PBS Summer Showcase 2018: Native America

‘Native America’

Modern science and Native knowledge brings a new vision of the history of America’s First People: “Native America.” This series goes back 15,000 years to look at cities that were aligned to the stars and the unique systems of science and spirituality and even the social networks that connected tribes. This isn’t just about North America, but also South America.

Series producer, Julianna Brannum (Comanche) said, what was most surprising for her was the scale and sophistication of the cities that were created. “Some of these cities make the pyramids of Egypt look like child’s play.”

Executive producer and director Gary Glassman wanted “authentic voices of native participants.”

Brannum noted, “This series comes at a time when many people believe that Native Americans are conquered. We are resilient and irrepressible. Our knowledge and sophistication still exists today.” She questioned, “How much do people really know about Native Americans besides playing dress up for Thanksgiving or watching cartoons or, worse, from mascots?”

This series “developed true collaboration with communities” because we are “dealing with asymmetries of power. We are all very different; otherwise, we’d be one tribe.”

Professor of the study of Latin America at Harvard Divinity School, David Carrasco said, “Native Americans were able to encode those stories in sculptures and books. Native Americans did do books. They also encode in the jewelry they wear and in the hairstyles.” Those books existed before the Spaniards, the Conquistadores, came to the Americas. One of the surviving books is preserved in Florence, Italy.

Jim Enote (Zuni), CEO of Colorado Plateau Foundation, said there was “a tradition of exchange. We knew there were fishing people in the Northwest. We knew there were jungle people” far away in the south.

And there were changes brought on by the horse. Brannum explained, “We got hold of this horse and we built an empire.”

Besides empire building on the plains, there was also a democracy formed in upstate New York, 500 years before the Declaration of Independence.

This is a new generation of filmmaking on Native Americans that isn’t like “Wild Kingdom” of Native America. The people have the opportunity to correct the asymmetry of power and co-op their story  to provide a narrative for themselves about themselves.

The four-part series “Native America” premieres on 23 October 2018.

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