500 Nations (1995)

TV Mini-Series  -  History
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An exploration of the various Native American nations and their fall to the European conquerors.

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Unknown   1995  
2 nominations. See more awards »


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Series cast summary:
 Himself - Host (8 episodes, 1995)
 Himself - Narrator (8 episodes, 1995)


500 Nations is an eight part documentary which explores the history of the indigenous peoples of North and Central America, from pre-Colombian times, through the period of European contact and colonization, to the end of the 19th century and the subjugation of the Plains Indians of North America. 500 Nations relies on historical texts, eyewitnesses accounts, pictorial sources and computer graphic reconstructions to explore the magnificent civilizations which flourished prior to contact with Western civilization, and to tell the dramatic and tragic story of the Native American nations' desperate attempts to retain their way of life against overwhelming odds. Written by John McClain <320005v2y@mac.sega.co.jp>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis







Release Date:

20 April 1995 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

500 Nations - Die Geschichte der Indianer  »

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs

Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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User Reviews

Wonderful historical detail, and well told. Very one (left) sided though.
18 February 2005 | by (Manhattan) – See all my reviews

Fascinating amount of detail on AmerIndian history.

It's also however extremely one sided.

We don't hear about all of the endemic massacres by Indians of whites from the get go, through the whole thing.

We also don't get any context. I.e., everyone believed in conquest against deeply foreign peoples not sharing the same religion/world view in the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries.

Certainly AmerIndians did, most of whom lived in states of endemic (as in yearly or more often) warfare, including often the extremely cruel torture of their captured enemies. E.g. the Hurons in common with many Great Lake tribes skinned alive their captives in ritual fashion back in their own home villages. For those not committed to reading source history, the movie Black Robe (which takes a quite neutral and or mutually critical cultural stance) is informative in this regard.

The current view that conquest is horrible and likely to be called genocide is unique, at least among winning societies (and usually among everyone), in world history.

The AmerIndians were the ones who taught total war to the whites early in the 1600s near the Atlantic coast, killing old women and children, as well as all men combatants (or not), and taking the younger attractive women as additional wives / concubines / sex slaves. This had been the form of warfare they had waged amongst themselves before first contact with Europeans.

Read Thomas Sowell in "Conquest and Cultures" on the Amerindian issues. Sober, balanced, and most interesting.

There's no question that Euro-Americans committed many atrocities against AmerIndians, as amply reported in this series. But to watch this series you'd think that Indians never killed their enemy's women and children or took them as slaves. In fact many tribes usually did one or the other as a matter of their avowed tribal political and religious policy whenever they had the chance whenever they were at war.

In contrast it was never or almost never the policy of the British or national American government to kill not only enemy men (combatants) but also women and children -- although it certainly sometimes was the policy of some local militia commanders, and later of some great plains and western Army commanders -- and sometimes in a winking way some frontier governors. However, shamefully, the "removal", i.e. "ethnic cleansing" of AmerIndians to points ever further to western semi or actual badlands was far too often official policy. This was partly in response to endemic guerrilla war and partly simply in response to endemic lobbying by land hungry whites (the only side of it we hear in this one sided, propaganda-lite series). Andrew Jackson's removal policy against the successfully settled, agricultural, for the most part no longer guerrilla raiding, and semi-assimilating Cherokee, known as the "trail of tears", is probably the most shameful of all instances of this. This is of course amply reporter here, though also of course, with the Cherokees totally and completely without fault or threat.

All history has some point of view. At a (desireable) minimus, one always has to edit what down to what is most important. Nonetheless, when the "victim" (under the approach of this series and many other works) is virtually completely without fault (a rare reference to increasing alcoholism solely of course as a response to victimization not really excepted), and certainly without any independent capacity for aggression other than belated and regretfully ineffective defense, a work may be hard to distinguish from propaganda.

Now if two competing propagandas on the same topic were aired back to back, that would have been another thing.

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