For decades, thousands of Navajos worked the railroads, maintaining the trans-continental network. Metal Road explores the dynamics of livelihood, family and the railroads through the lens of a Navajo trackman. The film follows three Navajo railroaders from the 9001 Heavy Steel Gang as they leave their homeland to replace aging railroad tracks from the Mississippi River to the Pacific Ocean under extreme weather conditions.
Not unlike other oppressed peoples, Native Americans share a long history of working the least desirable and most dangerous jobs to build the country’s infrastructure. And as with the Mohawk high-steel ironworkers who built the skyscrapers in Manhattan, these are team jobs that require cohesive work if they are to avoid dire consequences. Navajo railroad workers, after many generations, continue today to move across the American landscape to provide for their families.
Metal Road is a co-production of Aboriginal Lens, Ltd. and Vision Maker Media, Inc. with support from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Additional support was provided by ITVS, AZ Humanities, The Miami University Humanities Center, and generous private underwriters.