Jim Enote (Zuni), Loretta Jackson-Kelly (Hualapai), Leigh Kuwanwisiwma (Hopi), Coleen Kaska (Havasupai) and Nikki Cooley (Navajo). (Grand Canyon Trust)


A new Native made documentary called “Voices of the Grand Canyon” will premiere at the Santa Fe International Film Festival on Friday, Oct. 21.

“Understandably, many people think of the Grand Canyon as a place for recreation…but it is definitely a cultural landscape,” said Jim Enote. “The Zuni people came from the Grand Canyon.”

There will be a showing that Friday at 3:30 pm and a second showing on Sunday, Oct. 23 at 10:20 am.

According to Grand Canyon Trust, the story is told by solely by Native people.

With Navajo (Diné) filmmaker Deidra Peaches alongside Native producers, composers and artists, “Voices of the Grand Canyon” shares stories most tourists never hear — stories of movement and migration, hardship and struggle, origins, reverence and awe.

In the film, Jim Enote (Zuni), Nikki Cooley (Navajo), Leigh Kuwanwisiwma (Hopi), Coleen Kaska (Havasupai), and Loretta Jackson-Kelly (Hualapai) challenge you to look beyond the bucket list status of Grand Canyon National Park and see it as a homeland to Native peoples.

“The archaeological sites are our footprints. It is evidence that the Hopi clans traveled through there,” said Leigh Kuwanwisiwma in the film. “The Grand Canyon is very special to us. It’s our genesis.”

Nikki Cooley, the first Navajo woman to be a commercial river guide in the Grand Canyon, describes how her people fled to the Grand Canyon in the mid-1800s to hide from the U.S. Army.

“[T]hose corridors taught us as Diné people of what it meant to be survivors,” Cooley said. “It’s just a very sacred place that we must treat very carefully, respectfully, and not think of it as a theme park.”

Grand Canyon Trust also said, “Voices of the Grand Canyon” won Best Documentary at the Indie Film Fest in Phoenix, Arizona in February 2022. It has since shown at the Flagstaff Mountain Film Festival, Prescott Film Festival, and Bluff Film Festival, and it has been selected to be part of the American Indian Film Festival and Red Nation Film Festival this November.