After careful consideration the documentary that was chosen for the completion of this assignment is 500 Nations narrated by Kevin Costner. As stated by Costner in the opening sequence of the film’s first part, he has had a deep, genuine interest in the history of North America for a major portion of his life. This makes sense, especially since one of Mr. Costner’s best-known movies is Dances with Wolves. Even though this documentary is available for purchase, it was viewed online in the privacy of this writer’s home using the popular website YouTube. 500 Nations is an appropriate title because of the fact that there were approximately that many Native American nations located on the continent all with their own language, culture, system of leadership and interaction with other groups (Leustig, n.p.).
The history of the Native American people as a whole is rich in culture and heritage. Much like the Christian whites who settled the land in North America, the tribes of Native Americans who inhabited these lands first had their own basic version of the creation story they have passed down over the millennia discussed in the documentary. In summary, the Native American version of the creation story is that the Great Spirit created the Earth and everything contained therein before creating human beings. When humans saw the deer, fish and other game in the fields, man knew that these species were placed on the Earth for food and clothing purposes (Leustig, n.p.). It was a concern when the Native Americans saw the white settlers wiping out the bison and other animals that were there as a symbiont support system on the Earth for man and beast. Unfortunately, the white man did not share the respect for the earth and creatures who inhabit it like the Native Americans which has led to the destruction of a great deal of this nation’s natural resources and habitats.
Another important theme in the documentary was the constant source of conflict and struggle between the Native Americans and the white settlers. There are several examples of these violent conflicts throughout the documentary, one being how many of the natives sided with France and Britain, respectively, in order to gain specific advantages in keeping their land and way of life (Leustig, n.p.). Additionally, one of the most horrific events in Native American History, the Trail of Tears, was discussed in Part Six of the documentary. The forced removal of thousands of Natives from their homeland to small, crowded government-sanctioned reservation is one of the most shameful events in this nation’s history, and to be honest the reparations made a century later is not even a beginning to repair the damage that was done to the nations affected by this removal by the white government (Leustig, n.p.). Many believe that the Trail of Tears was the catalyst in addition to the forced assimilation into white society which has caused so many issues that have been documented in the Native American population.
In addition to these seminal events in the history of the 500 nations of North and South America, there are others which are mentioned in several episodes of the documentary. Mexico, Central America and the islands are all mentioned as playing a part in the rich culture and history of these nations as a whole. However, many of these great societies no longer exist except in history books and local folklore. This is why studying about these people is as important to understanding the history of America as a whole. Kevin Costner and the others who contributed to the making of this documentary presented a balanced history in this film.