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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.]]>
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
Top Customer Reviews
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.Read more ›
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.
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.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Kudos to Kevin Costner, Jim Wilson, and Director Jack Leustig. A heartbreaking and moving documentary about the Native Americans and
their relationship to their White... Read more
Excellent DVD collection! If you want to know the truth how this Country was taken, you need to watch this one!Published 3 months ago by Jim D. Lowe
Very good general overview, spanning hundreds of years of very important history that should not be forgotten.
Well worth buying and watching.
Honors Native American cultures! Very useful in the classroom!Published 3 months ago by Ronald Scudder