The Golden West

Production Date: 
Leslie Winik
unknown male narrator
Run Time: 

NOTE: This film contains demeaning language and may not be suitable for all viewers.  It reflects stereotypes of Native peoples prevalent in the 1940s. Its attitudes are not those of the American Indian Film Gallery.

Establishing shot:  Film opens with a large mountain range in the center for the frame. In the top corner of the frame tree branches can be seen. The shot then cuts to men, Navajo, on horseback riding over the top to the snow covered mountains in the distance.
Named locations:  Window Rock, Arizona; Belgium; Holland; The Sierra Nevada mountains; Virginia City, Nevada.
Major themes covered: An introduction to the rise of mining in the West
Native activities shown: Navajo men on horseback; Navajo men riding through a herd of horses and 'stealing' them; [Pioneers crossing the wilderness in caravans; Towns (Anglo settlers) being formed; Using pans to sift for gold in waterways; Bank tellers handing out money to customers; Dancing in a saloon; Stagecoach driving; Robbing a stagecoach; Miners moving out of mining towns]; Navajo man sitting on horseback; Modern Navajo man riding on his horse; Navajo man entering Window Rock, Arizona; Children attending a school; Navajo children learning the 'three R's' (Reading, Writing, and Arithmetic); Navajo man sharpening an ax; Shaving; Silversmithing; Navajo man sand-painting; Men working on a sand painting; [New forms of mining in the Sierras by Anglos; Searching for gold; Prospector leading a mule, Blasting and striking for gold; Prospector finding gold].--Michelle Boyer, 2011
Individuals Named: No named individuals
Native language spoken:  No native language
Audible:  Good quality audio
Noteworthy elements: The sandpainting ('iikááh) shown in this film appears to be a depiction of the Hero Twins, Monster Slayer (Nayéé’ Neezghání) and Child-of-the-Water (Tóbájíshchíní). Both of the figures are shown wearing their signature flint armor (depicted as serrated edges along their torsos) and both appear to be holding lightning, another telltale feature (Bahti, 2000, p. 32-32). Also depicted in this sandpainting is the Rainbow spirit also known as Nááts’íílid, which forms a border running along three sides of the dry painting and serves as a ward against evil influences (Bahti, p. 22).

Bahti, M. (2000). A guide to Navajo sandpaintings. Rio Nuevo Publishers: Tucson, Arizona.

Other notes:  This short film offers a sensational and breezy account of western expansion into Navajo country.  The film provides a comparison of the gold rush in 1849 and modern mining techniques in the Sierra Nevada mountains.

Cross-reference to other AIFG films:There is stock footage of Native Americans throughout this film. This footage also appears in AIFG films Another to Conquer and Navajo Land

Based on its completeness, the film Navajo Land is likely the source footage for Another to Conquer and Golden West. It is notable that the tone of the script of Navajo Land is very racist and condescending; Golden West is only slightly less so, as the narration of this film closely paraphrases the latter. Another to Conquer recycles some of the same footage for its introductory scenes, but abandons the condescending tone of the other movies. Of these, the two worst offenders, Navajo Land and Golden West, are intended for a mainstream White audience. Another to Conquer, which has a more respectful tone, is directed toward an American Indian audience.

--Mikel Stone, 2012