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PBS series takes long-awaited deep dive into Native American culture

The first of a four-part series featuring Native Americans is scheduled to air on PBS on Oct. 23.

The producers of “Native America” describe the series as a combination of “modern science and scholarship with Native American traditions and oral history to bring to life the world created by America’s first peoples.”

It’s being called the first extensive analysis into Native culture in a decade and one of the most elaborate.

Representatives from Providence Pictures added that the series “illuminates the splendor of a past whose story has for too long remained untold.”

Producers said they were given “remarkable access” to Native American communities for the special. The cameras go behind the scenes at special events, including a pilgrimage to ancestral ruins at Chaco Canyon in New Mexico. Viewers will experience “a trek across lost territories in the American West, and an investiture ceremony for a chief in the Pacific Northwest surrounded by cedar totem poles and centuries of tradition,” a news release said.

Morgan Tosee has kept the Comanche people’s special connection to the horse alive for generations. (Photo Providence Pictures)

“Tribal members and descendant communities, whose ancestors built this world, share their stories, revealing long-held oral traditions as the thread that runs through the past to these living cultures today,” the release stated.

Cara White, of public relations firm CaraMar Inc., said that while the Seminole Tribe of Florida is not featured in the series, there is a connection.

White said Tampa’s PBS affiliate, WEDU, is working with Dr. Paul Backhouse, director of the Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum and Tribal Historic Preservation Office, on two events. The first event is Oct. 30 at the South Florida Museum in Bradenton and the other is Nov. 5 at the Tampa Theatre. Those interested in the events should contact WEDU for more details.

For the Amah Mutsun Tribe of California, controlled burns represent a way to take care of and reinforce their connection to the forest. (Photo Providence Pictures)

“The producers of Native America worked closely with a diverse group of Native communities and participants from across the U.S., Canada and Central and South America, but were not able to include every one of the hundreds of other nations and tribes,” White said in a statement to The Seminole Tribune.

“While each episode is anchored by one particular Native People and a specific North American site, the series focuses on the deep cultural, spiritual and social connections shared in common and the diversity of expressions of those common beliefs,” she said.

Each episode is narrated by Robbie Robertson of the Mohawk Tribe, who is also a member of the rock group “The Band.” The executive producer and director for Providence Pictures is Gary Glassman.

PBS is hosting a companion website for the series, which can be found at pbs.org. Classroom resources are available at pbslearningmedia.org, which teachers can access for free.

Onondaga tribal member Angela Ferguson keeps her people fed through a mastery of maize cultivation that goes back to time immemorial. (Photo Providence Pictures)

The following are abbreviated synopses of the episodes from PBS with dates and times. (Times listed are EST). PBS representatives suggest viewers check local listings for the most up-to-date information.

Episode one: “From Caves to Cosmos” – Oct. 23 from 9 p.m. to 10 p.m.

Combine ancient wisdom and modern science to answer a 15,000-year-old question: who were America’s First Peoples? The answer hides in Amazonian cave paintings, Mexican burial chambers, New Mexico’s Chaco Canyon and waves off California’s coast.

Episode two: “Nature to Nations” – Oct. 30 from 9 p.m. to 10 p.m.

Explore the rise of great American nations, from monarchies to democracies. Investigate lost cities in Mexico, a temple in Peru, a potlatch ceremony in the Pacific Northwest and a tapestry of shell beads in upstate New York whose story inspired our own democracy.

Episode three: “Cities of the Sky” – Nov. 13 from 9 p.m. to 10 p.m.

Discover the cosmological secrets behind America’s ancient cities. Scientists explore some of the world’s largest pyramids and 3D-scan a lost city of monumental mounds on the Mississippi River; native elders reveal ancient powers of the sky.

Episode four: “New World Rising” – Nov. 13 from 10 p.m. to 11 p.m.

Discover how resistance, survival and revival are revealed through an empire of horse-mounted Comanche warriors, secret messages encoded in an Aztec manuscript and a grass bridge in the Andes that spans mountains and centuries.

The series will also stream for free following each broadcast and will be available on other formats. A DVD copy of the series can be purchased at shoppbs.org. Go to pbs.org for more information.

Comanche artist Jhane Myers and archaeologist Severin Fowles search the Rio Grande Gorge for an ancient Comanche tipi encampment. (Photo Providence Pictures)

 

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Damon Scott
Damon is a staff reporter for The Seminole Tribune. Prior to moving to Florida, he was a reporter and editor for print and digital publications in his home state of New Mexico. When Damon’s not working on a story, you’ll probably find him at a hot yoga class or splashing around on some South Florida beach. Send him an email at damonscott@semtribe.com.

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