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Review: 'American Experience: We Shall Remain'

April 12, 2009 |  8:20 pm

Of the many elephants occupying the room that is the history of the United States, none is larger than the official mistreatment of the Native American by the new neighbors from over the water. Like slavery, it is a subject at once much discussed and somehow fundamentally ignored, and because the story has been so sensationalized on the one hand and romanticized on the other, there is a continual desire to tell it right.

Truth being the elusive thing that it is, however, this amounts to an ongoing project rather than a completely achievable end.

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The latest attempt is “We Shall Remain,” an ambitious, largely gratifying series of five feature-length documentaries that begins airing weekly tonight on PBS as part of "American Experience." They do not attempt to encompass the whole of that history, a task for which many more documentaries than five would be needed, but pick signal stories, beginning with Thanksgiving 1621 and ending with the 1973 Indian takeover of a small town on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation.

Except for the last, which chronicles a moment and a movement, the series focuses on powerful individuals, telling the story of the many by way of an important few: Geronimo, the Apache raider; Tecumseh, who wanted to establish a kind of United States of Native America tucked up against the Great Lakes; Massasoit, who befriended the Pilgrims; Major Ridge, who helped modernize the Cherokee government but signed the treaty that led to their relocation.

Read the entire review: 'American Experience: We Shall Remain'

-- Robert Lloyd

Photo: Webb Chappell / WGBH

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