“NATIVE AMERICA”

“Native America,” a monumental four-part series premiering on PBS, takes us back 15,000 years to introduce us to the people who first inhabited this continent. Join us as we explore their cities and investigate their science.

Aired on October 23, 2018.

TRANSCRIPT

IN A NEW FOUR-PART SERIES, PBS TAKES US INSIDE THE NATIVE NARRATIVE.

THEY REVEAL THE ANCIENT AND STILL THRIVING CULTURE.

AS IT EXPLORES GREAT NATIONS OF UNKNOWN CITIES.

AND SHARES SACRED STORIES LONG HIDDEN IN PLANE SITE.

THEY WILL ELIMINATE THE SPLENDOR OF A PAST THAT HAS FOR TOO LONG BEEN UNTOLD.

ANCIENT CIVILIZATIONS.

FROM NORTH TO SOUTH AMERICA.

THIS KNOWLEDGE HAS BEEN ACCUMULATED OVER THOUSANDS OF YEARS.

CONNECTED BY SHARED KNOWLEDGE AND BELIEFS.

THE PAST IS ALSO PART OF THE PRESENT.

DISCOVER A REMARKABLE NEW VIEW OF NATIVE AMERICA.

AND JOINING US NOW IS AN ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR OF ANTHROPOLOGY AT BARNARD COLLEGE AND FEATURED IN THIS SERIES.

I WANT TO GET TO SOME OF THE SPECIFICS IN A MOMENT THAT YOU'VE BEEN INVOLVED IN, AND PART OF YOUR STUDY IS REFLECTED IN THE FILM.

JUST BIGGER PICTURE, WHY IS IT IMPORTANT FOR US, DO YOU THINK, NOW?

TO BE HAVING THIS DISCUSSION.

THE NARRATIVE ABOUT NATIVE AMERICANS BACK THEN?

WELL, I THINK THAT WE USED TO THINK WE KNEW WHAT THE STORY WAS OF INDIGENOUS AMERICA.

IT WAS A STORY OF CONQUEST, THE DISAPPEARANCE OF NATIVE PEOPLE'S IN THE LAND.

IT'S TAKEN A LOT OF WORK BY FOLKS LIKE MYSELF WHO STUDY THE TRACES OF THE NATIVE PAST TO HELP REWRITE THAT STORY AND TALK ABOUT THE EXTRAORDINARY RESILIENCE OF NATIVE PEOPLE'S.

AND SO MUCH THAT WENT ON DURING THAT COLONIAL PERIOD THAT NEVER GOT INTO THOSE TRADITIONAL STORYBOOKS.

I THINK I WAS FASCINATED BY HAVING WATCHED SEGMENTS OF THIS.

AND HAVING BEEN A HISTORY MAJOR IN COLLEGE AND THOUGHT THAT I STUDIED THAT ERA.

HOW LITTLE I KNEW.

MAYBE A BETTER WAY TO SAY IT IS HOW MUCH I DIDN'T KNOW.

HAVING GROWN UP IN ST. LOUIS, FOR EXAMPLE, I NEVER REALIZED THE LARGEST PYRAMIDS IN THE WORLD AT LEAST IN SQUARE FWOOTAGE WERE JUST NEXT DOOR.

YEAH, YEAH.

IT'S A GREAT LEARNING PROCESS, AND HOW YOU ILLUMINATE THESE THINGS FOR YOUR STUDENTS.

I WANT TO TALK ABOUT YOUR REALM HERE, IN THE FOURTH EPISODE, YOU'RE FEATURED PROMINENTLY, AND IT TALKS ABOUT THE COMANCHE PEOPLE.

I KNOW YOU HAVE DONE EXTENSIVE RESEARCH IN THE FIELD OF RESEARCH FOR THIS.

WHEN -- GIVE US THE SENSE, WHO THEY WERE.

WHAT DO WE KNOW ABOUT THE COMANCHE PEOPLE?

OF COURSE, THE BEST PERSON TO ANSWER THAT, WOULD BE A CO MAN CHEE INDIVIDUAL THAT ARE THRIVING TODAY.

ONE OF THE THINGS I LOVE ABOUT THE DOCUMENTARY IS AS IT CAME TOGETHER WAS, THAT THEY REALLY FOREGROUNDED THE VOICES OF CONTEMPORARY COMANCHE INDIVIDUALS IN THIS CASE.

THEY'RE A NATION, A TRIBAL NATION WITH A HISTORY THAT HAS ROOTS DEEPLY EMBEDDED IN THE SOUTHERN PLAINS, BUT EXTEND OFF ALL THE WAY TO THE CANADIAN BORDER, DOWN AS FAR SOUTH AS MEXICO CITY.

AND THEY HAD A REALLY STRONG PRESENCE.

AS IT TURNS OUT IN SPANISH COLONIAL NEW MEXICO, WHICH IS WHERE I'VE BEEN DOING RESEARCH FOR MANY, MANY YEARS.

DID WE KNOW HOW EXTENSIVE THAT PRESENCE WAS, OR ARE WE LEARNING SO MUCH NOW?

HISTORIANS OF THE LAST DECADE HAVE UNDERTAKEN A REALLY EXTRAORDINARY REVISIONIST PROJECT WHERE THEY'VE UNCOVERED A WHOLE NEW WAY OF THINKING ABOUT COMANCHE HISTORY.

THEY WERE A TRULY DOMINANT FORCE IN THE AMERICAN WEST.

THEY ADOPTED THE HORSE, THEY TOOK THE TOOLS OF IMPERIALISM, REINVENTED IT, AND TOOK OVER REGIONAL ECONOMIES, SO HISTORIANS HAD HAD BEEN DOING SOME EXTRAORDINARY WORK, TELLING A NEW NARRATIVE, ARCHAEOLOGISTS LIKE MYSELF WHO GO OUT AND TRY TO DOCUMENT THE TRACES OF THAT ON THE GROUND.

WE HAD NOT BEEN ABLE TO PARTICIPATE IN THAT UNTIL VERY RECENTLY.

LET ME ASK YOU ABOUT SOME OF THAT.

I THINK IF YOU ASKED ANYONE OUT THERE, ONE OF THE FIRST THINGS THEY WOULD SAY IS ON HORSEBACK.

THEY WOULD -- I SUSPECT PEOPLE WOULD THINK, ALL THE NATIVE AMERICANS WERE ALWAYS ON HORSEBACK.

NOT NECESSARILY SO?

YEAH, THAT'S NOT NECESSARILY SO.

IT'S NOT SO.

THE ICONIC INDIAN OF THE POPULAR IMAGINATION IS THE PLAINS WARRIOR ON HORSEBACK, AND IT IS A COMANCHE FIGURE THAT STANDS AS OUR ICONIC INDIAN IN POPULAR CULTURE.

NATIVE NORTH AMERICA WAS A RADICALLY DIVERSE PLACE.

THERE WERE ALL SORTS OF DIFFERENT WAYS OF BEING -- THAT WERE PRACTICED.

THE PLAINS WARRIOR WAS INDEED ONE OF THEM, AND THE COMANCHE STORY IS COMPELLING IN THAT SENSE.

IT TAPS INTO THIS ICONIC.

WE THINK OF THEM AS THE FIERCE WARRIORS.

IS THAT AN ACCURATE DEPICTION?

I THINK THEY WOULD BE PROUD TO BE REFERRED TO AS SUCH.

WHAT I FIND EXTRAORDINARY ABOUT COMANCHE HISTORY, THEY DIDN'T JUST SURVIVE COLONIALISM, THEY DIDN'T JUST SURVIVE THE INVASIONS OF EUROPEANS, THEY TOOK THE FOOLS OF THE INVADERS AND THEY DECIDED THEY WERE GOING TO BUILD AN ENTIRELY NEW WORLD OUT OF THAT.

THEY REFASHIONED THEMSELVES.

IT WASN'T A TIME OF DECLINE FOR THE COMANCHE AT ALL, IT WAS A TIME OF RADICAL EXPANSION.

IF YOU'RE GOING TO TRY TO COLONIZE US, WE'LL COLONIZE YOU RIGHT BACK.

THEY FLOURISHED DURING AN ERA THAT WE THINK OF AS NATIVE DECLINE.

HOW ABOUT TODAY?

HOW DID THE CO MANCHES OF TODAY CONTINUE TO EMBRACE THEIR TRADITIONS AND ANCESTORS?

THESE ARE HIGHLY TRADITIONAL PEOPLE IN MANY RESPECTS, AS ARE MANY NATIVE COMMUNITIES.

THEY'RE MODERN, THEY INTERACT IN THE MODERN WORLD JUST LIKE EVERYTHING ELSE.

THEY HAVE A STRONG SENSE OF TRADITION.

ONE OF THE REILLY WONDERFUL ASPECTS OF THE KIND OF RESEARCH THAT IS SPOTLIGHTED IN THE DOCUMENTARY IS THAT IT'S BEEN HAPPENING COLLABORATIVELY WITH A LOT OF CONTEMPORARY TRIBAL FOLK.

LAST QUESTION FOR YOU.

AS A PROFESSOR WHO HAS DEVOTED A GOOD PORTION OF HIS PROFESSIONAL LIFE TO THE STUDY OF THIS ERA.

WHAT DO YOU THINK THE VALUE IS OF PUTTING TOGETHER A FILM SUCH AS THIS AND GETTING IT OUT THERE FOR PEOPLE TO SEE?

THERE'S NO QUESTION THAT THIS ABUSING PEOPLE OF THIS MYTH OLGS OF THE VANISHING INDIAN, IS THE SINGLE GREATEST ACCOMPLISHMENT OF THE DOCUMENTARY LIKE THIS.

BEYOND THAT FUNDAMENTAL SHOULD BE A SENSE THAT AMERICAN HISTORY IS A MUCH MORE COMPLICATED STORY THAN THEY WERE TAUGHT IN HIGH SCHOOL OR GRADE SCHOOL.

IF THEY JUST DO A BIT OF RESEARCH, IF THEY FOLLOW ON SOME OF THESE TRACES THAT ARE OUT THERE IN THE LANDSCAPE, THEY'RE GOING TO ENCOUNTER SOMETHING VERY DIFFERENT.

MUCH MORE EXCITING, MUCH MORE INTERESTING.

IT IS A FASCINATING FILM, IT'S A FASCINATING LOOK BACK AT A TIME WE THOUGHT WE PROBABLY KNEW.

WE REALIZE WE DON'T.

YOU DID A MARVELOUS JOB.

I WANT TO TAKE YOUR COURSE.

I WANT TO TRAVEL WITH YOU ON SOME OF THESE.

THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR SPENDING SOME TIME.

APPRECIATE YOUR CONTRIBUTION TO THIS.

A REMINDER OUT THERE, PBS'S NATIVE AMERICAN SERIES PREMIERES TUESDAY OCTOBER 23rd.

YOU SHOULD CHECK YOUR LOCAL LISTINGS FOR AIR TIMES.

Funders

MetroFocus is made possible by Sue and Edgar Wachenheim III, the Sylvia A. and Simon B. Poyta Programming Endowment to Fight Anti-Semitism, Bernard and Denise Schwartz, Barbara Hope Zuckerberg, Janet Prindle Seidler, Jody and John Arnhold, the Cheryl and Philip Milstein Family, Judy and Josh Weston and the Dr. Robert C. and Tina Sohn Foundation.

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