December 02, 2012

NBC Heritage Month special

Caught this Heritage Month special on my TiVo:

Life Connected: American Indian Heritage Month SpecialHosted by Whit Johnson, this 30-minute special celebrates American Indian Heritage Month. We take a look at the past, the present and the future.Part 1: This clip features Paula Starr, the Executive Director of Southern California Indian Center.Part 2: A new social network,, is helping American Indians connect. NBC4's Mekahlo Medina reports. Also, the first American Indian television station in the country is right here in Southern California. This clip features KVCR-TV general manager Kenn Couch and Tim Harjo, the chief content officer.Part 3: American Indian basket weaving existed and thrived for centuries, but now as the precious materials become scarce in our urban environment, the art is under threat of extinction. Kat High, the director of the Haramokngna American Indian Culture Center, is in the forefront to reverse this trend.My thoughts

The good: NBC devoted half an hour to Indians, and had Indians in the studio talking as regular people. That last part is exceedingly rare. Usually documentary-style shows focus on rez-based Indians, which lead to an "out of sight, out of mind" reaction.

The bad: Other than PBS, which is always good about airing Heritage Month shows, NBC was the only local network with a Heritage Month special.

The ugly: The 9:30 am slot on Sunday means the show was almost invisible. Only a slot between midnight and 6 am would've been worse.

Segment 1 talked about how Native parents struggle to raise kids in their culture. It was really about the craft of making cradleboards and moccasins. Segment 2 was really two segments on and FNX.

So the show was a mixed bag: two segments on arts and crafts and two on new media. I guess that juxtaposed the traditional and the modern well enough, but the show could've used its time more effectively. I would've rearranged the segments like this:

Segment 1: Traditional arts: Cradleboards and moccasins alone or combined with baskets.

Segment 2: Modern arts: music, comedy, fashion, theater, etc. Anything but powwow dancing and flute music.

Segment 3: Business and politics: Perhaps something on how the Pechanga tribe stopped the Liberty Quarry from digging up their land. Or a similar incident that demonstrates how tribes are fighting for their rights.

Segment 4: New media: Facebook and Twitter (not the limited system), YouTube, FNX, film festivals, etc.

Obviously a half-hour special would have to rush through these topics. Even so, it would show Indians to have richer, more varied lives and interests than the actual special did.

Anyway, you'll recall that I attended a meeting at NBC and said they were trying hard to promote diversity. This special is one of their efforts, and kudos for that.

For more on the subject, see Revolution and TV Diversity and Native Diversity Meeting at NBC Universal.

No comments: