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I can remember first seeing this documentary almost seven years ago and at
the time, I was completely fascinated by so many unknown truths that this
documentary uncovered. There are so many things that are not taught about
the Native American struggle in our country. Many of the things in this
documentary are simply not talked about in schools when I was growing up. I
wish I could remember more details of this great documentary but it has been
Kevin Costner did a wonderful job producing and hosting this mini-series. Perhaps he was inspired after making "Dances with Wolves". Whatever the reason, this mini-series will always stand out for its stunningly beautiful and tragic portrayal of Native American history in the Americas.
Well, I certainly was NEVER bored with this documentary. 500 Nations brings a lot of emotion to the surface. It is an honestly presented, and meticulously research history of the native cultures of North America, and the effect upon them of the invasion of the white Europeans. When I say "honest", it is disturbing at times, and parents should be warned that, while accurate historically, it also pulls no punches in showing the highly organized and cultured tribes of the Americas being brutalized by ignorant european invaders. You can also sense that the white europeans would have been so much better off, had they truly wished to live with the Nations as brothers instead of conquerers. Our society is less today than it might have been, had the europeans brought more to the relationship that genocide, destruction, and disease to the Nations. IMHO, the best documentary on some of the Nations who called North America their home, long before Vespucci decided to give the land his name.
I saw the series when it aired originally and I thought that it was an
excellent documentary on the American Indians. I don't think it is
boring at all, I think that it is an excellent history lesson for us
The Native American history is not explored enough, that is why I am very pleased about the new Smithsonian museum opening next week. I believe this is a good supplement to our own history. The history of the Native Americans is not told enough or always correctly. I think this and the new museum will help educate the next generation. But of course this is just my opinion.
For people of European descent who believe that their ancestors brought
enlightenment and "civilization" to the Americas, this should be a
lesson in humility. For among the some 500 native American nations,
there were those that practiced direct democracy (the Oneida), built
cities, organized federations of tribes (the Sioux) and administered
empires (the Aztecs and Incas).
The tragic history of the native Americans is laid bare as hitherto little known details as to how they were systematically deprived of land, food and sometimes outrightly massacred are brought to light. Most shocking was the revelation that US government officials murdered Amerindians in reservations by giving them blankets used by victims of smallpox. Moreover, moving them to reservations far from their native environment deprived them not only of food but also of the plants that they used as medicine. The buffalo was hunted to near extinction by government hired hunters like Buffalo Bill in order to starve the Plains Indians. The Cherokee who adapted to the white man's culture, became successful farmers and entrepreneurs were disenfranchised - their properties seized and the whole nation sent to reservations. The episode about the "Trail of Tears" was heart wrenching.
The most interesting part for me was the exposition of the North Amerindians' cosmological and religious beliefs. For example, one North American nation believed that God placed them in an ideal world akin to paradise. This would imply that they do not long for an afterlife.
I don't know if it was in this series, but I recently found out that the Black American Indian contingent in the New Orleans Mardi Gras is not merely the product of fiesta fantasy. Those people really have a claim to native American ancestry as when the US army and the settlers were exterminating the Indians, African Americans in Louisiana absorbed those coming their way into their community to protect them. I understand some of the Seminoles who were hunted into the everglades of Florida managed to find their way into the black community of New Orleans. This resulted in an admixture of the two races. This brings to mind the American blacks who were in the US invading force during the Philippine-American War who joined the Filipinos. Obviously, they saw the war as a battle between races and it they decided they belonged to the colored side. Unfortunately, they were later captured and executed.
If you like movies that are sympathetic to the Amerindians, see also Soldier Blue, Dances with Wolves, The Royal Hunt of the Sun and Geronimo: An American Legend.
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.
Being of Cherokee descent, I have a long-standing, fervent passion for
Native American history. I only recently purchased the 500 Nations DVD
set, which somehow I had managed to remain unaware of all these years.
I loaded the first DVD of the set with the intention of viewing it in
small bites; however, the program is so well-produced and so
informative that I found myself unable to stop watching until I had
watched every DVD, every chapter, every moment of the program. It is
obvious that the producers really did their homework, striving to
maintain a rarely experienced level of historic detail and accuracy.
Anyone with an interest in Native American history should make it a point to get a copy of this program, which is a definite "keeper" for any good library of documentary videos. It is more than worthy of inclusion in any American history class, as it provides tremendous insight into a part of North America's history -- including the parts which are bloody, embarrassing stains which can never be washed from the hands of a nation.
This is the history of indigenous Americans my generation never learned in school: their rich cultures and spiritualities, the waxing and waning of economic and military powers of tribes, city-states, and empires, and the details of the barbarism of invading Anglos/Europeans. The CGI reconstructions of indigenous buildings and cities, the interviews with modern indigenous people, and readings from their ancestors' writing, breathes life into what could have been dry and tedious material. I've watched the first of this 4-disc series, and I'm already uncomfortable, knowing that my life in California is predicated on the genocide of those who were here first. But it's important to know the truth, however unpleasant.
I can remember first watching this series when I stumbled upon it one summer in 2001, and I became both fascinated and depressed with what this series presented. In fact, this series changed my perspective of the original Americans forever, seeing them as genuine humans with plenty of stories to tell and how they were respectful of the Earth we are standing on. What shocked me was the cruel treatment from the Europeans whether it was the attempted conversion to the treacherous methods of mass slaughter that obliterated many of the nations. The interviews with the real Native Americans further fascinated me with their cultural ways and perspectives on European conquest (except for those that did offer hospitality). Kevin Costner is a great host, perfect for the part from his Dances with Wolves work. He deserves a humanitarian award for mentioning the once great folk that walked the Americas and how they should be recognized and respected.
The geological time is the great power of the nature on the human being.
This documentary is surely not perfect, but it's essential american
It replace things were they must be. It tells us how nations of indians
killed and how american's army tooks there land. It's also dramatic true
i think this MUST be showed to all american schools, in priority. So
(US westerns) lies us when we where young, now we have no excuse to not
what really happens in this land at this time. Therefore, i'll just hope
that a day Natives American Indians shall get at new what they lost.
Geological time will perhaps do that for them, and for their great
Seeing the present actuality and the image of the US Bush administration
the world, this doc is urgent to see and let me think that a day it will
change. To finish, i'll just quote here an american citizen
"I can remember first seeing this documentary almost seven years ago and at the time, I was completely fascinated by so many unknown truths that this documentary uncovered. There are so many things that are not taught about the Native American struggle in our country. Many of the things in this documentary are simply not talked about in schools when I was growing up. I wish I could remember more details of this great documentary but it has been seven years."
I really enjoyed the series of 500 Nations. I got very interested in
the American Indians about 5 years ago when I was living south of
I wrote a book about my great grandfather who was killed in a gun fight in 1886 in Cow Springs New Mexico I went on a quest to find his grave. The location where he was shot was a stage stop for the Butterfield stage stop. Use frequented by the Apache Indians and Mexicans their name for Cow Springs was "Ojo De Vaca" (eye of the cow.
It was then I learned that Geronimo was captured the same year. The area is full of history, and it was sad they that they took the Indians away from their home land.
Since then I have finished another book about the four corners area, mainly the canyon lands of Utah, again the book required research although its fiction , but geography right its loosely based on a Greek friend's father that runs into some strange looking Indians. That one is available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. "Spirits of Dark Canyon"
Still interested in the Indians I'm now writing a book about the Nez Perce Indians watching the 500 Nations was great. I have heard Kevin Costner was interested in American Indians and I really admire his work for bringing to light the pain and heart aches they had to endure for thousands of years. V Clemens
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