Badger History Bulletin - Review
Indians of the Eastern Woodlands: The Legacy of the American Indians
Ancient American Series. Hosted by Wes Studi and narrated by Glenn Mazen. Produced and Directed by Gary Warriner. Camera One. ISBN 1-56050-412-9, Color, 60 minutes.
Legacy of the Mound Builders
Ancient American Series. Produced and Directed by Gary Warriner. Camera One. ISBN 1-56057-018-0, Color, 17 minutes.
Originally published in BHB Volume 2, Number 2
These two videotapes cover the history of the Eastern Woodland Indians, when the Mound Builders inhabited America's heartland. Legacy of the Mound Builders is a shorter version of the Indians of the Eastern Woodlands. It uses some of the same footage, concentrating primarily on the Hopewell Indians and the mounds in Ohio. It briefly mentions that Hopewell Indians were found in Wisconsin also. In neither video does the narrator mention any of the sites or mounds in Wisconsin. However, Wisconsin's Aztalan State Park is named in the credits on Indians of the Eastern Woodlands. Because Indians of the Eastern Woodlands covers the mound builders in more depth, I have decided to discuss it more thoroughly here and refer to Legacy of the Mound Builders only briefly.
The video uses a timeline to take viewers back to the last Ice Age. An archaeological site in Alabama is visited, where evidence of nomadic Archaic Indians exists. The Archaic Indians may have been predecessors of the Mound Builders. The first site that archaeologists believe had mounds is Poverty Point in Louisiana. Enhanced aerial photographs help visualize a city with streets and mounds. Even trade was evident at Poverty Point, and it may have lasted over 1000 years.
The largest collection of mounds is found in Ohio. Here the primary focus of the video is the Hopewell culture. The video's creators explore three large Hopewell centers as well as their trade network. The video offers a number of reasons for the construction of mounds. Some were for ceremonial or religious reasons, while others were possibly for political or economic reasons. Some were designed for astronomical purposes, and still others for burial plots. Even though the Hopewell Indians had no written language, artifacts yield much information about an organized society. They built the mounds and other earthen structures with very primitive tools. Later, they built animal-shaped effigy mounds. These shapes can only be recognized from aerial photographs. The video presents theories that explain what happened to this group of people.
This video spends its greatest amount of time on the Cahokia site. Cahokia was a true city, hand built by people who had no knowledge of the wheel. It was the center of a highly advanced civilization, known as Mississippian. From 900 to 1500 A.D. the mounds were constructed, one as high as a ten-story building. Mound construction even used different types of soil to promote proper drainage. The video's makers advance theories about life in this prehistoric city, based on archaeological digs. It was intriguing to realize that in 1150, Cahokia had a population of 20,000. It was larger than the city of London.
I found this video to be aesthetically pleasing. The photography, narration, and music combined to effectively present the information in a meaningful way. The blending of scenery, maps, diagrams, artifacts, models, and real people was skillfully done. Using real figures that fade in and out in a ghost-like fashion created a feeling that the spirit of the Native American is still in Cahokia. It was intriguing to see how the creators of this video interjected the parallel developments of the Europeans during this time.
I recommend this video for any grade that teaches about the prehistoric Indians of Wisconsin. I feel that this video should be shown in two parts, especially at the fourth-grade level, because it is long. Some teachers may want to choose the Legacy of the Mound Builders if they do not want to spend much time on prehistoric Indians. Either choice would be a good one.