Native America Series Will Premiere on PBS in Fall

PBS’s four-part series Native America explores two continents to find one people.

“I was born upon the prairie, where the wind blew free and there was nothing to break the light of the sun,” Para-Wa-Samen, which means Ten Bears, of the Tamparika Comanches, told Dee Brown for the book Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee: An Indian History of the American West. “I was born where there are no enclosures and where everything drew a free breath. I want to die there and not within walls. I know every stream and every wood between the Rio Grande and the Arkansas. I have hunted and lived over that country. I lived like my fathers before me, and, like them, I lived happily.” Native America, will tell the stories so often passed on by word of mouth. The series will premiere Fall 2018 on PBS stations nationwide, PBS President and CEO Paula Kerger announced in a statement.  The series is narrated by Robbie Robertson, who is both a Mohawk and member of the rock group The Band.

Recent discoveries informed by Native-American oral histories suggest ancient people across North and South America may have been part of a single interconnected world. Made with the active participation of Native-American communities and filmed in some of the most spectacular locations in the hemisphere, the four-part series from Providence Pictures  “weaves history and science with living indigenous traditions” to “brings to life a land of massive cities connected by social networks spanning two continents, with unique and sophisticated systems of science, art and writing.”

“The latest scholarship and research have shattered earlier conceptions of indigenous culture and civilization, revealing vast social networks and shared beliefs that have bridged the generations and that continue to flourish in Native-American communities today,” said Beth Hoppe, PBS Chief Programming Executive and General Manager, General Audience Programming.

The special reveals an ancient and still thriving culture whose splendor and ingenuity is only now beginning to be fully understood and appreciated.

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“I can no longer look at this land without thinking of the millions of Native Americans who created a world in which people lived as family with all living things and that their way of life still has the power to make a more just and sustainable future,” producer Gary Glassman said in a statement.

The series highlights Native-American traditions and follows field archaeologists using 21st-century tools such as multispectral imaging and DNA analysis to uncover incredible narratives of America’s past, venturing into Amazonian caves containing the Americas’ earliest art and interactive solar calendar, exploring a massive tunnel beneath a pyramid at the center of one of ancient America’s largest cities and mapping the heavens in celestially aligned cities.

“In what is now America’s Southwest, indigenous people built stone skyscrapers with untold spiritual power and transformed deserts into fertile fields,” according to the press statement. “In upstate New York, warriors renounced war and formed America’s first democracy 500 years before the Declaration of Independence, later inspiring Benjamin Franklin. On the banks of the Mississippi, rulers raised a metropolis of pyramids from swampland and drew thousands to their new city to worship the sky. And in the American West, nomadic tribes transformed a weapon of conquest — the horse — into a new way of life, turning the tables on European invaders and building a mobile empire.

The producers went behind the scenes at special events, including a pilgrimage to ancestral ruins at Chaco Canyon in New Mexico, a trek across lost territories in the American West, and an investiture ceremony for a chief in the Pacific Northwest, surrounded by cedar totem poles and centuries of tradition.

PBS will also offer classroom resources on PBS LearningMedia.