Tuesday, July 14, 2009

"We Shall Remain"

I finally sat down tonight to watch the last two segments of "We Shall Remain", the American Experience program about various critical moments in Native American history. Of the five episodes the final, about the 1973 siege at Wounded Knee, is the best. Though, as usual, the government reneged on it's promise to investigate the goings-on at the Pine Ridge reservation upon the surrender of the activists, it's hard to overstate the impact the moment had on Native Americans across the country. Native Americans were already undergoing something of a cultural renaissance, as a consequence of the general flourishing of cultural identity that accompanied the civil rights and countercultural movements. But the siege served as something of a catalyst, as both a focus and accelerator of a pan-Indian movement that saw Natives both embracing cultures that until then had been dying, and embraced a general Native American "nationalism" that brought together in a kind of fellowship members of tribes that had remained divided even during the worst of the European and American onslaught. Nowhere is this more evident than in the various Pow Wows that take place around the country, particularly in the summer months. Members of all of the nation's tribes come together to celebrate their own and each other's heritages, in ceremonies that are a mixture of various cultures (though strongly influenced by the Plains Indian cultures.) Though many Native Americans who remain on the reservations are mired in poverty and hopelessness, there is no doubt that tribes in general have experienced a resurgence of political power, and both organized tribes and disparate groupings of Native Americans have worked hard to preserve what culture remains after over five hundred years of cultural annihilation. Little of this is a direct consequence of Wounded Knee; rather, Wounded Knee is symbolic of this re-awakening of Native American consciousness.

Anyway, "We Shall Remain" is a great mini-series, and I recommend it.

No comments: