May 17, 2007

Navajo movie extra 58 years ago

'She Wore a Yellow Ribbon'

Monument Valley woman had role in 1949 movieClara Mae Johnson, 79, was one of the first Navajos to be in a movie.

Johnson played an extra role in the 1949 western film "She Wore a Yellow Ribbon" and can be seen round dancing in one scene. The movie was directed by John Ford and starred John Wayne as Capt. Nathan Brittles. In the movie, Brittles deals with a series of attacks by the Apache and Arapaho after the defeat of Custer. Near his retirement, he takes it upon himself to try and make peace with a character named Chief Pony That Walks.

"I got paid $50 for the movie," said Johnson through an interpreter, while attending the 2007 Red Bull Air Race World Series on Saturday. Johnson, who was 21 when she starred in the movie, said she also cooked and cleaned on the set as part of her hiring. She also got to meet the famous John Wayne.
Curiously, the Navajo still aren't maximizing the benefits of Monument Valley:Maryboy said the backdrop of Monument Valley will continue to be a sought out location for filming, which is all the more reason why a board of some sort should be created.

By forming a board, Maryboy said the community will be able to be more prepared when organizations or filmmakers express interest in wanting to come to Monument Valley, and will allow the community to benefit from outside companies use of the area.

Maryboy said that non-Navajos continue to dominate the areas businesses. With the exception of The View Restaurant and Store, which is Navajo owned, there are only small entrepreneurships, like catering or arts and crafts vendors that are run by Navajos, Maryboy said.

"Tour guides are dominated by non-Navajos," said Maryboy. "They (Navajo entrepreneurs) need to think big, in a global fashion. Monument Valley could easily be promoted internationally."
Commment:  I met Natasha Kaye Johnson, who wrote this and other entertainment articles for the Gallup Independent, at the First Americans in the Arts award ceremony. She's a good writer and I'm enjoying her articles.

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