How the West Was Lost,” saga about the Indian side of American history, spares no one, including George Washington and Andrew Jackson. Told unhesitatingly from the P.O.V. of the Native American, the first two episodes pull no punches.
Discovery is mixing in seven new episodes of the series with six that have already aired, keeping things in chronological order. The first stanza, “Divided We Fall,” tells of how the Christ-like Indian Peacemaker visited each of the nations in the Iroquois Confederacy to warn them that they’d fall if they didn’t stick together. Their loyalties to one another faltered as the American Revolution tore at their land and at their rights; they were doomed. Concise, well-focused, using bold watercolors, drawings and paintings, program ticks off Indians’ divided allegiances and how their confederacy suffered.
Members of the Iroquois Confederacy helped soldiers at Valley Forge, which is all the more startling considering the ordeals they suffered at the hands of the French, British and colonists. Washington even more startlingly saw to it that Gen. John Sullivan scorched the Indians’ land; as an elderly Indian is quoted about the coming of the colonists, “It was like a black cloud rolling over the land.”
Jackson’s called to account in the second hour, “The Trail of Tears,” in which, as president, he insisted on Indian removal to the west as the white settlers pushed their boundaries onward. Onetime owners of the land that would become Tennessee and Kentucky and parts of Virginia, North and South Carolina, Georgia and Alabama, the Cherokee National Council, under the leadership of part Scot-part Cherokee John Ross, was forced to give in.
For $ 5 million, the whites bought all the Cherokee land east of the Mississippi. Docu details the sad story of their movement in 13 groups on a treacherous trail to what would become Oklahoma. No one knows for sure how many Indians died in stockades or on the trail, which was bloody from the often shoeless trekkers; the estimate’s about 4,000.
Truth is refreshing just as it’s cleansing and can be ugly; program, interspersed with comments from descendants of the affected Cherokees, cuts close to the bone.