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500 Nations

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500 Nations + Trail of Tears - A Native American Documentary Collection + The Great Indian Wars: 1540-1890
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Product Details

  • Actors: Kevin Costner, Wes Studi, Edward James Olmos, Patrick Stewart
  • Directors: Jack Leustig
  • Producers: Kevin Costner
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Box set, Closed-captioned, Color, Dolby, NTSC, Subtitled
  • Language: English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo)
  • Subtitles: English, Spanish, French
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 4
  • Rated: NR (Not Rated)
  • Studio: Warner Home Video
  • DVD Release Date: September 21, 2004
  • Run Time: 374 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (114 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B0002S65WC
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #36,885 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "500 Nations" on IMDb

Special Features

  • The entire miniseries on four discs including a new introduction by host/executive producer Kevin Costner
  • CGI insight with director Jack Leustig
  • CD-ROM disc with extensive archival material (2000 images, animated recreations, altas, and story lore)
  • 12-page booklet

Editorial Reviews


With six episodes spread out over four discs and a running time of well over six hours (in addition to an interactive CD-ROM filled with extra features), director-producer Jack Leustig's sprawling 500 Nations, a history of Indians in North America, is likely the most comprehensive effort of its kind ever undertaken.

Mention the word "Indian," and most will conjure up images inspired by myths and movies: teepees, headdresses, and war paint; Sitting Bull, Geronimo, Crazy Horse, and their battles (like Little Big Horn) with the U.S. Cavalry. Those stories of the so-called "horse nations" of the Great Plains are all here, but so is a great deal more. Using impressive computer imaging, photos, location film footage and breathtaking cinematography, interviews with present-day Indians, books and manuscripts, museum artifacts, and more, Leustig and his crew go back more than a millennium to present an fascinating account of Indians, including those (like the Maya and Aztecs in Mexico and the Anasazi in the Southwest) who were here long before white men ever reached these shores.

It was the arrival of Europeans like Columbus, Cortez, and DeSoto that marked the beginning of the end for the Indians. Considering the participation of host Kevin Costner, whose film Dances with Wolves was highly sympathetic to the Indians, it's no bulletin that 500 Nations also takes a compassionate view of the multitude of calamities--from alcohol and disease to the corruption of their culture and the depletion of their vast natural resources--visited on them by the white man in his quest for land and money, eventually leading to such horrific events as the Trail of Tears "forced march," the massacre at Wounded Knee, and other consequences of the effort to "relocate" Indians to the reservations where many of them still live. Along the way, we learn about the Indians' participation in such events as the American Revolution and the War of 1812, as well as popular legends like the first Thanksgiving (it really happened) and the rescue of Captain John Smith by Pocahontas (it probably didn't).

With its sometimes New Age-y music and many beauty shots of the great outdoors, 500 Nations has a rather different vibe than the average Ken Burns documentary. That may lessen its value for sober historians, but for the rest of us, this is an illuminating and important work. --Sam Graham

Product Description

500 Nations is an eight-part documentary that explores the history of the indigenous peoples of North and Central America, from pre-Colombian times through the period of European contact and colonization, to the end of the 19th century and the subjugation of the Plains Indians of North America. 500 Nations utilizes historical texts, eyewitness accounts, pictorial sources and computer graphic reconstructions to explore the magnificent civilizations which flourished prior to contact with Western civilization, and to tell the dramatic and tragic story of the Native American nations' desperate attempts to retain their way of life against overwhelming odds.

DVD Features:

Customer Reviews

Well worth buying, and re-watching time and time again.
Mr. Christopher Blundell
If you are interested in Indian culture, history, and learning about all Nations and tribes from the Americas, then this is for you!
For anyone who is into Native American History, I highly recommend this documentary.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

279 of 285 people found the following review helpful By Alejandra Vernon HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on November 15, 2000
Format: VHS Tape
Since childhood, I've always felt that the most aesthetically beautiful people that have ever walked the earth are the original inhabitants of the Western Hemisphere, so this series, so wonderfully photographed and researched, is one I appreciate. It's a superb overview of a history not to be missed.

Tape # 1: "The Ancestors." Explores the creation stories of several tribes and continues with the early inhabitants, from the Anasazi of the Southwest to the glory of the Mayan cities.

Tape # 2: "Mexico." Starts in 650 A.D. and continues with "The Rise of the Aztecs," "The Invasion," "The Fall." This is the most fascinating and my favorite of the series. The complex history is captivating, and heartbreaking as the bloodthirsty horror of Cortez is told, and the commentary by Nahuatl anthropologist Eustaquio Celestiano is enlightening.

Tape # 3: "The Clash of Cultures." Columbus' landing on Hispaniola and the conflict that ensues, the "Gulf Coast of Florida" and de Soto's marauding army.

Tape # 4: "Invasion of the Coast." The Inuit vs. the English, the East coast peoples vs. the English.

Tape # 5: "Cauldron of War." Trading with the white man and how commercial hunting changed the face of the Indian Nations. The Iriquois: The leader known as "The Great Peacemaker" and his "Great Laws" which created the first democracy in America.

Tape # 6: "Removal." War and exile in the East. The story of Tecumseh and his heroic challenge. The 1830 "Indian Removal Act" and the journey West.

Tape # 7: "Roads Across the Plains." California. The building of the missions and the gold rush. What happened in these events will be new information to a lot of people. Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse: "Standing Against the Tide.
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146 of 148 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer VINE VOICE on September 4, 2004
Format: DVD
This series is certainly worth it! This miniseries is well researched, has excellent graphics, and Kevin Costner does a great job as host. I fell in love with it the first few moments I watched.

No matter what portion of the country you live in, you will learn new history about your region. The series is designed so you can watch it through from beginning to end, or skip directly to the portions that most interest you.

This is one series I think EVERY American should own. It will help you understand who you are, even if you don't have a trace of Native American blood.

I chose the portion that deals with our locality to show to the college class I teach. Although the portion was only 8 minutes long, it sparked a discussion that sent our class into overtime.

Why should you buy it as opposed to renting it? Simple, when you rent a movie, you remember the movie and often don't view it a second time. This is more like a multimedia encyclopedia on Native Americans. You will want to look up portions of it from time to time and even show certain portions to friends.
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51 of 51 people found the following review helpful By Mr. Christopher Blundell on September 9, 2005
Format: DVD
This film evoked in me a great deal of emotion about the American Indians, and more especially about how badly they'd been treated by our forefathers, their European invaders. I've learnt a great deal that I didn't know from watching and listening to the commentary. My only criticism (and it's only a small one) is that I heard little mention of some of the more recent tribes including the Comanches, and I always thought that they would have featured rather prominently, however that's only my own opinion. Some of the scenery shots were absolutely brilliant as was the computer generated scenes. All in all, a very enjoyable film, full of information, and lasting over eight hours. Well worth buying, and re-watching time and time again. A must for anyone even remotely interested in The Native American culture.
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34 of 36 people found the following review helpful By a reader on February 7, 2011
Format: DVD
Described as a history of Native North American Indians, the vast majority of this series actually focuses on the history of Indians' relations and conflicts with Europeans after the discovery of the New World.

That's not to say that those are not important and under-taught, under-emphasized stories. They are. BUT what I was HOPING FOR was a deep journey into different Native American tribes, cultures, diets, farming and/or hunting and gathering practices, social structures, language groups, religious beliefs, etc. There is SOME of that here, and a bit more in certain episodes than in others, but usually it is only touched upon very briefly in order to set up the endless stories of how they were trampled on by various groups of Europeans.

If that's what you're looking for, wonderful. It is a very well-presented series. But it wasn't what I was looking for, and I am just trying to give a heads up as I feel that the title and product descriptions are severely misleading.
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34 of 36 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on April 29, 1998
Format: VHS Tape
This series of videos explores Native history from before the arrival of the Europeans to modern times. It is an accurate accounting of the clash of cultures and contains many great photographs, interviews and narratives. A great feature are the virtual tours of cities such as Pueblo Bonito, Cahokia, Teotihuacan and Chichen Itza. The information on the videos is well documented and the sources of information are presented in a bibliography at the end of each video. The production is excellent and the music compliments the information presented. I recommend this series highly. It is a great addition to any home video library. END
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