Buffalo Dance

I was doing a series of documentary commercials for an AT&T Special. The idea behind them was how the private sector was able to help minorities by providing jobs in those communities.  In truth most of these were scams but I didn’t know that then.  One of the stories involved the Navajo community around the Albuquerque area.  The actual story was dull so I decided to film some Navajo ritual to bring a sense of the culture into the piece.  I met with an elder of the tribe and he gave permission to film a Buffalo Dance in a pow wow that was happening soon.  I showed up at the pow wow with my gear and watched for a bit.  I was disappointed in what I saw.  The Navajo were dressed in normal clothing, not traditional tribal gear as I had expected.  I picked up my Nagra and started to record the music that was being played.  Stupid.  Within minutes I was arrested by the tribal police and brought before a consortium of elders.  I was informed that I had violated their laws and was subject to arrest, imprisonment, and confiscation of my equipment.  I stated that the specific elder had given me permission and was then informed that he didn’t have authority since ALL the elders had to meet for that.  I felt betrayed, uninformed, impetuous, naïve, and STUPID.  The notion ran through my mind that they would subject me to a strange torture that I had seen in all the clichéd Western movies.  Of course, they were kind and understanding and let me go but had confiscated the tapes I had recorded.

The elder that had made the initial promise was mortified but set up a private Buffalo Dance at a beautiful location, I think it was the Acoma Pueblo.  The dancers wore ritual clothing and it became a far better piece that would have happened at the pow wow.

All is well that ends well.