By Tim GiagoIn 1980 Wolper was given a script based on Ruth Beebe Hill’s book, “Hanta Yo.” He loved the script and he saw it, according to an ignorant and misguided public relations specialist, as “the new Roots of Indian country.” Of course, to say something as outlandish as that immediately brought out the antagonists from the woodwork. Wolper and his co-producer, Stan Margulies, ran for cover. They called Larry Red Shirt (now deceased) and Louis Bad Wound (now deceased) of the Oglala Sioux Tribe and asked for their input.After people suggested changes and said there'd be hell to pay if ABC didn't make them, here's the result:We were naïve in those days and we really believed ABC would honor our requests. Well, they didn’t. They did sneak several of the scenes we had deleted back into the series without telling us. In the end, Red Shirt, Bad Wound and I felt that the series would have been much more harmful if we had not made an effort to change it.Comment: The idea of a Native Roots is interesting, but I'm not sure it's necessary today. Here are some problems with the idea:
How could you cover the history of two continents of Indians by showing one family's roots? It's relatively sound to view the antebellum South as the center of American slavery. But what's the center of American Indian history? The Iroquois? The Cherokee? The Navajo? The Plains Indians?
If you could focus on only one tribe, I don't think it would be the Lakota. They were involved only in the later stages of the Euro-American expansion and conquest. A better choice would be the tribes of the Southwest. They were involved in the first stages of Spanish exploration and the last stages of the Indian Wars.
I haven't read Hanta Yo, but I recall that people criticized it for its mistakes and stereotypes. It's a white woman's fictional account of Lakota history, not an Indian's account of his or her own roots. It isn't an acclaimed award-winner like Alex Haley's Roots. It's unsuitable in almost every way to be a seminal mini-series about Indians.