Moroni Benally ultimately did not succeed in his 2014 campaign for the presidency of the Navajo Nation—one of the most influential positions that an Indigenous politician can hold on Turtle Island. His campaign, which saw him embrace his identity as a gay and Mormon-raised man, nonetheless offered political voice to other Diné people who shared his outrage at the ways colonialism impacts their lives. “Moroni for President,” which airs tonight (November 20) as part of World Channel’s “America ReFramed” series, chronicles that journey.
WATCH: “The Navajo Nation President is the most influential and powerful tribal leader in the United States.” 17 candidates vie for the position in #MoroniForPresident 11/20 8/7c on @AmericaReFramed @worldchannel https://t.co/V82Hv5WeoU #NAHM #WORLDxNAHM pic.twitter.com/uCjpSgcrVA
— America ReFramed (@americareframed) November 19, 2018
“Moroni for President” follows the academic as he runs against then-incumbent President Ben Shelly and others in a crowded election. Benally struggles to turn his appeals to “move the old guard out” into votes. The film follows his campaign and uses it to highlight the stories of Diné folks in the LGBTQ community.
“Throughout Navajo history, LGBTQ individuals have played a key role as the people in the community that brought people together,” organizer Alray Nelson, who managed competitor Joe Shirley Jr.’s campaign, says in the above trailer. Nelson and Benally’s perspectives on the centrality of LGBTQ identity to Diné experiences clash with views of people like the mother of Zachariah George, Shelly’s openly gay executive assistant, who says that homosexuality doesn’t align with their tradition.
“There were a lot of issues in terms of uneven understandings about the Navajo traditional perspective on what it means to be gay or queer,” Benally told The Salt Lake Tribune.
Catch “Moroni for President” when it airs on World Channel tonight at 8 p.m. EST or stream it for free at PBS.org starting tomorrow.