November 21, 2008

Review of Native Nations: Standing Together

As you may recall, I posted an item on an ABC documentary titled Native Nations: Standing Together for Civil Rights. To refresh your memory, here's how the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) described it:Native Nations, hosted by Peter Coyote, chronicles the American Indians' struggle for civil rights, and the creation of the National Indian Lutheran Board to raise funds and awareness for that struggle. From the controversy surrounding the 1862 trial when 38 Dakota Sioux were executed in the largest single-day mass hanging in United States history, to the confrontation of the 1960s when many Indian tribes joined together to speak out with a unified voice, Native Nations tells the story of standing together for sovereignty, justice and civil rights.My thoughts on Native Nations:

  • The first part focused on the executions in Mankato, Minnesota--probably because Minnesota's Indians were the first to partner with the Lutherans in ELCA. It made the important point that Americans considered the Sioux captured in 1862 criminals, not prisoners of war.

  • The bulk of the episode focused on the civil-rights movement of the 1960s. It gave a good introduction to such AIM activities as the occupation of Alcatraz and the Trail of Broken Treaties march.

  • The documentary tried to make the case for the Lutheran church's significance. But it seems the church mainly provided money and logistical support. While these things were necessary for the movement to occur, I'm not sure the church deserved its own documentary.

  • The church's support dwindled in the 1980s and 1990s when right-wing factions questioned why the Lutherans were supporting Native rights.

  • Peter Coyote seems to be the go-to guy if you need a Native documentary narrator. I wonder if he donates his services because he believes in the cause.

  • Overall, Native Nations was a typical Native documentary of talking heads and archival images. If you already know about the Mankato executions and the '60s activism, you probably won't learn much.

  • ABC deserves kudos for putting this documentary on the air. But not too many kudos, since the network aired it Saturday, October 18, at 2:00 am (in Los Angeles). If there's a time slot that gets less of an audience, I'm not sure what it would be.

    Rob's rating:  7.5 of 10. For more on the subject in general, see Native Documentaries and News.


    gaZelbe said...

    Minor point: Alcatraz was not an AIM action. It was spearheaded by a group called "Indians of All Tribes". Future AIM leaders were there, like John Trudell, but this preceded their involvement in AIM.

    Rob said...

    A slight clarification of your slight clarification: AIM existed before Alcatraz and AIM members participated at Alcatraz. Although AIM didn't initiate the occupation, it's not unreasonable to call it one of AIM's activities.

    "AIM had already been formed since '68, and (AIM cofounder) George Mitchell called me early in the morning and he asked me if I'd read the paper yet, and I said no. 'Read it,' he says. Within three or four days, we got a delegation of about 30 people together, and we came out here.

    The fledgling American Indian Movement (AIM) visited the occupiers and soon began a series of their own occupations across America.

    Mr. Banks openly discussed the history and formation of AIM; the "Un-Thanksgiving" memorial/protest; as well as the occupation of Alcatraz and AIM's brief involvement and moral support of the occupation.