When a Navajo couple discovers that their children have a disorder that makes exposure to sunlight fatal, they learn that their reservation is a hotbed for this rare genetic disease. Why? Sun Kissed follows Dorey and Yolanda Nez as they confront cultural taboos, tribal history and their own unconventional choices to learn the shocking truth: The consequences of the Navajos’ “Long Walk” — their forced relocation by the U.S. military in 1864 — are far from over.
For fifteen years Dorey and Yolanda Nez thought they were the only family on the Navajo Reservation who had children with an extremely rare genetic disorder that only shows up at a rate of one in a million in the general population. Behind the closed curtains of their trailer, parked in the stark desert of New Mexico, they care for their 16-year-old daughter Leanndra. Just like her brother who passed away at age 11, Leanndra was born with Xeroderma Pigmentosum (XP), a rare genetic disorder that makes any exposure to sunlight fatal.
As modern Navajos, Dorey and Yolanda are in a tug of war between Navajo traditional healing ways and Western medicine, neither of which is able to save their children. Adding to their troubles, they are unable to talk with their families or community about their situation due to traditional taboos about discussing illness and disease. They are left to deal with the tragic reality of their children’s impending death alone.
Dorey shoulders the enormous burden of caring for his daughter, while Yolanda, in her work as an advocate for Native Americans with disabilities, one day encounters other Navajos who know of children with the same disease. Following these leads, the couple makes the astonishing discovery that on the Navajo Reservation, which crosses three states, the rate is only one in 30,000. Following this discovery, Yolanda and Dorey decide its time to figure out why their children and other Navajo kids were born with XP.
Filmed over three years, with unprecedented access to the Navajo community, SUN KISSED follows Dorey and Yolanda as they bravely confront long-held tribal taboos and question the rebellious choices of their youth. Ultimately their journey leads them to the shocking truth: Their children and other Navajo children are still paying the price for the American conquest of the tribe in the 1860s, a brutal campaign culminating in an almost-forgotten chapter in American history—the Navajo “Long Walk” of 1864. Despite its importance as the defining moment in modern Navajo history and the beginning of their assimilation into American society, discussing the tragedy of the Long Walk remains a taboo topic within the Navajo community.
What Dorey and Yolanda find challenges the core of their identity and everything they believe in, and exposes a fresh perspective on the complex, cross-cultural identity of modern day Navajos. Focusing on the continuing implications of American colonialism and the genetic imprints it has left on this community, SUN KISSED presents a rare and realistic window into the issues confronting Native Americans today.