January 28, 2019  (Web Review)

Native America

(2018) 2 discs. 220 min. DVD: $29.99 ($54.99 w/PPR). PBS Video. ISBN: 978-1-5317-0420-9.

Reviewer rating: 3.5/4

Until recently, popular culture depicted early Native Americans as primitive and warlike. This four-part PBS-aired series instead reveals ancient cultures that were connected to the earth, sky, and water, ones capable of building centers of science and spirituality such as Chaco in the American southwest, or the engineering marvels made by the Incas and the Mayas to track the movement of the calendar and seasons. The series covers native origin stories, a strict reverence for place, and the constant emphasis on a centered way of life in balance with nature as the people looked to the sky for guidance on ceremonial rituals and times for planting. The wampum belt, constructed with local shells, created bonds between the nations and held collective memories. And far to the east, the Iroquois nation fostered a democratic movement that inspired the Founding Fathers. Native America also covers the sustaining role of corn, the longhouse (where leaders were selected), and mound building, which was thought to bring people closer to the Creator. Ironically, the horse, which became almost an icon of native life, was unknown to most Native Americans until the Spanish introduced the animal in the 1500s. The Comanche tribe swiftly adopted horses to create a mobile warrior society that was capable of appearing and vanishing at will, living a concealed life well into the late 1800s. To ensure the continuity of their culture, Native American elders today engage in storytelling, ceremonial gatherings, and teach traditional skills, such as making totem poles. Providing excellent insights while also addressing controversies (such as the practice of human sacrifice, and other misunderstood mysteries), this is highly recommended. Aud: H, C, P. (S. Rees)