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This documentary covers the history of the American West from the Native American tribes to their encounter with Europeans and how the Europeans conquered them and settled the land. In telling this story, the film takes into the account to both the viewpoints of Indians and other minorities to balance the white populations history. Written by
Kenneth Chisholm <email@example.com>
Fair, honest portrait of the settlement of the American West
This documentary directed by Steven Ives (not Ken Burns, as several of the reviews in this thread inaccurately state) is a sweeping epic that showcases the salient moments in the settlement of the American West. Using historical documents, academic narratives, scenes of stunning natural beauty, and original photos and documents, "The West" is a gripping and historically accurate overview of this great (and, at times, terrible) period in American history.
The reviews that complain that this series is somehow anti-American suffer from two flaws. The first is selection bias. Parts of "The West" feature cruelty and brutality, usually at the hands of white settlers. But to focus on this as the only distinguishing feature of the film ignores the numerous instances in which white people--e.g., Sam Houston, Brigham Young, Joseph Meek, just to take a few--are portrayed quite deservingly as heroes. Nor are all Native Americans portrayed in a positive light; the film also makes the point that the Lakota Sioux's claims to the Black Hills territory as their ancestral lands are somewhat ironic because the Lakota conquered the Kiowa and other tribes, driving them out of that area in conquests very similar to the Americans' accession of the West.
The second error is simple oversensitivity. The history of the West is both a great and terrible story. It's great because it epitomizes the expansive American spirit that binds us together as a nation. It's terrible because in acquiring the West, we (Americans, that is) more or less decimated an entire people. I think those who refer to this process as genocidal are wrong, but not by much. The history of the West is thus not a story of good or evil, but a story of both, and the film "The West" shows this dialectic unflinchingly. If you have too delicate a constitution to accept that brutality and suffering are the flip side of manifest destiny's glory, you should not watch this documentary. "The West" does not seek to spare anyone's feelings, but rather only to tell the truth about this period in all its great and awful reality.
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