(Seattle, WA) “We are at the cusp of extinction because we’re not permitted to know our languages,” said actor and longtime Native American Rights activist, Russell Means, at SIFF Cinema last night after a special sneak preview of the upcoming PBS series “We Shall Remain.”
Hundreds of Seattle residents gathered for a glimpse into the five part documentary series which focuses on how Native Americans have handled challenges and injustices throughout history, from the 1620’s through the 1970’s.
SIFF Cinema featured the episode titled “Wounded Knee,” the third in the series, which depicted the story of the 1973 siege of the town of Wounded Knee, South Dakota. The film highlighted interviews with Native Americans who had experienced the siege, and explored the federal government’s response to the Native American cultural crisis of the time.
Pictured: Sharon Grimberg, Juliana Brannum, Russell Means, Enrique Cerna
After the screening, Means, along with the series’ producers, fielded questions from the audience. The discussion touched upon the boarding school phenomenon and the suppression of Native American traditions, specifically during the 1960’s and early 1970’s. Means declared that these practices were to blame for the extinction of the Native American languages and the loss of the culture as a whole. Means played a large part in the real-life siege of Wounded Knee and also appeared in the film.
Sharon Grimberg, the executive producer of the series, asserted that the battle of Wounded Knee was a turning point for the Native American people. “It’s a moment at which Native People, in a post Civil Rights Era, become activists, and there’s a pan-Indian activist movement that happens.”
The boarding school phenomenon refers to the period of time from the late 1800’s through the early 1970’s when Native American children were forced to attend boarding schools where they were immersed in the European-American culture and were not allowed to speak their Native languages. After the siege of Wounded Knee, Native Americans countered this phenomenon with immersion schools, where children were encouraged to learn about their own cultural history.
“We Shall Remain” premiers on Monday, April 13th, at 9:00pm on KCTS 9.