Welcome to this week’s installment of Geek Girl Authority Indigenerd Wire, wherein we shine a spotlight on the indigenous people in pop culture. This bi-monthly column will feature the people, shows, movies, art and books that celebrate the progress of indigenous perspectives in mainstream pop culture.
Most U.S. history classes begin with colonization. This is unfortunate because the Americas has an incredibly rich history of many different cultures prior to Plymouth Rock. Thankfully, the PBS series Native America highlights life before 1492. In this series archaeologists, historians, and tribal experts come together to tell the stories of the people who first inhabited the Americas.
Director Gary Glassman and Executive Producer Julianna Brannum have been traveling Indian Country showing the series and discussing their work on the project. Glassman started pitching for the series fifteen years ago. The first person he hired was Brannum, a member of the Comanche Nation. Glassman wanted this project to be an authentic voice for native people. Many native communities worked with Glassman and Brannum from the series’ conception to editing and final writing to make sure the final product would be culturally appropriate.
Glassman says the basic idea is that there is a shared belief system that spans across both continents with diversity of expression. They investigate this through the lens of native knowledge and modern scholarship, focusing on pre-Columbian America.
With the use of modern technology, the series is able to bring the past to life through animation. Brannum says they started out wanting to do recreations of the stories, but went with animation instead. “We worked with the archeologists, scholars, and the animators to bring to life ancient cities. We’re the first to recreate these places on this scale. There was a lot of attention to detail and checking for accuracy on what this places would have looked like.”
This is a four part series, but none of the episodes focuses on only one tribe. The focus is on the concept that connect our indigenous worlds. To do this, Native America features interviews with archeologist, scholars, and tribal elders, artists, and medicine men.
Here are the episode descriptions and trailer for the PBS Native America Series.
Episode One: “From Caves to Cosmos”
Tuesday, October 23, 9:00-10:00 p.m. ET
Combine ancient wisdom and modern science to answer a 15,000-year-old question: who were America’s First Peoples? The answer hides in Amazonian cave paintings, Mexican burial chambers, New Mexico’s Chaco Canyon and waves off California’s coast.
Episode Two: “Nature to Nations”
Tuesday, October 30, 9:00-10:00 p.m. ET
Explore the rise of great American nations, from monarchies to democracies. Investigate lost cities in Mexico, a temple in Peru, a potlatch ceremony in the Pacific Northwest and a tapestry of shell beads in upstate New York whose story inspired our own democracy.
Episode Three: “Cities of the Sky”
Tuesday, November 13, 9:00-10:00 p.m. ET
Discover the cosmological secrets behind America’s ancient cities. Scientists explore some of the world’s largest pyramids and 3D-scan a lost city of monumental mounds on the Mississippi River; native elders reveal ancient powers of the sky.
Episode Four: “New World Rising”
Tuesday, November 13, 10:00-11:00 p.m. ET
Discover how resistance, survival and revival are revealed through an empire of horse-mounted Comanche warriors, secret messages encoded in an Aztec manuscript and a grass bridge in the Andes that spans mountains and centuries.
PBS has also created a site for other native peoples to tell their stories. There are videos and extended interviews for this project. When asked if there will be a season two, Glassman stated, “there are so many stories, I think it should be a regular series on PBS.”
The series is a beautiful interpretation of how Native nations are interconnected. The languages are different, but it’s neat to see how the values and beliefs were similar. I enjoyed this series, especially the animation. I can appreciate the attention to detail and accuracy that went into the animated stories. It’s not often you see that kind of care in the retelling of Native stories. And hearing the stories from a native perspective gives the series heart. I could feel the hurt that comes with telling about what was and how it was all taken away. I’m happy that there are still tribal people around who can pass on these traditions and histories.
Native America premieres Tuesday, October 23 with episode one. Episode two will air Tuesday October 30. And episodes three and four will air back to back on November 13 on PBS.
Here is the trailer for PBS’s Native America.
Ʉra! (Thank you in Comanche)