May 24, 2009

Reflections on We Shall Remain

A few final thoughts on PBS's We Shall Remain series:

  • Geographically, it covered New England, the Great Lakes, the Southeast, the Southwest, and the Great Plains. Pretty comprehensive for five episodes. The only region missing was the far West (California, the Great Basin, the Pacific Northwest, Alaska).

  • Historically, it covered the 17th century, 1800-1820, 1820-1840, 1870-1890, and the modern era. Again, pretty good. The only eras missing were most of the 18th century (French and Indian War, American Revolution) and the middle of the 19th century (westward expansion, Mexican War, Civil War).

  • Did the episodes get better as the series went on? I don't think so. In fact, I think the earlier episodes were slightly better--more thought-provoking with fewer problems.

  • Was Wounded Knee "among the best TV documentaries ever made," as one critic claimed? No, it wasn't even among the best documentaries of this series. It was a good documentary, but nothing that would blow most people away.

  • Will We Shall Remain "go a long way in repairing the woefully inadequate misrepresentations of American Indian history in the country’s educational institutions and in popular culture," as one critic predicted? Not as long as the only viewers are on PBS. If it were taught in every school in the nation, it might have an effect. But since when has PBS been able to influence the curriculum in every school in the nation?

  • As a whole, We Shall Remain is one of the best Native-themed series ever. All five episodes were better than average. It's right up there with The Native Americans and 500 Nations--two other fine series that challenged people's misperceptions but didn't change their minds overall.

  • Final ratings:

  • Tecumseh's Vision:  9.0.
    After the Mayflower:  8.5.
    Geronimo:  8.5.
    Trail of Tears:  8.0.
    Wounded Knee:  8.0.

    For more on the subject, see Native Documentaries and News.

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