The Marking of a Milestone (2015)

Directed, produced and written by John Wright

150 years ago, the Colorado River Indian Tribes reservation was formed by an act of Congress along the lower Colorado River in Arizona and California. The reservation now combines Mohave, Navajo, Chemehuevi and Hopi tribes, but the land was originally occupied by Mohaves: the ‘Aha Makhav’ (River People).

The Colorado River Indian reservation was established along the lower Colorado River in Arizona and California in 1865, a year after the Mohave Chief Irataba represented his people on a visit to Washington D.C. and New York, meeting President Abraham Lincoln and others in the United States Government. At that time, the ancestral lands of the Mohave tribe encompassed a large region of what is today the southwestern United States.

The film, produced for the Colorado River Indian Tribes (CRIT), outlines how the indigenous people of the Parker area lived in precolonial times, who Chief Irataba and his nephew Chief Manataba were, and the origins of the CRIT reservation, which today includes Mohave, Navajo, Chemehuevi and Hopi people. It documents life for the Mohave people and how it has changed over time.

Rare interviews with CRIT elders are included, in which they tell the filmmaker about the threat of losing their native language, and losing the songs that have been passed orally from generation to generation. With fewer and fewer fluent Mohave speakers left, there are less opportunities to teach the language to younger people. The film shows footage from language classes taught by Sheldon Swick, a Mohave elder who passed away during the film’s production.

Many of the film’s interviewees expressed optimism about the future for the CRIT people, and talked about a recent resurgence of interest from younger tribal members in birdsinging, dancing and the other traditions of their respective tribes.

The film is now part of the oral history of the tribes going forward, and has been archived by CRIT in Parker, Arizona.


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