Directed by Emmy Award winning director, Allan Holzman, and produced by Leigh J. Kuwanwisiwma, Stewart B. Koyiyumptewa, Matthew Sakiestewa Gilbert, and Gerald Eichner, Beyond the Mesas is a thirty-six minute documentary film on the removal of Hopis to on and off-reservation boarding schools and their experiences at schools such as Sherman Institute, Phoenix Indian School, Ganado Mission School, and Stewart Indian School. Topics covered in the film include Hopi understandings of education, early U.S. government attempts to assimilate Hopis, the Orayvi Split, Hopi language loss at American schools, and the future of the Hopi people. Produced with the cooperation and involvement of the Hopi Cultural Preservation Office in Kykotsmovi, Arizona, Beyond the Mesas is part I of a series of films on children and American Indian culture titled “Keeping the Culture Alive.”

The first public showing of the film was at the Hotevilla Bacavi Community School on the Hopi Reservation on November 8, 2006. Shortly afterwards, the Applied Indigenous Studies Department at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff and the Hopi Cultural Preservation Office hosted a screening at the Cline Library auditorium.

Since November 2006, official screenings have taken place at other universities and schools, including the University of Illinois, University of California, Riverside, Cornell University, University of Iowa, and Sherman Indian High School. The film has aired on several regional PBS stations throughout the United States.


Beyond the Mesas serves as a testament to the resistance and resilience of Hopi Indians forcibly removed from the tutskwa, the sacred and ancestral Hopi homelands in northeastern Arizona to Sherman Indian boarding school in Riverside, CA. This compelling and provocative film illustrates how Hopis did not yield to the assimilative pressures of the boarding school experience, but instead “turned the power” and used the experience to protect and preserve their culture, language, and traditional ways of life. Produced by Hopi historian, Matthew Sakiestewa Gilbert in collaboration with the Hopi Cultural Preservation Office, this film tells the story from a uniquely Hopi perspective that celebrates the vitality of a people committed to the ways of their ancestors.

Angela A. Gonzales (Hopi)
Associate Professor
Cornell University
Department of Development Sociology


In this beautifully wrought film, Hopi people recount their community’s modern struggle with pressures from the outside world. In their voices and with their stories, the narrators recount this history while demonstrating a remarkable spirit of persistence and optimism. Beyond the Mesas teaches both about the past and the present.

Frederick E. Hoxie
Swanlund Professor of History
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

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