Now, a new PBS production takes a look at present-day Native American life. The promotional film for “We Shall Remain, Smoke Signals and Skins,” is being shot this week in Oroville, Calif. (An earlier series has already aired on PBS. See video above.) The Contra Costa Times’ Mary Weston talks, here, with Brian Wescott, writer and producer, and comedian and actor Charlie Hill:
Most popular American Indian histories end in 1890 at Wounded Knee, but the stories of more than 500 Native American nations didn’t end at that bloody creek in South Dakota, Wescott said.
“So many of the stories about American Indians happened after the turn of the century, so we decided to take that as the beginning,” Wescott said.
The promotional film Katahdin is shooting in Oroville revolves around Ishi, the last Yahi Indian who came into Oroville in 1911.
The film focuses on the recent repatriation of Ishi’s brain from the Smithsonian Institute, and about how Ishi has touched the hearts of so many people.
“It’s really heart-wrenching because someone who experienced so much loneliness that we can only imagine, and he now has a lot of relatives and people who care about him,” says Westcott, who is an Alaskan Native of Athabascan and Yup’ik descent.
Westcott’s undergraduate degree is from Harvard and he has a doctorate in American studies in Yale. He worked as a researcher for the CBS documentary series 500 Nations hosted by Kevin Costner.
He tells Weston that he hopes to make the four-hour film’s serious nature more accessible with commentary throughout by comedian Charlie Hill, who is of Oneida descent.
“We really hope to reach an audience who never thought they would watch a PBS history film,” Wescott says.