April 19, 2009

Massacre follows After the Mayflower

Educator Debbie Reese offers some thoughts on the first episode of PBS's We Shall Remain series. In particular, she notes what followed this episode on her local station:

Reflections, Observations:  "After the Mayflower"--WE SHALL REMAINWhen it was over, I stayed in my chair, TV still on the PBS channel. I was going to turn off the set when I heard the lead-in to the next program.... "A story of savagery and survival.... Handed down through seven generations...." And, "the Lively Family Massacre."

I glanced up at the screen. I was shocked and stunned with what I saw. Clips of what was to be shown in the next hour or so.... A white family, their cabin behind them, tending to their yard.... Indian men in the trees watching, then, attacking, killing.

For the next half hour, viewers in central Illinois who watch WILL-TV (housed at the University of Illinois) were given a savage-bloodthirsty-Indians-story that We Shall Remain is challenging with its Native voice and viewpoint. The Lively Family Massacre is a documentary of a woman in Illinois seeking her family roots. A documentary of genealogy research that goes back to the 1800s when the Lively family set up a homestead. A professor is interviewed. He says that we don't know why the Kickapoos attacked that family. Maybe they were retaliating for something that was done to them, the professor said, "we don't know." The woman said the Lively family was scalped and one of them was beheaded.
Reader JPM draws the obvious conclusion from this juxtaposition:I'm stunned, the kind of stunned that fills in just before I get furiously angry. It's almost as if somebody at the station said, "Hey, we've got to have 'balanced' coverage. So let's negate the first program with the second."(Excerpted from Debbie Reese's American Indians in Children's Literature, 4/15/09.)

Comment:  I don't think The Lively Family Massacre was on in my area. But then, I don't live in an area determined to defend its white privilege via the racist Chief Illiniwek.

Reese and JPM also comment on a reporter who wrote that Geronimo "slaughtered countless Americans." As JPM put it, these are "three loaded words nestled cozily within a sentence that detonates in the brain." Go to the original posting for more on these subjects.


Ken J. Marks said...

There is no doubt that the Native Americans have been mistreated by the European Settlers. But, there is also no doubt that the Lively Family murder actually occurred -- the documentation was found -- you can't change history.

Rob said...

You can't change history, but you can change how and why you present it.

For starters, the Lively documentary supposedly didn't explain why the murders occurred. That's a serious shortcoming in a topic that's culturally charged. It suggests a lack of fairness and balance.

More important, the local station broadcast it directly after After the Mayflower. The juxtaposition made it seem as if Native history had two equal "sides." Whites committed genocide and Indians committed an occasional massacre...same thing.