Updated Tue, Nov 1, 2011 9:20 am
We Shall Remain: American Experience
“The Great Spirit above has appointed this place for us on which to light our fires, and here we shall remain.” Tecumseh (Shawnee)
They were charismatic and forward thinking, imaginative and courageous, compassionate and resolute, and, at times, arrogant, vengeful, and reckless. For hundreds of years, Native American leaders from Massasoit, Tecumseh, and Tenskwatawa, to Major Ridge, Geronimo, and Fools Crow valiantly resisted expulsion from their lands and fought the extinction of their culture. Sometimes, their strategies were militaristic, but more often they were diplomatic, spiritual, legal, and political.
From PBS’s acclaimed history series, AMERICAN EXPERIENCE, in association with Native American Public Telecommunications (NAPT), comes WE SHALL REMAIN, a groundbreaking mini-series and provocative multi-media project that establishes Native history as an essential part of American history. Five 90- minute documentaries spanning three hundred years tell the story of pivotal moments in U.S. history from the Native American perspective.
Beginning in the 1600s with the Wampanoags, who used their alliance with the English to strengthen their position in Southern New England, and ending with the bold new leaders of the 1970s, who harnessed the momentum of the Civil Rights Movement to forge a pan-Indian identity, WE SHALL REMAIN upends two-dimensional stereotypes of American Indians as simply ferocious warriors or peaceable lovers of the land.
Chris Eyre, director of the first three episodes of WE SHALL REMAIN, has been involved with the series from its onset. “You can’t understand America in the 21st century if you don’t understand the Native experience,” he says. “What connects these five films is the resolve of their characters. This country is founded on people striving, being tenacious and moving forward... this is a look at that, through Native eyes.”
The five-part documentary series is the product of a tremendous collaboration between Native and non- Native filmmakers, advisors, historians, and community leaders, placing Indian voices at the heart of the series. The creative forces behind WE SHALL REMAIN include:
•Benjamin Bratt (Quecha), series narrator (Law & Order, The Cleaner)
•Emmy Award-winner Ric Burns, director, producer and writer (Eugene O’Neill, Andy Warhol, New
York: A Documentary Film)
•Sarah Colt, producer, writer, and director (The Secret Life of the Brain, Kofi Annan: Center of the
•Dustinn Craig (White Mountain Apache/Navajo), producer, writer, and director (Home, I Belong to
•Chris Eyre (Cheyenne/Arapaho), director, Sundance Film Festival Audience Award-winner (Smoke
Signals, A Thousand Roads)
•Sharon Grimberg, executive producer (Two Days in October, Walt Whitman)
•Michael Greyeyes (Cree), actor (Skinwalkers, Smoke Signals)
•Cathleen O’Connell, producer (Time Capsule: Message in a Bottle, Many Faces/Many Voices)
•Mark Samels, executive producer, AMERICAN EXPERIENCE (Two Days in October, A Brilliant Madness)
•Wes Studi (Cherokee), actor (Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee, Dances with Wolves)
•Emmy Award-winner and MacArthur Fellow Stanley Nelson, producer and director (Jonestown, The
Murder of Emmett Till)
•Mark Zwonitzer, producer and writer (Walt Whitman, Jesse James) ReelNative Short Film Project
Episode one, After the Mayflower, begins in New England in the 1620s, at the time of the so-called “first Thanksgiving.” In March of 1621, Massasoit, chief of the Wampanoag, negotiated a diplomatic alliance with a scraggly band of English settlers for the benefit of his people. It was a gamble that paid off for several decades, as Indians and colonists coexisted in relative peace. A half-century later, as a brutal war flared between the English colonists and a confederation of New England Indians, the wisdom of Massasoit’s choice seemed less clear.
Episode two, Tecumseh’s Vision, tells the story of the Shawnee leader Tecumseh and his brother, Tenskwatawa, known as the Prophet. In the years following the American Revolution, the Prophet led a spiritual revival movement that drew thousands of followers from tribes across the Midwest. His brother forged a pan-Indian political and military alliance from that movement, coming closer than anyone since to creating an independent Indian state.
Episode three, Trail of Tears, explores the resolve and resilience of the Cherokee Nation, who resisted removal from their homelands in the Southeast in every way they knew: assimilating, adopting a European-style government and legal system, accepting Christianity, and even taking their case all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.
The fourth episode, Geronimo, takes place at the end of the Indian Wars, near the close of the nineteenth century. Here, desperate times catapulted a controversial character to the leadership of an Apache band. To angry whites, Geronimo was an archenemy, the perpetrator of unspeakable savage cruelties. To some Apaches, he was a stubborn troublemaker whose actions needlessly brought the enemy’s wrath upon them. To his supporters, he remained the embodiment of proud resistance, leading the last Native American fighting force to surrender to the United States government.
Episode five, Wounded Knee, tells the gripping story of the 1973 siege of Wounded Knee, examining the broad political and economic forces that led to the emergence of the American Indian Movement (AIM) in the 1960s. For 71 days, activists engaged in a standoff with the U.S. government, bringing the nation’s attention to the desperate conditions on Indian reservations. Perhaps even more important, the siege united Native people across tribes, creating a pan-Indian identity and a new path into the future.
WE SHALL REMAIN is an AMERICAN EXPERIENCE production in association with Native American Public Telecommunications for WGBH Boston. Funding for WE SHALL REMAIN provided by the National Endowment for the Humanities, Ford Foundation, Arthur Vining Davis Foundations and Kalliopeia Foundation. Exclusive corporate funding for AMERICAN EXPERIENCE provided by Liberty Mutual. Major funding provided by Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and public television viewers.
Television’s most-watched history series, AMERICAN EXPERIENCE has been hailed as “peerless” (Wall Street Journal), “the most consistently enriching program on television” (Chicago Tribune), and “a beacon of intelligence and purpose” (Houston Chronicle). On air and online, the series brings to life the incredible characters and epic stories that have shaped America’s past and present. Acclaimed by viewers and critics alike, AMERICAN EXPERIENCE documentaries have been honored with every major broadcast award, including twenty-five Emmy Awards, four duPont-Columbia Awards, and fourteen George Foster Peabody Awards, one most recently for Two Days in October.