Sunday, April 12, 2009

Michael Storey wrote.............

If your only knowledge of American Indians falls somewhere between "kemo sabe" and banned college mascots, prepare to be educated and entertained.

PBS is diving into an ambitious and entertaining series of five documentaries "spanning 300 years to tell the story of pivotal moments in U.S. history from the Native American perspective."

American Experience: We Shall Remain airs on AETN starting at 8 p.m. Monday (encore at 10 p.m.) and will continue on subsequent Mondays through May 11.

Benjamin Bratt narrates each well-crafted episode produced by WGBH in Boston in association with Native American Public Telecommunications (NAPT). The series spans the nation's history from an Indian perspective, from the arrival of the Mayflower in 1620 to the siege of Wounded Knee in 1973.

Here are overviews of each episode.

Monday: "After the Mayflower." The series begins with the March 1621 negotiation between Massasoit, the leading chief of the Wampanoag, and the ragged survivors of Plymouth Colony.

An alliance was struck. The settlers survived. The first Thanksgiving was celebrated.

Things went downhill. A half century later, the Colonists were at war with a confederation of New England Indians. The Indians lost.

April 20: "Tecumseh's Vision." In 1805, Shawnee prophet Tenskwatawa had a vision that warned him of the danger of adopting white culture. A widespread Indian spiritual revival followed led by Tenskwatawa's older brother Tecumseh.

Tecumseh created an unprecedented military and political confederacy of disparate tribes united in the attempt to halt white westward expansion.

Tecumseh came close, but his dream died when he was killed in 1813 fighting alongside his British allies in the War of 1812.

April 27: "Trail of Tears." Arkansans might know more of this period because the trail cut across the state.

The episode picks up in 1838 when federal troops forced thousands of Cherokee to leave their homes in the Southeast and move to what is now eastern Oklahoma. More than 4,000 died along the way.

Many Cherokee had tried to avoid removal by becoming Christians and adopting other "civilized" ways. The efforts eventually proved futile. However, the film notes, "with characteristic ingenuity, they built a new life in Oklahoma."

May 4: "Geronimo." On his deathbed in 1909, the fierce Chiricahua Apache medicine man Geronimo whispered, "I should never have surrendered. I should have fought until I was the last man alive."

Geronimo gave it a good shot. When his tribe was moved to an Arizona reservation in 1872, Geronimo and his tiny band of followers fought on.

Geronimo became either "the archfiend, perpetrator of unspeakable savage cruelties" or "the embodiment of proud resistance, the upholder of the old Chiricahua ways."

It all depends on your perspective. Geronimo and his band finally surrendered in 1886.

May 11: "Wounded Knee." On Feb. 27, 1973, 54 vehicles rolled into the hamlet of Wounded Knee on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in southwest South Dakota. Before long, some 200 Oglala Lakota and American Indian Movement activists had seized and occupied the town and demanded redress for grievances.

The world watched as protesters held the town for 71 days, until federal troops closed in and negotiations ended the siege.

The film notes, "The event succeeded in bringing the desperate conditions of Indian reservation life to the nation's attention. Perhaps even more important, it proved that despite centuries of encroachment, warfare and neglect, Indians remained a vital force in the life of America."

Executive producer Mark Samels says the series aims to correct a few misconceptions about Indian history.

"It's a history that has been marginalized, distorted and often forgotten" Samels says. "In bringing these little-known stories to the forefront, we want to break through the stereotypes that have defined Native Americans for centuries."

The series should prove enlightening for most viewers. At the very least, it'll be easier to understand why some people get upset when fans sporting foam hatchets do the "tomahawk chop" at Atlanta Braves games.

No comments:

Native American Advisors CHIPPEWA PARTNERS