people in remote Northern Arizona. This is a place of immense natural beauty,
but its ancient landscape and cultures have recently seen profound change.
Since 1974, thousands of Navajo and Hopi have been evicted from Big Mountain
in a complex political and legal struggle over the extraction of natural resources
from the area. Big Mountain sits atop the largest coal deposit in the United
States, which supplies electricity and water across the Southwest.
Camille Summer-Valli began filming in Big Mountain after spending several
winters herding sheep there. Her film documents life as it is today for the small
group of elders who continue living in Big Mountain, the younger generations
returning to reconnect with their traditions, and the activists who come to offer
support. Tracing the experiences of a few of these individuals, the film abandons
narrative to focus on the difficult and often conflicted reality of reconciling a
land-based, subsistence culture with twenty-first century America. Moving
through the seasons on the high-desert plateau, it explores the differences in
perspective between an outsider and those who think of this as their spiritual
For the Navajo, being in Big Mountain is a matter of identity that has become
enveloped in a larger political conflict. Every daily task or ritual is now also an act
of resistance against exploitation and outside interference. Their struggle is to
bring the principles of their culture through the unstoppable change.