Broken Rainbow

Broken RainbowBROKEN RAINBOW presents a moving account of the forced relocation of 12,000 Navajo Indians that continues to take place in Northern Arizona. The United States government claims that by moving the Navajo off the land, it is settling a long-standing territorial dispute between the Navajo and Hopi Tribes. To the traditional Navajo and Hopi, there is no dispute. They believe relocation was designed to facilitate energy development.

In the words of the traditional elders: “There is no word for relocation in the Navajo language: to relocate is to disappear and never be seen again.” 25% of the first group of Navajo adults who were relocated were dead within six years. BROKEN RAINBOW speaks for all indigenous people who are struggling to survive as individuals and as distinct cultures in the face of Western technology and values. The film is an appeal from the Earth herself, as it has become impossible in America today to separate environmental issues from Native American survival.

  • Our beloved friend, Robert Blackgoat. Resident of Big Mountain and leader against relocation,  she inspired supporters and Dine alike with her courage, determination, and unflagging good humor.
  • Hosteen Nez suffered a stroke after being relocated to a tract house in Flagstaff. He never recovered.
  • Katherine Smith, Dine elder, who said: “There is no word for relocation in the Navajo Language. To relocate is to disappear and never be seen again.”
  • The Four Corners area of New Mexico, from the film Koyaanisqatsi by Godfrey Reggio.
  • Mining coal at the Peabody mine on Black Mesa.
  • Bahe Katenay, activist resisting relocation, in prayer at Sunset.
  • Dine (Navajo) elders stand in silent protest against the fence that is dividing their lands, forcing 12,000 to relocate.
  • Navajo elder weaving in the traditional way. Of the power lines crossing her land, she said, “ Electricity means stupidity and laziness. I don’t want it.”
  • One of many power plants burning coal, polluting the air and water, while subsistence herders try to maintain a traditional way of life.
  • Elders protesting the fence that now divides the land-  cutting people off from family, grazing lands, and shrines. As Roberta Blackgoat said: “You can’t divide the blood by fencing.”
  • Government chaining program, ripping out indigenous tress and shrubs, making the land uninhabitable for grazing or farming.
  • Roberta Blackgoat, with Dine protestors, prior to testifying before Congress, who turned a deaf ear to their pleas.
  • Chilton McCabe’s mother gazing out at land from which she was to be relocated. She died shortly thereafter.
  • Katherine Smith at her old hogan.
  • Katerine Smith joining other protestors ripping out fence posts – using spoons and shovels – and joyful determination, relocation continued.


An Earthworks Films production

Produced, Written and Directed by
Maria Florio and Victoria Mudd

Narrated by Martin Sheen

Voiceovers by Buffy Saint Marie, Burgess Meredith, Semu Huate

Original Song by Laura Nyro.

Distribution-New Video



1986 Academy Award Best Documentary Feature

Cine Gold Eagle Award

Best Film, Original Song and Directing
American Indian Film Festival

Best Documentary
Kauai Film Festival,

Grand Prize Winner
Deauville France Film Festival,

Best Documentary
Japan World Film and Television Festival

“Created out of passionate commitment and composed with loving care."
- New York Times

"Powerful and unsettling...a scathing overview of the shameful treatment of North Americans."
- Spirituality and Health

"Valuable as a reminder of a tragedy unfolding within our own borders."
- Los Angeles Times

Broken Rainbow was screened the evening of Monday, November 5th, 2007 at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences as part of a series of Academy Award-Winning Documentaries. Here is what took place:

"The retrospective features the best available prints of these films – often newly struck or restored editions from the documentary collection of the Academy Film Archive. Program handouts feature comprehensive notes on the making of the films and include original still reproductions from the shorts and full-color reproductions of the original feature poster art."

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