Taped in 25 states, Mexico and Canada, by 9K*USA and Discovery Prods. Executive producers, Jim Berger, Steve Thaxton, Cindy Velasquez; supervising producer (for Discovery Prods.), Katherine Carpenter; producers/directors, Chris Wheeler, Sonny Hutchison; writers, Harvey Ardman, Linda Berger; 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 with six that have already aired. 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 how the Indians’ confederacy suffered.
Members of Iroquois nations helped soldiers at Valley Forge, which is 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 scorch 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 white settlers pushed onward.
Docu details the sad story of the Cherokees’ movement 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.