Four Stories About Water opens with a waterfall of people who reveal the scope of water contamination problems on Navajo lands, from the health problems that were likely caused by uranium tailings left uncovered to the view of water as “a spiritual element” to the fact that 30% of the Navajo people don’t have access to safe water.

In Story #1: Uranium: The Discovery, Bronco Martinez tells how his grandfather discovered strange rocks that he took to Santa Fe for testing.  Uranium mining began not long after that and continued until mining companies had extracted four million tons.  Now health studies are underway and the Environmental Protection Agency is trying to help clean up the worst of the 520 mine sites.

Story #2:  Prairie Dogs opens with the view that once humans disturb the earth to gather a substance like uranium, it’s difficult to find a safe place to put the tailings. Edith Hood points out the barren land where she has lived her life, an area so contaminated from uranium mining that all the topsoil had to be carted off.  Mary Helen Begay has a sweeping view of Monument Valley from her home, but she fears for her grandchildren who play in the runoff from the Skyline Mine.  The EPA’s Clancy Tenley talks about how the agency plans to haul the tailings from that mine back up to the top of the mesa and encapsulate it in cement.  Robinson Kelly and Louise Nelson tell the dramatic story of the day uranium tailings spilled into the Rio Puerco, leaving a trail of death and illness among the people and deformities in the next generation of sheep and cows.

In Story #3: Thirsty Horses, Davis Filfred talks about seeing water contaminated by petroleum drilling.  Perry Charlie asks what the horses will drink once more wells are shut down.  And Hoskie Largo notes that many people in his district have to haul water for their families. 

Story #4:  Water for Friends follows the dusty roads that Milton Yazzie and his mother take to deliver water to their neighbors so that people won’t have to drink water  contaminated by naturally occurring arsenic.  Navajo educator David Begay recommends that his people continue to respect water as this may lead to better times while Hertha Woody hopes that other tribes will not face the same mining legacy and health problems that the Navajo have endured.

Four Stories About Water is mostly in Navajo with English subtitles.

Director Deborah Begel, David Lindblom
Producer Deborah Begel
Duration 37 min.
Country USA