In Beauty I Walk: The Navajo Way to HarmonyMay 15th, 2003 | By Al Kuslikis | Category: 14-4: Cultural Resilience, Media Reviews
Sherri Brenner Productions, 2001. 28-minute VHS video.
Review by Al Kuslikus
Canyon de Chelly’s rich physical and spiritual beauty is celebrated in Sherri Brenner’s documentary, In Beauty I Walk: The Navajo Way to Harmony. Within this spectacular setting, many Navajos continue to live a traditional lifestyle grounded in Saah Naaghai Bikeh Hozhoo, a natural philosophy that identifies a fundamental set of principles connecting all physical, biological, social, and spiritual processes.
Harry Walters and Johnson Dennison discuss core elements of Navajo culture, Saah Naaghai Bikeh Hozho, the Navajo ceremonial system, the four sacred mountains, and the traditional hogan in interviews with anthropologist and author Peter Gold. Walters chairs Diné College Center for Diné Studies and directs the Ned Hatathli Museum. Dennison is a former dean of instruction at the Tsaile campus of Diné College and is a traditional Navajo medicine man. Footage of Canyon de Chelly and Tsaile Lake illustrates the Navajo concept that a life lived well is one that is lived in beauty.
Technically well-crafted and visually enjoyable, the documentary’s strength lies in its cultural content. Dennison and Walters openly share their insights regarding Navajo traditional life ways and information that cannot be found anywhere in the volumes of studies published when Navajos were the favorite subject of anthropologists.
The video should encourage similar projects by Navajo and other American Indian tribal organizations, communities, and groups interested in preservation of traditional knowledge and practice. Technology makes it possible for a cultural group to digitize their electronic archives of videos, texts, and sound recordings, creating repositories of cultural knowledge to benefit parents and educators. Tribal college libraries will undoubtedly play an important role in providing access to the technology and technical support.
The issues of copyright, ownership of information, and control of knowledge associated with electronic archiving, particularly when material is made available through the World-Wide Web, are of primary importance. Cultural knowledge is the property of the members of the culture. Videos such as this underscore the need to establish standards and rules for documenting, storing, and disseminating cultural material. Native peoples should decide how such information is recorded and preserved and with whom that knowledge should be shared. In Beauty I Walk is well intentioned but it presumes a degree of access to and use of cultural knowledge that Native people are rightfully challenging in many places.
To purchase or rent the video, contact University of California Extension, Center for Media and Independent Learning, 2000 Center Street, Fourth Floor, Berkeley CA 94704, phone (510) 642-0460, Fax (510) 643-9271, e-mail email@example.com, Online Catalogue <http://ucxonline.berkeley.edu>, ORDERS BY INDIVIDUALS (sale only) firstname.lastname@example.org.
Al Kuslikis taught at Diné College for eight years. He currently lives and works in Arlington, Virginia.