Tuesday, May 12, 2009

PBS Propaganda Archives "white"-washes tribal history (again)




The American Experience || We Shall Remain
PBS Series, airing in five parts. Check your local listings.

With enormous fanfare, abundant grants and the absolute hype of the white-controlled media, a nasty series of propaganda fantasies about American Indians has been rolled out onto our televisons to praise, awards and accolades of the “true” story of the American Indian. This highly speculative, and largely manufatured fairytale is presented as if it is truth. Though few to no real facts are available on these subjects, the series unfolds from the beginning, middle and end as if everyone knows what really happned, even though it is cerain they did not.

They tell no stories of the medicine society people, of the keepers of the sacred, of the Kiva or the Sacred Pipe. Once again they go to the well of sensationalism and perpetuate the lies of criminals like Rusell Means and sensational killers like Geronimo. While pretending to tell some sort of true story about the American Indian, they draw up the same old chiches, sterotypes and pointless bullshit which the white media has been spewing for 400 years. Nothing has changed. It has just become more slick, better produced and presented in such a way that a reasonable person who knows almost nothing about the American Indian will accept as “true”.

One would like to say kind things about such a lavish and well-connected effort to tell some sort of story about the American Indian. The list of sponsors, grants, consultants and donors is truly impressive. There is even a dual cast of actual American Indian people. On one hand there are the actors who act out for us the narrative. On the other hand there are present descendants and relatives of the American Indians being talked about adding their scripted comment. There are scripts, producers, wardrobe and many “reenactments”. It all has a lot of polish and is a highly professional presentation. The scripting, however, is the problem. There is a lot of conjecture and guessing (and imposition) of historical events posing as facts. People who are not very well versed or knowledgeable in tribal history and information will think what is being said represents truth. There are no disclaimers that it is all speculation. This absence of clarification is a serious shortcoming.

Given the credentials and resources of the production professionals, one can wonder why the focus Is so narrow. The rich diversity of tribal lives and history is ignored entirely. Whole geographic regions of long tribal histories are just not mentioned.

Tribal people and communities continue to drown in a deep ocean of really bad information. This series does nothing to help this problem…in fact it only compounds it. Many of the segment directors and crew are American Indians, which gives the errors and weaknesses of this series a decidely odd flavor.

There are to many unidentified white people commenting as “experts” who clearly have no demonstrable way to illustrate how they know what they claim to know or any history to allow the viewer to understand who they are or how they arrived at their speculative points of view.

The good that can be here is thereby eclipsed by the omissions and errors of presentation. The very act of scripting reenactments of largely undocumented events and histories is itself highly questionable.

Is this yet another ongoing example of how shallow, contrived and unable to muster a clear view of reality which seems to be an epidemic in the mainstream media? Yes, it is.

When historians must manufacture and act out a narrow view like this, something is lost. Perhaps what is lost is the truth. All this scratching around the bleeding earth to tell some sort of American Indian story is covering up the real story, the story the world continues to wait to hear and see.

Given the noble historical context of “preserving” the history of heroic leaders like Tecumse, one can only imagine why at the end they felt it relevant in that context to focus on the lies and criminality of the so-called Wounded Knee incident? What about the struggle of the Navajo against the uranium industry or the long and noble history of the Hopi? Two million American Indians and over 600 tribes wait for the real story. This is not it.

This is worthwhile viewing and recommended. Just be forewarned that this is yet another variation of revisionist and highly selective, manipulated, speculative history. It is great to see the Wampanouag get their due credit for the salvation of the Pilgrims. It is great to see innovative and brilliant leaders like Tecumse receive historical recognition.

America, and the world, has yet to take any honest steps towards truly seeing the American Indian history that rests half-buried in the shadows of the truth. For what it does accomlish one can be appreciative. For what is missing, we tribal people continue to wait. As we have for 500 years.

My rating for this series. 3 out of 10. Best regards.

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