The Native America 4-part series presented by PBS was the centerpiece of a discussion on October 18 at the UC Davis Native American Academic Student Success Center.

About 25 students and others gathered to view and discuss the fourth episode. The conversation was led by a tribal leader who appears in the film, Valentin Lopez, chairman of the Amah Mutsun Tribal Band.

Students expressed a thirst for films that highlight Native American heritage – while also expressing a general wariness about media coverage of Native American topics. One student appreciated the numerous Native American voices in the film. Another questioned why some aspects of the Native American story were missing (material that might be covered in a different episode). One young man challenged the film’s portrayal of the Comanche as imperialists.

It was a lively discussion. The group liked the beauty of the film.

Trust emerged as a big issue, fueled by a skepticism borne of past films they felt didn’t truly deliver Native American perspectives. Chairman Val said he only agreed to participate in Native America when he was satisfied the filmmakers “cared about what we care about.” His tribe’s focus on the environment was well represented in the film, he concluded, and his hope for a sequel was a clear indication of the value he found in Native America.

Native America airs Tuesday, October 23 and October 30 at 9PM, and Tuesday, November 13 at 9PM and 10PM.

The UC Davis Native American Academic Student Success Center screens Native America