500 Nations Episode 5 A Cauldron of War

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In September 2004, on the last remaining site on the Mall in Washington D.C., the Smithsonian Institution opened the National Museum of the American Indian, inaugurating a new era in the education of all people about Native America. In conjunction with this event, and in response to popular demand 500 nations was broadcast on the Discovery Channel.
Episode 1 Wounded Knee Legacy & The Ancestors – Explore three early North American cultures. Tour the 800 room Pueblo Bonito in the arid southwest, view the Cliff Palace at Mesa Verde, and visit Cahokia, the largest city in the U.S. before 1800.
Episode 2 Mexico – Follow the dramatic and tragic history of the Mexican Indian nations from pre-Colombian times, through the period of European contact and colonization. Witness the rise and fall of the Toltecs and the growth of Tenochtitlan, the Aztec city of an empire.
Episode 3 Clash of Cultures – Explore the conflict between indigenous peoples and Spanish expeditions in the Caribbean and the southeastern U.S. As native nations defy a plundering advance by outsiders, they are subject to two unconquerable weapons, muskets and disease.
Episode 4 Invasion Of The Coast – As more foreigners arrive in North America, tensions rise as native peoples lives are impacted. At Jamestown, the story of the Powhatan princess, Pocahontas, unfolds. Thanksgiving at Plymouth leads to the bloodiest of colonial Indian wars in 1675.
Episode 5 Cauldron of War – Even before the colonies were established in the East the European entrepreneurs of the New World started pushing west testing the boundaries of this rich new land. What they discovered was the wealth of the Indian nations and the staggering abundance of their natural resources. The beautiful furs, the endless supply of deerskins. Indian people, in turn, saw that the goods the Europeans offered made life a lot easier. Metal axes, knives, copper kettles and guns. And for a time, this simple arrangement worked. But very quickly, North America became an irresistible prize to the Europeans. They sent armies to fight for the control of the continent’s resources. In 1754, France and England clashed for control over the continent in what would become known as the French and Indian War. From Europe, the American conflict was seen as a distant chess match for territory, power and trade with Indian nations mere fighting pawns. But in America, the interior Indian nations saw their homelands turned into violent battlegrounds. One Odawa man, who had fought alongside the French, then watched them retreat refused to abandon the struggle. His name was Pontiac. While many leaders saw the English as a threat to their nations Pontiac saw the English as a threat to all Indian people. Nations had to put aside the past and unite in common purpose. In May of 1763, Pontiac’s Rebellion erupted with the siege of Fort Detroit. In October, confirmation of the French surrender reached Pontiac and his allies. The next spring, he tried to rally forces for another push against the English but his efforts were ineffective. With the passage of another year, Pontiac was a leader without a following. His moment had passed. The British forts were there to stay. In 1769, only six years after the incredible success of his campaign against the British, Pontiac died but his life had not been in vain. His vision of united Indian nations would echo through the region and across the coming decades. The Haudenosaunee confederacy was born in a violent era centuries before the French and Indian War. In the midst of the chaos, a visionary man from the Huron nation appeared known as “the Peacemaker.” The Peacemaker proposed a set of laws and system of self rule, the “Great Law.” The clan chiefs of each five nations gathered at the Haudenosaunee capital Onondaga to form the Grand Council. In 1754, Benjamin Franklin attended a conference with the Haudenosaunee in Albany, New York. He came away inspired by the successful model of independent states united under one rule of law. Soon after, he would propose a similar union of colonies. Twenty-two years later, these United States swirled toward the American Revolution. In August 1779 Washington sent General John Sullivan into Haudenosaunee country with 5000 men. Out of scores of Haudenosaunee towns only two survived unscathed. In postwar treaties the United States government seized vast Haudenosaunee lands. But the five nations of the Haudenosaunee would heal and remain defiant. In 1790, they forced concessions from the United States at the Treaty of Canandaigua which allowed them to keep their core homelands. The Haudenosaunee would survive and rebuild drawn together by the Great Law and their Grand Council a union that endures to this day. A Shawnee man following in the footsteps of Pontiac and destined to become one of the great Indian leaders of all time would united Indian nations of the Ohio Valley. His name was Tecumseh.
Episode 6 Removal – Follow the Trail of Tears as Native Americans are displaced even as they adopt American ways. Shawnee leader Tecumseh sparks a return to traditional ways but The Indian Removal Act becomes law in 1830. Many stoically accept, others resist.
Episode 7 Roads Across The Plains – Native tribes of the Great Plains watched their lifestyles end as American settlers extinguished huge buffalo herds. Though native leaders pursue a path of peace it is met with tragedy at Sand Creek. The massacre suffers severe repercussions.
Episode 8 Attack On Culture – The final episode of this mini series explores the legislative attack on native ways, including the disbanding of communal land. Today, the renewal of native cultures reminds us of the glory of America’s original people and the hardships they endured.