Helen Yellowman, a Navajo elder who does not speak English, and her grandson, Angelo Baca, are the two main characters in this journey film about two Native American people who are traveling across the western United States from Seattle to Navajo country.
Angelo travels back and forth from the University of Washington in Seattle to his home in the Four Corners, the American Southwest, where the edge of the Navajo Nation Reservation and the borders of the four states meet. It is here where Helen lives and has always lived with her family and tribal community, a traditional Navajo woman and elder.
When she decides that she is going back home, he must take her back on this long ride home but it is, for the two of them, a shared experience of two Navajo travelers, young and old, who are blood relatives who take the time to talk, share, tell stories, and relate to the past, present, and future of their family, tribe, land, and country. As they travel, they encounter the traditional lands and territories of the indigenous places and people never forgetting the recent historical traumas and past injustices, echoes of the effects of colonization, assimilation, and acculturation of Western expansion into Indian Country.
She traces back to the old days of when outsiders first came to her country and lands. How she was pushed out by oil companies, uranium miners, community members, and local Mormons to live somewhere else and forced to be a refugee in her own lands. The original land where she lived is now a hotly contested area in the southwest region of Utah state and San Juan County, a place called Montezuma Creek, with various entities vying for resource control.
The film is about making choices in today’s modern and contemporary world about who you are, where you come from, what your place and destiny in the world is, and about returning back to the place that you call “home”. This film is more than about walking in two world but traveling between them, often as much as one can while not forgetting who they are or where they come from. A young Navajo who struggles to maintain his connection with his culture, language, tradition, and family. An elder who has seen the better part of century of changes, independent and traditional in every way. Ultimately, her story is the story of every native community who have endured similar experiences but her hope is still strong that one day, her children and herself can return to the place they have always known as home.
ANETH OIL FIELDS OF UTAH
Click on this image (above) to learn more about the contentious history of the Aneth Oil Fields of Utah
At the same time that the uranium industry in Monument Valley was booming, a second industry, oil, became increasingly prominent in the Aneth-Montezuma Creek area. Starting in 1953, Humble Oil and Shell Oil initiated agreements with the Navajo Tribe and the State of Utah to exploit the rich petroleum reserves locked beneath the Aneth lands. The Texas Company drilled its first well on 16 February 1956 and welcomed a rapid flow of 1,704 barrels per day. Other companies responded immediately; suddenly the tribe found itself administering leases and rentals throughout the northern part of the reservation, known generally as the Four Corners Oil Field.
San Juan County, the Southeastern region of Utah state, is the highly contested land area (The Ancestor’s Land) focused upon in this film.