Produced by Apache 8, LLC and NAPT, Apache 8 tells the story of the all-women wildland firefighter crew that fought fires in Arizona, and throughout the United States, for over thirty years. The film delves into the heroic lives of these firefighters from the White Mountain Apache Tribe and considers the challenges of being a firefighter on the Reservation.
Four extraordinary women from different generations of the Apache 8 crew share their personal narratives with humor and tenderness. They speak of hardship and loss, family and community, and pride in being a firefighter from Fort Apache.
Marjorie Grimes, crew leader of the predecessor Apache 6, recalled the crew's early days, "The public was not open to women firefighters. We had to fight for the right to fight fires."
Katy Aday also experienced the struggle for acceptance immediately upon signing up. As the then director of forestry told her, "Once you get all that [firefighting] equipment on you, that equipment is going to weigh more than you. You're too small, you're too thin, you can't do it. You won't be able to handle the job." Aday recalls that on that day when he said that to her, she was more determined than ever to go work for Apache 8.
Combining archival footage and present-day interviews, the film focuses primarily on four women--Cheryl Bones, Ericka Hinton, Katy Aday and Nina Quintero--who represent the different generations of Apache 8 crewmembers. Alongside the personal narratives of these women is an exploration of life in the contemporary Apache Nation. The cinematography of the film integrates a poetic stylization of firefighters at work and at Apache rituals like the Sunrise Dance--the initiation ritual for girls at puberty. Apache 8 showcases a music score from composer Wendy Blackstone and many contributing Native American artists such as Tony Duncan (Apache/Arikara/Hidatsa/Mandan), Joe Tohonnie, Jr. (Navajo/White Mountain Apache) and Phillip and Patsy Cassadore (Apache). Set against the backdrop of the White River, the documentary also recounts Apache history and culture in both English and Apache.
The women of Apache 8 have all excelled and been honored with national recognition for community and military service, including Cheryl Bones, the Apache 8 crew boss who was selected as the only woman model for the Wildland Firefighters Monument in Boise, Idaho, which pays homage to all firefighters with bronze statues. Despite the difficulties of life on the Apache Reservation, these women persevere as heroes and pillars of strength for their entire community. Katy Aday summed it up best, "You never knew what you were going to face. You were with a bunch of women that could handle anything."
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