What happened after we released our award-winning documentary, The Return of Navajo Boy about uranium contamination on native lands? The short answer is, quite a bit. Groundswell Educational Films is releasing a series of webisodes showing the effect that the documentary has had on the lives of its participants, and how the film is still being used today to affect change. You can watch them here in chronological order, and order the film on DVD which contains our epilogue.
Webisode 15: Navajos Win The Largest Environmental Settlement in History (April 2014)
Infamous corporate polluter, Kerr-McGee, agreed to settle a federal bankruptcy case by paying the Navajo Nation a billion dollars to help clean up radioactive contamination at 50 abandoned uranium mines. The Return of Navajo Boy includes clips from Kerr-McGee’s own 1950s propaganda film titled, “A Navajo Journey,” which promoted the safety and benefits of uranium mining and featured Elsie Mae Begay and Bernie Cly as children. Director Jeff Spitz found the film and used it to expose Kerr-McGee’s history. The Return of Navajo Boy gives voice to the many courageous people who are advocating for a comprehensive clean up of abandoned uranium mines in Navajo communities. There are more than 520 abandoned uranium mines according to the EPA. After more than half a century “A Navajo Journey” is coming full circle.
Webisode 14: Cleanup Continues (October 2011)
The long-overdue cleanup marches on in Monument Valley.
Webisode 13: Film Moves Congress & Mountains (June 2011)
See the clean up action through Navajo eyes.
Webisode 12: Environmental Historians Applaud Elsie, Perry and Navajo Boy (May 2011)
“The Return of Navajo Boy” was screened at the 2011 American Society for Environmental History conference. Navajo nuclear scientist Perry Charley shares his own experiences with uranium and the toll it has taken on his health.
Webisode 11: Clean Up in Elsie’s Backyard (April 2011)
A new dispatch from Mary Helen shows that the US EPA’s clean up of Oljato Mesa and the abandoned Skyline Mine has begun, eleven years after the debut of “The Return of Navajo Boy.”
Webisode 10: Mary Helen Visits Chicago (November 2010)
Mary Helen Begay visited Chicago recently and spoke about her experiences with uranium at a screening of The Return of Navajo Boy.
Webisode 9: Introducing the Navajo Nation Water Quality Project (December 2010)
Groundswell partners with Northwestern University Chemistry Department and Navajos to build a website focused on water quality on the Navajo Nation.
Webisode 8: Reporters Visit (November 2010)
Mary Helen documents the visit of reporters from Salt Lake City. They’re interested to learn the status of the cleanup.
Webisode 7: A Navajo Report from Elsie’s Backyard (May 2010)
We gave Mary Helen Begay (Elsie’s daughter in law) a flip video camera to document the uranium cleanup on Navajo Nation. Here’s her first on the ground report with an EPA contractor.
Webisode 6: It’s not just Elsie’s Backyard (March, 2010)
After watching Navajo Boy Webisodes, Paul Robinson of the Southwest Uranium Research and Information Center (www.sric.org) relates Elsie’s story to the rest of Navajo Nation. Paul is from the Southwest Research and Information Center and focuses on Uranium mining contamination in the Church Rock and Window Rock area among other issues.
Webisode 5: Mary and Lorenzo sell “The Return of Navajo Boy” DVDs in their Monument Valley gift shop (March, 2010)
Lorenzo Begay (the narrator of “The Return of Navajo Boy”) and his wife, Mary, have a gift shop in Monument Valley. In this video, Mary can be seen selling DVDs to tourists.
Webisode 4: Screening the film on the Navajo Nation reservation (March, 2010)
In March 2010, Groundswell Educational Films screened the film at Rough Rock Trading Post on the reservation to raise awareness about the health effects of local uranium contamination. In attendance were director Jeff Spitz and Elsie Mae Cly Begay, along with Perry H. Charley, Director of the Uranium Education Program at Diné College, who answered questions from the audience.
Webisode 3: Elsie and the documentary head to Washington, DC (September, 2008)
In September 2008, Groundswell brought Elsie and the film’s new epilogue to Capitol Hill for a screening and discussion about hazardous waste cleanup with EPA officials and congressional staffers.
Webisode 2: Elsie’s home is demolished by the EPA (May, 2001)
About a year after their initial investigation, the EPA demolished Elsie’s highly-contaminated hogan. EPA consultant Andrew Sowder is seen at the end of this clip suggesting that the agency should construct fencing or a sign around the area to protect local residents from further contamination.
Webisode 1: The EPA inspects Elsie’s home (January, 2000)
The story of Elsie Mae Begay is featured prominently in our documentary; her home was partially constructed out of uranium rocks from an abandoned mine nearby. Around the same time our film was making its premiere, the EPA investigated her home to see how dangerous it might be. The following is from an official EPA videotape of the investigation, obtained by Groundswell through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).