It seems timely to think about the history of Native Americans with less than a week to go before Thanksgiving. And if you already dislike the US Government, prepare to be impressed, even astounded by the lows it has sunk to...It'll make you want to deface that cool, snide Andrew Jackson staring at you from your twenty dollar bills. You will see that the arrogant United States of America has its own history of genocide, one that has been going on for hundreds of years.
I watched the entire series We Shall Remain, a set of PBS documentaries about Native Americans' history once the settlers hit the continent's shores. The films cover brutal, unsettling material that unfolds in a deft, direct manner. It covers histories of the Cherokee, Shawnee, Apache, and others in episodes entitled "After the Mayflower," "Tecumseh's Vision," "Trail of Tears," "Geronimo," and "Wounded Knee." There are definitely some major tribes missing from the series, but hopefully their stories will also accessibly be told with such care in the future. There's still about 8+ hours worth of straightforward viewing here, and the films are made from careful, studied recreations, truly haunting photos, interviews and even found footage.
The most interesting and vital part of the films though, I found, is definitely the interviews conducted with Native people living today. This is particularly moving during "Geronimo," when ancestors of Geronimo, Cochise and others are interviewed. Their words and stories are intense, and the gravity of what their families have experienced is devastating. It is also particularly moving during the final film of the series, "Wounded Knee," which focuses on growing Native American activism in the 70s and the 1973 occupation of Wounded Knee by the radical American Indian Movement (AIM). The interviewees' memories are so fresh, and their hope and passion for The Movement is so strong. If you think things will have gotten better for Native people after making it through the first 4 portions of this series, think again! Just because the final film covers the post- hippie 1970s doesn't mean the government is any sweeter to Native Americans.
Anyway, I strongly recommend watching these films. Though they are difficult to sit through at times due to their sheer brutality, violence and decimation, these complex stories hold much significance in our history and the fact that they are not often told is an even greater reason to watch.
Just seeing the interviewees' faces and hearing their words (often in their native languages) drives home the substantial point of We Shall Remain: Against all odds, Native American people have survived, through the very, very worst of conditions, and they continue to preserve and celebrate their culture. They are both bursting with pride about who they are and wracked with sorrow over what they have been forced to endure. And endure they have.