PBS “Native America” Docuseries Explores America’s First Peoples
Last night, PBS aired the final installment of its newly released four-part docuseries, “Native America.” Timed around the celebration of American Indian Heritage Month, “Native America” uncovers research and studies centuries in the making and reminds us that pre-Columbus civilizations of indigenous Americans were some of the most advanced in human history.
The series is by veteran producer Julianna Brannum of the Comanche Nation and documentary filmmaker Gary Glassman who is known for his films with NOVA, Discovery Channel, History Channel and BBC. “Native America” is unlike many other documentaries as it explores America’s first peoples before European settlers arrive. Here are our four biggest takeaways from the series:
- Native Americans have long held a connection to the spiritual and the earth. Episode I, From Caves to Cosmos, explores who America’s First Peoples were and where they lived. Archeologists take viewers to New Mexico’s Chaco Canyon to learn more about the Hopi and their origin story.
- Native Americans inspired modern-day democracy. Episode II, Nature to Nations, visits the Pacific Northwest and upstate New York to map how Native American nations created some of the most sophisticated governments, evolving to democracies. This episode points out just how critical Native Americans were to the development of modern-day American democracy, inspired by the Iroquois Confederacy of the Haudenosaunee Nation.
- Native Americans built the first cities and pyramids. Episode III, Cities of the Sky, takes a closer look at how ancient Native Americans built their structures to align with the sun, moon and stars. The episode pays special attention to Cahokia, an ancient city discovered east of St. Louis, MI. Viewers may be surprised to know it was home to one of the largest pyramids in the world, older than the Egyptian pyramids.
- Native Americans used ancient traditions to combat conquest. Episode IV, New World Rising, highlights the Comanche empire across the Southwest and how they and their horses as allies resisted colonization. Ultimately, their practices in Native American foods, medicines and engineering were critical to their survival and today, they continue to preserve these ancestral beliefs and practices.
“Native America” is recommended to anyone who would like to learn more about the early and enduring contributions of indigenous people pre-America. The entire series is available for free online. For additional education, be sure to also catch PWNA’s short documentary on PBS that discusses food insecurity and a return to Native foods in tribal communities.