September 12, 2010

Miwok village in Amador County Fair

I recently watched the first episode of this series (airdate: 9/8/10) on PBS:

Amador County Fair to Kick-off Huell Howser’s California’s Golden FairsHuell Howser, television personality best known for California’s Gold, the PBS travel show has been working with the California Division of Fairs and Expositions on a new project called California’s Golden Fairs. The series features 11 California Fairs, the interesting people and fantastic events held at California fairs each year. The original plan was to roll out the series in the Spring of 2011.

Huell is so excited about the project that he will “sneak preview” six episodes on PBS stations throughout California starting this September. The first episode of the sneak preview to air will feature the Amador County Fair.
California's Golden Fairs #101--Amador County FairHuell travels to Plymouth, California, to visit the Amador County Fair. This fair has all the great food, rides and entertainment you’d expect, but what really sets it apart is their incredible living history areas. There is a wheelwright shop, steam powered sawmill, and even a Miwok village where you can visit with members of the tribe and learn about their beliefs and traditions. Another fun event is the daily tractor parade filled with antique farm equipment chugging down the main street.

Comment:  The Miwok village doesn't appear in this brief clip, but you can get a sense of how loud and annoying Huell Howser is.

Like the other segments in this half-hour show, the Miwok village gets a few minutes of air-time. First Howser visits an open-air roundhouse with an Indian spokesman and women at a table making baskets. Then a park ranger shows him some conical cedar-bark houses.

As with the rest of the episode, Howser is gushingly positive about the importance of Native history and culture. The spokesman makes a key point: that Indians are still here. So does the park ranger: that California history didn't begin with the Gold Rush.

Equally interesting is what isn't said. Since this is basically an infomercial for California tourism, there's nothing negative or controversial. What Howser could've said includes:

  • The Gold Rush and the gold-mining equipment he observes contributed mightily to the genocidal destruction of California's Indians.

  • Amador County is battling with the Ione Band of Miwok Indians over the tribe's plans to open a casino. It would've been interesting to ask the local mayor what she thought of the Miwoks' presence at the fair.

    Anyway, it's nice that Indians appear at the fair and on this series. Any exposure is good.

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