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From: Cherokee21 DelphiPlus Member Icon4/16/09 10:32 AM 
To: All  (1 of 9) 

'We Shall Remain': From Plymouth to Wounded Knee, a Tale of Survival

By Philip Kennicott
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, April 13, 2009; Page C06

"We Shall Remain," a five-part PBS series that retells American history from the Native American perspective, is a remarkably old-fashioned documentary. It is built up slowly, chronologically, and powerfully from a few basic and familiar elements: talking heads, an authoritative narrator and loving aerial shots of the primordial forest. Even its use of historical reenactments reminds one of the kind of movies screened at National Park Service visitors' centers a generation or two ago.

Executive producer Sharon Grimberg and a team of directors and producers (including Chris Eyre, Ric Burns, Dustinn Craig, Sarah Colt and Stanley Nelson) have committed to telling an alternative history, but they forgo alternative means. Even the events chosen to anchor the individual films are already familiar from history books: The Mayflower, the War of 1812, the Indian wars and Wounded Knee. But slowly, over the course of more than seven hours, one begins to realize the power of this approach. "We Shall Remain" is unapologetically committed to the now suspect idea of Great Man history, the chronicle of charismatic leaders, epic battles and dramatic, decisive events indelibly marked on the calendar and mythologized for centuries after.

It may be old-fashioned, but it radically shifts the sense of agency and psychological complexity from familiar American icons to Native Americans who once played only supporting roles. The effect is rather like the psychological shock one gets when the map of the world is turned upside down. It's still a map and still reliable in every way. It's just disorienting.

The series begins with "After the Mayflower," which covers the arrival of the Europeans in Massachusetts, into territory fished and farmed by the Wampanoag. It ends with King Philip's War, a desperate and almost successful attempt by New England tribes to push the English out in 1675-76. The travails of the Wampanoags establish the pattern for the next three centuries: Massasoit tries accommodation and alliance with the English, only to be sidelined by their growing size and power. His son, Philip, tries another strategy, resistance, with no better results. After making war on the British, Philip was pursued back to his home territory, captured, killed and dismembered. His head sat on a pike in Plymouth for 20 years, and his young son was sold into slavery.

In many ways, this is the weakest of the episodes, in part because it's at the greatest chronological remove. Talking heads speculate and the grammar is tortured: Massasoit "must have" thought this or "would have" said that. The actors must carry a larger burden because of the lack of documentary material. But they also vary in quality from film to film and in "After the Mayflower" one is thankful when they're seen but not heard, and the narration, by Benjamin Bratt, covers the burden of telling the story.

In the second episode, the warrior Tecumseh must deal with all the same issues: Traumatized and depleted native communities resist encroachment on their land; they make alliances, in this case with the British during the War of 1812; those alliances are betrayed; the military power of the United States defeats them and they lose their land.

Tenskwatawa, Tecumseh's alcoholic and depressive brother, had a transformative vision in 1805. It was what we might call a fundamentalist conversion: abstain from alcohol, live the old, traditional ways and avoid the white man. But it fired up a generation of warriors and gave hope to Tecumseh's dream: A united Indian homeland in the Great Lakes region. And so two new themes, the political power of mystical visions and the need for a united, pan-Indian alliance, enter into this annals of native history.

The episodes devoted to Tecumseh and the Trail of Tears are the most emotionally powerful, and achieve the best balance between reenactment and standard documentary style. In "Trail of Tears," the third episode, distinguished Native American actor Wes Studi stars as Major Ridge, a prosperous Cherokee landholder who decided it was in the interest of his people, and his own prosperity, to give up an independent Cherokee homeland in the southern Appalachians in hopes of peace and resettlement in land west of the Mississippi. It is one of the most vile and shameful chapters in the history of U.S. relations with Native Americans, and Studi captures well the anguish of his conflicted character.

The filmmakers don't shy away from internal conflicts within native societies, and these conflicts were often exploited by outsiders. It was the Mohawks, loyal to the English, who turned on King Philip and defeated him. After Major Ridge, who owned black slaves and sent his son to boarding school in Connecticut, signed a desperate treaty with the Americans he was viewed as a traitor. He and his son were killed by their own people.

The story of Geronimo (Episode 4) is perhaps the most subtle in its discussion of internal native debate. Geronimo's people, the Chiricahua Apaches, were raiders and horse thieves, a manifest nuisance to Mexican and American ranchers. They were also suffering all the usual pressures: broken treaties, betrayed trusts, and encroachments on their land and lifestyle. Unlike many Apaches, who settled down and tried to build lives within the confines of American power, Geronimo resisted the reservation, took to the hills and harassed settlers for almost three decades before his tiny and depleted band of holdouts was finally captured in 1886.

To the wider American public, his renegade years made him public enemy No. 1. But by the time he died in 1909 (after spending years in prison), he had been transformed into America's favorite Indian, a harmless celebrity symbol of the tamed West. That transformation is baffling to many Apaches, who remember him as a reckless and dangerous leader, and a man who brought down the ire of the United States on anyone associated with him, guilty or not.

"Why is he remembered, when he did all these bad things?" asks a native woman, interviewed for the series.

The easy answer is, because history is written by the victors. But that's too pat. History is also written by the survivors.

"We Shall Remain" is most powerful when one senses the emotional power of events still resonating in close descendants of people who experienced the traumas of ethnic cleansing and resettlement, and living survivors of native reeducation policies in the 1950s and '60s. The last episode covers the 1973 siege of Wounded Knee, still a controversial subject. But by this point, the makers of "We Shall Remain" have shifted the focus and the weight of history, and the old labels, prejudices and assumptions come tumbling down, leaving only a chronicle of powerful and shocking events.

 Reply   Options 

From: ctj20104/16/09 3:10 PM 
To: Cherokee21 DelphiPlus Member Icon  (2 of 9) 
 2566.2 in reply to 2566.1 

Good afternoon,   Tim...

And,  we shall see whether this stuff has a positive or negative impact,   on indigenous as well as non-indigenous folk,   sooner or later...


Take care...



From: Cherokee21 DelphiPlus Member Icon4/24/09 10:12 AM 
To: ctj2010  (3 of 9) 
 2566.3 in reply to 2566.2 

Hey CT:
Anyone see part two?
I liked the first part, mostly.



From: ctj20104/24/09 1:37 PM 
To: Cherokee21 DelphiPlus Member Icon  (4 of 9) 
 2566.4 in reply to 2566.3 

Unfortunately,   I can't see the series,   since the local PBS station's analog service went out prematurely,   and it's about to go digital,  anyhow...





From: ctj20104/24/09 6:31 PM 
To: Cherokee21 DelphiPlus Member Icon  (5 of 9) 
 2566.5 in reply to 2566.3 

P. S.

If I can find an internet link  (or you know of one you can forward to me)?

Let's take it from there...

Otherwise somebody with some brains and guts should make the nonfiction version of BURY MY HEART AT WONDED KNEE into a mini series too!

I wasn't a part of the Red Power movement,  back in the day:

Dee Brown's book made up for it!


Take care...



From: ctj20104/28/09 11:44 AM 
To: Cherokee21 DelphiPlus Member Icon  (6 of 9) 
 2566.6 in reply to 2566.1 

Good morning,  Tim...

And,  now an answer to your question,   since I did manage to watch the TRAIL OF TEARS segment,   last night...

On the one hand:

Not everything I had expected the segment to go into?

I. e.,   nothing about the Little Carpenter,   Dragging Canoe,  as in-- pre white contact notions of being a Cherokee...

On the other hand:

Other stuff,   which I need and want the 'critics' and (my) detractors to be candid as well as honest about...

That is?

At least the segment brought up the issue of indian enslavement of black folk:

Actually that's more than I expected!

So nowadays--Gayle Ross and Chad Smith's spins notwithstanding--nobody can pretend they don't know or understand generates anti black attitudes ad naseum--among some (not all) of the various factions--eastern or western--anymore!

Then,  too:

This isn't a mini series exclusively and solely about the Cherokees anyhow!

As regards non cherokee writers and producers takes etc.:

An A plus for the effort...

A C plus for the results...


Take care...






From: Cherokee21 DelphiPlus Member Icon5/5/09 4:47 PM 
To: ctj2010  (7 of 9) 
 2566.7 in reply to 2566.6 

That would average a b?

Here is a case you ahve not found one CT.



From: ctj20105/5/09 9:26 PM 
To: Cherokee21 DelphiPlus Member Icon  (8 of 9) 
 2566.8 in reply to 2566.7 

Good evening, Tim...

And, please just call me 'Chuck', ok?

As regards the series:

I'll have to catch it whenever and wherever...



From: ctj20105/30/09 9:20 PM 
To: Cherokee21 DelphiPlus Member Icon  (9 of 9) 
 2566.9 in reply to 2566.1 


I must admit being embarrased by the childlike naivete of those earlier indigenous folk via the first segment of this series...


Good or bad...

It's all real...



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