After 30 years off the Navajo Nation, Rosie Sekayumptewa returned to the homestead where three generations of her family have lived.
She found the beauty and serenity she remembered—and the scarcity that had shaped her childhood.
In Sekayumptewa’s corner of the reservation, there is no access to safe, clean water.
Almost forty percent of the Navajo Nation’s residents drive hundreds of miles every month to haul water back to their homes, where they ration what they have and use scant gallons for washing, bathing, cooking and drinking.
Sekayumptewa had helped her family haul water as a child, and when she returned to her home she found that fact of life unchanged.
But water may be on the way. University of Arizona scientists are exploring how to use solar energy to make clean water.
Their hope is to bring solar-based, "off the grid" water purification to the vast, 24,000-square-mile Navajo Nation and its residents.
If their pilot project succeeds, access to safe and inexpensive water may finally become a reality for the Diné people.
Seeking Water from the Sun takes viewers on a journey into the drama of scientific innovation and the harsh reality of life without water. It visits laboratories and homesteads, follows residents and scientists, all to explore the very human story of a very real need.
Watch it on Earth Day, April 22, 2012 at 6 p.m., on PBS-HD.
This program was made possible in part by a Pacific Mountain Network Program Enhancement Grant supporting regional production that benefits and interests its member stations.
Additional funding was provided by Desert Program Partners.
About Dustinn Craig: Dustinn Craig, Navajo/White Mountain Apache, is a multimedia producer and director. Craig grew up in Arizona, living in White River on the Fort Apache Reservation and later in Window Rock on the Navajo Reservation.
As a teenager, Craig began making skateboarding videos of himself and his friends. But with fatherhood arriving early, he decided to create "something I hoped my kids would see and watch some day." This led to his short film I Belong to This, a personal documentary in the 2003 PBS documentary series Matters of Race. In 2005, he was awarded the National Video Resources Media Artists Fellowship for a documentary on skateboarding at Fort Apache, Ride through Genocide (working title).
Craig has produced commissions from various cultural institutions and the 2009 PBS series We Shall Remain, working in high-definition format.
About Tom Kleespie: Tom Kleespie is the senior producer of special projects at Arizona Public Media. He traveled the deserts of the world for 19 seasons for his work on The Desert Speaks, airing on over 300 PBS stations nationally and the winner of multiple regional and national awards, including 24 Rocky Mountain Emmy® Awards.
Kleespie also produced Together We Heal, Unforgettable: The Korean War, Barrios and Barriers, Phoenix Mars Mission: Ashes to Ice and the follow-up program, Phoenix Mars Mission: Onto to Ice, Southwestern Gems: Our Desert National Parks, and the Tucson Remembers series, which included Tucson Remembers: The War Years, Tucson Remembers: The Battle for Europe, and Tucson Remembers: War in the Pacific and A Show of Courage.
Kleespie, a Tucson native, joined KUAT-TV 35 years ago as a member of the student production crew. Four years later, he became a full-time studio supervisor. He also did a four-year stint directing Arizona Illustrated, was a KUAT membership pledge producer, and worked for two years producing and directing for South Dakota Public Television.
About Norman Patrick Brown: Originally from Chinle, Arizona on the Navajo Nation, Norman Patrick Brown is a professional filmmaker, producer, actor and writer. His film roles include principal roles as an actor in Raising Arizona (1987), as Sgt. Begaye in Black Day, Blue Night (1994), as Pvt. Henry in The Thin Red Line (1999) and as “Bear” in The Doe Boy (2003.) He has been a cultural consultant for Hollywood productions and projects.
His passion is creating films for his Navajo people in their own language. In 1998, he wrote, directed and produced Awakening, the first Navajo language film written and directed by a Navajo for Navajos, in conjunction with the docudrama The Beauty Way of Life.
His second critically acclaimed Navajo language film, Horse Song (2000), was followed by Rez Hope in 2005. The Rainbow Boy, which is currently in production and is written, directed and produced by Norman, is a film about the ancient Navajo Warrior, Eagle Catcher.
About Mary Redhouse: Mary Redhouse is member of the Dine’ (Navajo tribe). She has a Native American Music Award and Grammy nomination for her work on the R. Carlos Nakai Quartet’s Canyon Records release People of Peace.
She works as a soloist or with the Canyon Records artists R. Carlos Nakai Quartet, the William Eaton Ensemble, the Redhouse Family Jazz Band, and Ananeah. She also works with the Larry Redhouse Trio and saxophonist Oliver Lake.
Mary is a versatile vocalist, Native flutist, electric bassist, guitarist and keyboardist. She calls her vocal style “eco-spiritual” because it blends native chants, bird and animal calls, and multi-octave scat lines. Her guitar playing is influenced by Latin jazz, bluegrass and folk.
Additional scenes produced by Dustinn Craig:
Rosie Sekayumptewa back home on the reservation
More than half of all Navajo Tribal members live on the Navajo Reservation. Many have left and then returned. Some, like Rosie, came back for very traditional reasons.
Rosie going to her former garden
Much of the water on the Navajo Reservation is unfit for human consumption. As a result, water of different qualities is used differently, including for gardening.
Rosie driving to get drinking water
Most Navajos or Diné, as they call themselves, acquire their water from communal wells. For many, this requires driving long distances before hauling the water back home.
Rosie at the windmill, drawing water for her livestock
About 60 percent of Navajos on the reservation live without running water or indoor plumbing. Much of their livestock rely on water from nearby stock ponds and windmills.
Rosie using water in her home
The need for water conservation inside her home leads Rosie to be especially frugal with every drop, including for bathing. She uses a scant three gallons of water per “shower.”