November 26, 2009

TV spots about San Manuel history

The San Manuel Band of Serrano Mission Indians is running a series of commercials here in LA about their history. Here's the history in question:

San Manuel:  the early years

By G. W. AbersoldA casual reading of the historical record is appalling. Carey McWilliams in his classic book, “Southern California Country,” calls the Franciscan mission program of Father Junipero Serra, a legend or a myth.

According to the myth, “the missions were havens of happiness, places of song, laughter, good food and adoration of Christ.” In truth, the Indians, including the Serranos, endured forced labor, rape, children separated from their parents, starvation, imprisonment and other atrocities. So McWilliams records.

Far more Indians were killed than were ever converted to Christianity.

Why did Santos Manuel lead the Serranos in 1866 out of the mountains? Because their lands around Big Bear were increasingly valuable. Gold had been discovered. Logging was big business.

The San Bernardino militia, made up of Mormon ranchers and refugees from the Civil War, accused the Indians of the mountains of cattle rustling. They slaughtered hundreds of Indians to get their land.
Comment:  The commercials show the San Manuel Indians in sepia-toned colors living peacefully in the hills. Then the narration notes the advent of trouble (see above). In one ad, Santos Manuel leads the Serranos away from their old homes. In another, the past fades to the present with a smiling shot of the San Manuel chairman.

The ads don't say anything about San Manuel's casino or other enterprises. The tribe has other commercials for that purpose. These historical ads leave viewers with a standard message about survival, sovereignty, and self-reliance.

The purpose of these ads seems to be to raise awareness of the tribe. I don't know how effective they are, but I think they're a good idea. As I've said before, tribes need to be proactive in telling their stories and reminding people they're still here.

For more on the subject, see Pechanga Documentary on TV and The Facts About Indian Gaming.

Below:  "The San Manuel Business Committee, front row, sitting, Chairman James Ramos and Vice Chairwoman Lynn Valbuena; back row, Richard LeRoy, Jr., Treasurer Audrey Martinez, Leroy Hernandez, Stephanie Bustamonte and Jamie Barron."

No comments: