THE TRAILS BEFORE US follows 17-year-old Nigel James, a Diné mountain biker, as he hosts the first Enduro race in the Navajo Nation. Through revitalizing livestock and wildlife trails on his grandparents’ land, Nigel and a new generation of riders honor the connection to their land, community, and culture.
Director – Fritz Bitsoie Director of Photography – Leo Maco Producer – Emma Hsu Jackson Running time: 12 minutes
Novelty & Tradition
how the trails before us can revitalize the trails behind us
Some people might think that the heart of human life lies in living with roots and wings, as if the roots come first. And in a way, they do! The past precedes the present.
But if you are seventeen years old, you may find the order reversed. You care about your roots, to be sure; but you also have a healthy need for adventure. You begin with wings and discover that openness to fresh possibilities, to doing something new, can awaken you to the richness of your roots. The trails before you open up respect for the trails behind you.
In TheTrails Before Us, we see how mountain biking can help a new generation honor connections with land, community, and culture. It is about a Navajo community, but its message extends to many and perhaps all. It is about how the sacred is in time.
The sacred is in the land and community and culture, to be sure, and it also is within each person as a lure toward roots and wings, in whatever order and proportion is necessary for the situation at hand. The spirit sometimes lures toward a reclamation of roots for the sake of wings, and sometimes for an embrace of wings to reclaim roots. Age may make a difference. When you are eighty, you may begin with memories, with roots; when you are seventeen, you may begin with adventure, with wings. There is value (richness of experience) in both approaches.
As The Trails Before Us makes clear, the wisdom of a wing approach for community life cannot be underestimated. The future of a community, in this case Navajo, depends on its youth reclaiming the traditions with the novelty as their guide. This novelty includes doing things differently from the way they were done in the past. Mountain biking, for example.
It is in the discontinuities with the past, the differences, the novelty, the sense of adventure - that the past has a future. True, the past can give birth to the future, and often it does. But the future, indeed the novel future, can also give birth to the past. The trails before us, travelled in fresh ways, can revitalize the trails behind us.