Growing Up in Two Worlds

Growing Up in Two Worlds: The Four Corners Media Project
Phase II
Where we are: We have begun Phase 2 of the Four Corners Media Project: co-creating a documentary film with the Navajo teens who participated in Phase 1. This film, Growing up in Two Worlds, is an important component of a larger project – a three-phase community reinvigoration program intended to benefit members of the Navajo community of Shiprock, New Mexico, by reconnecting Navajo youth with their elders and reacquainting them with their rich cultural heritage.

The object of Phase 1, completed in September 2008, was to teach filmmaking to Navajo teenagers so they could interview Navajo elders, capturing the language, traditions, and tribal history of the Diné for future generations, while learning how to live purposefully and positively themselves. We believe that this reconnection between elders and youth will improve relationships between the generations while it provides the young people with excellent role models and training in an exciting and viable profession: the film industry. Eight teenagers participated in Phase 1, and of those eight, four remain interested in continuing the project, whose culmination will include this one-hour documentary film about the teenagers’ journey of exploration into the two worlds they inhabit – the modern Western culture and the ancient world of the Diné. In order to accomplish this goal, we have invited these four teenagers to participate as both actors and filmmakers in their own story.

The Narrator of the story is a Navajo girl living in Shiprock, NM, which is one of the poorest communities in the Four Corners area. Through her eyes we learn about life on the Navajo Nation.

As she and three other teenagers interview four Navajo elders, the elders’ stories are merged with flashbacks to scenes of life in the Four Corners area as it once was, and contemporary scenes of Shiprock and other areas of the vast Navajo Nation as it is today. The underlying thread of the story becomes clear as the teens share accounts of the challenges they face growing up with one foot in the traditional Navajo Beauty Way and one in our fast-paced Western culture. Struggling to find balance between these two very different world views, the young people express their love for their elders and their reverence for tradition, their mounting frustration with the slow pace of progress as the Diné move into the 21st century, and the creative ways in which they are managing to combine the best of both worlds in their lives today.

Where we’re going:

Along with helping to create the film itself, the four Navajo teenagers will be paid to design and help maintain a website that hosts the film and provides a discussion forum for teens and adults in other Native and non-Native communities seeking sustainable methods of community reinvigoration.

The film (which could be incorporated into school curricula around the country) will be distributed by Living World Films ( and could be shown on PBS and at various film festivals, including the American Indian Film Festival in San Francisco, Talking Stick (the youth filmmaking venue at the Santa Fe Film Festival), the Sundance Film Festival, and others. It could also be viewed on YouTube and the Navajo teenagers’ website, and reviewed in newspaper articles, professional journals, and popular magazines.

Dr. McKay-Riddell’s conference presentations, workshops, and the Orenda Healing International website will introduce the concept to community leaders throughout the US, as well as to leaders in academia and the arts, inspiring similar efforts.

In addition to distribution throughout the US, we plan to distribute the film to international communities challenged by their young people’s disenfranchisement from their cultural heritage. These might include communities in Africa, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Mexico, and Central and South America, to name a few.

The Dream Team:

Melissa Peabody (San Francisco – Still Wild at Heart) – Director
Linda Carfagno – Associate Director
Valentine McKay-Riddell, Ph.D. (Director, Orenda Healing International) – Producer
James Perry (Navajo Cultural Consultant) – Associate Producer
Leslie King – Still Photographer
Luis Guerra (Caballos de Colores and Woven Songs of the Amazon) – Audio Production and Musical Score

Click on the artists’ names to experience examples of their work.