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Arts & Culture

NATIVE AMERICA

Comanche tribe riders at annual fair. Morgan Tosee has kept the Comanche people's special connection to the horse alive for generations.
Courtesy of Providence Pictures
Comanche tribe riders at annual fair. Morgan Tosee has kept the Comanche people's special connection to the horse alive for generations.

Encore Wednesdays, Nov. 3 and Nov. 10, 2021 from 9 - 11 p.m. on KPBS 2 / On demand with KPBS Passport!

NATIVE AMERICA, a four-part series, weaves history and science with living Indigenous traditions. The series 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. Made with the active participation of Native American communities and filmed in some of the most spectacular locations in the hemisphere, NATIVE AMERICA illuminates the splendor of a past whose story has for too long remained untold.

Recent discoveries informed by Native American oral histories have led to a bold new perspective on North and South America – that through social networks spanning two continents ancient people shared a foundational belief system with a diversity of cultural expressions.

This and other research is leading to revelations that will forever change how we understand Native America.

The series highlights intimate 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. Narrated by Robbie Robertson (Mohawk and member of the famed rock group The Band).

Each episode explores Great Nations and reveals cities, sacred stories and history long hidden in plain sight:

  • In what is now America’s Southwest, indigenous people built stone skyscrapers with untold spiritual power and transformed deserts into fertile fields.
  • In upstate New York, warriors renounced war and formed America’s first democracy 500 years before the Declaration of Independence, later inspiring Benjamin Franklin.
  • Just outside Mexico City, the ancient city of Teotihuacan is home to massive pyramids built to align with the sun and moon. On the banks of the Mississippi, rulers also raised a metropolis of pyramids and drew thousands to their new city to worship the sky.
  • 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 of NATIVE AMERICA were given remarkable access to Native American communities, going 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.

Tribal members and descendant communities, whose ancestors built this world, share their stories, revealing long-held oral traditions as the thread that runs through the past to these living cultures today.

“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,” said executive producer and director Gary Glassman.

Inventive animations by Academy Award-nominated artists and 3D computer modeling bring ancient ruins to life, enabling viewers to experience the pre-Columbian world in an immersive way. The result is a new window into a 15,000-year-old story that unifies North and South America and resonates to this day.

Numerous Native American musicians provided music for the series:

EPISODE GUIDE:

“From Caves To Cosmos” Encore Wednesday, Nov. 3 at 9 p.m. on KPBS 2 - Combine ancient wisdom and modern science to answer a 15,000-year-old question: who were America’s First Peoples? The answer hides in Amazonian cave paintings, Mexican burial chambers, New Mexico’s Chaco Canyon and waves off California’s coast.

“Nature To Nations” Encore Wednesday, Nov. 3 at 10 p.m. on KPBS 2 - Explore the rise of great American nations, from monarchies to democracies. Investigate lost cities in Mexico, a temple in Peru, a potlatch ceremony in the Pacific Northwest and a tapestry of shell beads in upstate New York whose story inspired our own democracy.

“Cities Of The Sky” Encore Wednesday, Nov. 10 at 9 p.m. on KPBS 2- Discover the cosmological secrets behind America’s ancient cities. Scientists explore some of the world’s largest pyramids and 3D-scan a lost city of monumental mounds on the Mississippi River; native elders reveal ancient powers of the sky.

“New World Rising” Encore Wednesday, Nov. 10 at 10 p.m. on KPBS 2 - Discover 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.

WATCH ON YOUR SCHEDULE:

The series is on demand with KPBS Passport, a benefit for members supporting KPBS at $60 or more yearly, using your computer, smartphone, tablet, Roku, AppleTV, Amazon Fire or Chromecast. Learn how to activate your benefit now.

The DVD will be available at ShopPBS.org.

JOIN THE CONVERSATION:

PBS is on Facebook, Instagram, follow @PBS on Twitter. #NativeAmericaPBS

CREDITS:

Executive produced and directed by Gary Glassman for Providence Pictures. Julianna Brannum (Comanche) is series producer and talent liaison. Producers/directors: Joseph C. Sousa and Scott Tiffany. Producer/editor: Rob Tinworth. Edited by Sean Sandefur, with music by Ed Tomney. Coordinating producers: Maureen Barden Lynch and Ben Sweeney. Animation by Handcranked Productions. Sacred Story animations by Daniel Sousa, with 3D animation by Mitch Butler.