'Native America' debuts on PBS on October 23Robbie Robertson (Mohawk) narrates upcoming series
By Kevin Abourezk The idea was born in 2001 in Honduras, inside the ancient Mayan city of Copan. As Gary Glassman crawled around the tomb of the city’s first ruler, he began wondering whether the technology and knowledge necessary to construct Copan might have been shared with other indigenous cultures across the Americas. “Here in the middle of the Honduran jungle was this incredible jewel of a city, with giant beautiful temple pyramids, incredible sculpture and murals, their own writing system and a system of advanced astronomy far exceeding the European astronomy of the time,” he said. “I just started wondering, ‘Where did it all come from? Where did it begin, and is there a connection between what was going there in Central America with North America and South America?’”
The first episode offers a sweeping answer to the question: Who were America’s first peoples? The episode combines ancient wisdom and modern science to answer that question and shows viewers Amazonian cave paintings, Mexican burial chambers, New Mexico’s Chaco Canyon and waves off California’s coast. The second episode explores the rise of ancient monarchies and democracies, examining lost cities in Mexico, a temple in Peru and a potlatch ceremony in the Pacific Northwest. The third episode looks at cosmological secrets of ancient America, exploring massive pyramids and 3D-scanning a lost city of monumental mounds on the Mississippi River. The fourth and final episode examines how resistance, survival and revival are revealed through an empire of horse-mounted Comanche warriors, secret messages encoded in an Aztec manuscript and a grass bridge in the Andes that spans mountains and centuries. Brannum said she’s hopeful Native America will change viewers’ perspectives on the wealth of indigenous knowledge that was used to establish modern societies. She also hopes viewers walk away with a greater understanding of contemporary Native people. “We’re still alive. We’re doing well,” she said. “Our cultures are vibrant and strong. For me, that’s the most important takeaway.” Glassman said he hopes viewers will understand the centuries of warfare and removal Native people across the Americas have had to endure and how generous they remain today. “Native people are alive and well and managed to survive and thrive through the worst demographic devastation in the history of the world and 500 years of genocidal warfare and politics, and still are willing to share incredible knowledge that can be beneficial to everyone in the world,” he said.
Famed Mohawk musician Robbie Robertson, left, serves as narrator of PBS America. He is seen here with executive producer and director Gary Glassman.
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