Painting with Sand (A Navajo Ceremony)

Sullivan C. Richardson (unconfirmed)
Production Date: 
Viking Pictures Corporation
Sullivan C. Richardson
Run Time: 
Encyclopedia Brittanica

Establishing shot: Extreme long shot of the landscape the Navajos live in. In the background a group of mountains can be seen. In the middle ground a man can be seen on horseback on top of a sandy mount. A rider can be seen on screen right, and on screen left a closer mountain can be seen. Clouds can be seen in the sky.
Named locations: Monument Valley; Utah; Arizona; Navajo Indian Reservation; Navajo Mountain; San Francisco Mountain; La Plata Mountain;
Major themes covered: The cultural significance of sandpaintings
Native activities shown:The filmmakers record a Navajo medicine man (hataałii) carefully constructing a sandpainting ('iikááh) depicting “Pollen Boy on the Sun.” Once complete, a little boy, of three or four years old, is placed on the sandpainting and the medicine man begins the sing, keeping time with a rattle. Once the ritual is complete, the small boy is lifted from the painting and dusted clean; following this, the sand painting is erased.
Individuals Named: No named individuals
Native language spoken: Yes, Navajo is sung during the opening credits and end credits.
Audible: Good quality Navajo song; Good quality English narration
Noteworthy elements: Detailed description of sandpainting techniques and what each color of sand and figure represents.

Other notes:  Written in collaboration with Clyde Kluckhorn, Ph.D., Harvard University.

For an illustrated entry on Pollen Boy on the Sun, see Bahti, Mark, A Guide to Navajo Sandpaintings. Tucson, Arizona: Rio Nuevo Publishers, 2000: 38.

In his survey of the history of visual anthropology, Harald Prins describes the filmmaking process for this film and identifies a sponsor not credited in our copy:

"Shot in color with a silent camera and produced by Viking Pictures Corporation for Encyclopedia Britannica, this 12-minute education film depicts a Navajo healing ritual in a ceremonial hogan. Sound of Navajo singers was later added, as was the ethnographic narrative” (514).

Prins, H.E.L.,"Visual Anthropology," in T. Biolsi, ed., A Companion to the Anthropology of American Indians. Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishing, 2004:  506-525.


--Mikel Stone, 2012