car with the large X-ray envelope and walks up to the door; the nurse inside greets a standing Bart, his wife is seated on the couch nearby; [film decay — no image]; various shots of a group of Native men sitting around a table as another white woman (later identified as a social worker) and Bart stand next to them as they talk; various shots of the social worker and Bart sitting at a white reservation superintendent’s desk and talking; various shots of Bart standing and chatting with an older male (identified as his grandfather) outside his front door; Bart indoors sitting and chatting with his wife and the social worker; Bart walking down a road up to the big wooden sign for the Albuquerque Indian Sanatorium run by the U.S. Department of the Interior and then walking through the front gate; Bart entering the building, and inside being greeted by a woman who is identified as the chief nurse; the white nurse accompanies him to a desk where another woman puts paper in her typewriter; close-up of Bart speaking, and then of the typewriter cylinder moving; Bart standing shirtless at the X-ray machine and then walking off; the doctor from the scene with Bill taps on Bart’s shoulder and then listens to his chest as Bart coughs into a tissue; shots of Bart and the doctor seated at his desk as the latter checks his blood pressure, and then checking his throat with a tongue depressor and flashlight; the woman technician from before withdraws blood from a seated Bart’s arm; close-up of her conducting the lab test; various shots of Bart back at the doctor’s desk where he shows him some paperwork, switches on the X-ray machine and points out something on the chest area, he then pulls out a sponge and squeezes it a couple times before dipping it in a bowl of liquid and then squeezing out the liquid that it absorbs; various shots of the doctor drawing an illustration of a black mark on lungs on a piece of paper and Bart looking on; Bart back at his farm chopping wood; close-up of Bart breathing hard; shots of Bart resting and breathing hard in a bed at the sanatorium; Bart laying on his side on an operating room table while the doctor and a nurse perform a procedure on his lungs area; after the nurse covers a wound with a bandage he sits up, steadies himself, and walks off; various shots of a room full of Native men in hospital beds; a nurse bathes a bedridden Bart’s arms; a Native nurse places a food tray at Bart’s bed; close-up of the tray with two pints of milk, pie, ham, potato, greens, a stack of white bread, and apple sauce (?); the doctor arrives at Bart’s bedside with his paperwork on a clip board, a nurse alongside; a close up of Bart speaking and smiling; back to the doctor talking, closing his clipboard and walking away; Bart sleeping in the hospital bed; shots of the food tray, then the procedure in the operation room; Bart in bed chatting to the man in the next bed, then he lifts a set of audio headphones off the headboard and puts them on; closer shot of him listening and laughing; shots of a white librarian pulling her book cart up to Bart’s bed and handing him a Life magazine and a Bat Man comic book; he smiles and thanks her; closer view of him smiling as he reads the comic book; different view of same including a patient (identified as Mac) sitting on the next bed and then standing up to speak agitatedly to Bart; shots of them conversing, Bart trying to lend him his comic book and headphones but Mac declines, and a nurse urging him to return to his bed; he does, but after she walks away he smiles and gets back up again to stand and chat with Bart; close-up of Bart shaking his head no; Mac turns around; the doctor stands and converses with Mac who is in his bed and looking a bit angry; various shots of the doc talking and Mac listening; Mac gets out of bed and walks off; various shots of Mac returning in his street clothes and chatting with Bart until he tips his hat and leaves; close-up of Bart looking sad; various shots of Bart in bed smiling and then the doctor walking over to chat with him; as the doctor writes on a pad of paper, a nurse delivers a tray of food to Bart’s bed; he cracks a hard boiled egg; back to a wider shot of the two, and then a close-up of the doctor drawing much the same illustration of TB on the lungs as before, but draws a ring around the infection; close-up of the broken egg shell and its liquid contents in a nearby bowl, and the doctor taps on the egg shell with a pencil tip; shots of Bart chopping wood on his farm and then he bends over to cough out blood; back to the doctor drawing on his pad as Bart looks on, and close-up of the pad; a nurse delivers a letter to Bart who smiles and opens it, then a close-up of him reading; shots of his wife, small girls, and the social worker sitting in their house chatting and his wife reading a letter; Bart’s grandfather chopping wood; the field nurse from before walking up to Bart and wife’s home and addresses three little girls playing by the front door, and the oldest jumps up and runs inside; Bart’s wife comes out with a lovely red decorative scarf over her head and shoulders to greet and shake hands with the nurse, they smile; back to Bart reading his letter and smiling; the doctor listening to in-bed Bart’s lungs with his stethoscope; Bart gets out of bed and puts his robe on; Bart walking the grounds in his robe; closer view of the sun on his face as he smiles and rubs the back of his head; Bart in the sanatorium library browsing and pulling out a book; four male patients playing Chinese Checkers at an outside patio table; Bart takes a picture of a fellow patient with the camera with a waist-level viewfinder and rewinds it laughing a bit as he does; Bart and fellow patient speaking outdoors as the former points, a big landscape behind them; shots of Bart in a robe and face mask sitting in what may be the sanatorium visiting area between his grandfather and his wife and chatting; they all rise, Bart shakes hands with both, and his grandfather and wife walk off; as Bart stands at the sanatorium door waving, Mac walks up the stairs and enters while Bart greets and holds the door for him and chats a bit; shots of Bart seated on an interior bench and embroidering a 14x20-inch or so cloth tapestry; two white women — one a sanatorium gift shop clerk and one a customer — admire his finished piece before a display of other pieces with similar Native iconography embroidered on cloths, and also other types of art; the customer folds it up, fishes out payment from her purse, and hands it to the clerk; a Native nurse hands the cash to Bart as he lays in bed, he smiles and nods to the guy in the bed next to him; the doctor listens to Bart’s lungs as he sits on his bed, and he then hands him his robe; Bart puts his leather jacket on over his street clothes, a bedridden Mac behind him; he then puts on his hat and walks over to talk to Mac; an annoyed Mac says something and just rolls over; Bart picks up his bag and leaves; as the doctor holds the door, Bart and a white nurse walk through; he then shakes the doctor’s and nurse’s hands and they chat; the doctor and nurse wave and go back inside; back at Bart’s front yard a boy and girl play and jump up to greet him as he walks up; his wife walks out with the red scarf on her head and shakes his hand, they smile; Bart entering the home, removing his hat and smiling widely; Bart filling a bucket of water from a barrel; he walks over and pours it into a cattle trough; a closer shot of him slowly standing back upright; an illustration of a doctor taking an X-ray of a patient with text that reads, “Trail to Health, First Step, X-Ray Every Year”; back to the people lined up outside the Mobile X-Ray Unit van; same shot as before of the doctor standing in the doorway talking to people in line; then people filing in; then exiting; various shots of children going in and out, including close-ups; illustration of a Native man with his luggage walking towards a roadside sign pointing up the road, “To the SAN” written on it, “Trail to Health, Second Step, Go to the Sanatorium” surrounding it; back to footage of Bart walking through the sanatorium gate, and then walking up the steps; wide shot of Bart’s sanatorium, and then others one after another; illustration of a doctor indicating to stay in bed to a Native patient with “Trail to Health, Third Step, Stay in the sanatorium until the doctor says you can go home” surrounding it; two shots from before of the doctor chatting to a bedridden Bart; Bart dressed in street clothes saying goodbye to the nurse and doctor at the front door; Bart using a pitchfork to throw hay into a corral; Bart standing and resting his hands on his pitchfork, smiling; Bart with his wife and children sitting outside their home on chairs; closing titles: “The End, An Indian Service Film.”

Cultural Narrative: 

Narrated by Cindy and Perry Slivers. Facilitated by Rhiannon Sorrell, Instructor and Librarian at Diné College.

Language of narration primarily Diné Bizaad.