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One of the most poorly understood topics in Canada and the United States is the history, culture and traditions of the indigenous Native Americans.

To learn about the fascinating history of the Native American peoples, a great tool is to watch documentary films.

I have collected here some of the best documentaries about Native American history, culture and traditions.

1. 500 Nations

500 Nations is an eight-part American documentary television series that was aired on CBS in 1995 about the Native Americans of North and Central America.

2. How The Native Americans Built A Legendary Civilisation 

 An excellent documentary episode from 1491: America Before Columbus, which explores the indigenous peoples of the Americas and their culture, history and traditions.

3. America Before Columbus: The Secret Continent

This is the story of the Columbian Exchange, the greatest cultural exchange in history. We explore life in America and Europe in 1491, and why America was “discovered” and not the other way around.

4. America’s Wild West: Discovery of a Land

This is the true story of the early American frontier. The “13 Colonies,” eager to go west of Appalachia despite the British crown’s forbiddance, decide the question in the American Revolution.

5. The Indigenous People of America

The story of the indigenous people of the Americans ranging from the empires of Mesoamerica such as the Aztec and Mayan Empires, the Inca Empire of South America and the Iriquois, Sioux, Apache, Navajo and Pueblo of North America.

6. America’s Great Indian Nation

The story of the Iroquois, Seminole, Shawnee, Navajo, Cheyenne, and Lakota Sioux nations filmed on location at their native tribal lands across America telling the story of their struggle to protect their lands, cultures, and freedoms.

7. The Military Prowess Of The Native Americans

At the end of the 15th century two worlds which had stood apart for generations violently collided: The kingdoms of Europe and the indigenous nations of the Americas. How did these two cultures interact and what series of events lead to the formation of the Canada and USA that we know today?

8. The History of the Indian Wars

The story of the Indian Wars and the colonial settlement of the American West.

9. The Colonial Battle For North America

The battle for North America rages on as the Americans claim a manifest destiny to take the continent; the First Nations of the West were forced to fight for their survival.

10. More Than Bows And Arrows

A documentary film released in 1981 that attempts to rectify misconceptions about early Native Americans, demonstrating that their contributions to the world’s knowledge, and influence on the development of America, in particular, has been considerable.

11. Canada: The Story Us Episode on First Nations

Hundreds of Indigenous nations with advanced political systems and traditions live in what today is known as Canada. With the arrival of European newcomers, centuries of Indigenous traditions face sudden change, as France and England compete for a stronghold on this continent.

12. The Untold Story Of America’s First Nations: The Haida Gwaii

For generations, the First Nations of the Northwest coast in modern-day British Columbia lived in fear of the Haida raiders. From their island strongholds, they won slaves, wealth, and glory at the point of a dagger.

13. We Will Be Free: First Nations In Canada

In Canada, Native Americans are referred to as First Nations. This documentary tells the story of indigenous peoples’ long battle for the right to simply exist and about a machinery that was designed to erase their people.

14. Experience A Native American Pow Wow

This documentary speaks with people from Indigenous tribes across the United States about the importance and the history of the Wacipi – or as it is called in English, the Pow Wow.

15. Native Way Forward

This documentary film shines a light on the present-day lives of Native young adults, and explores what’s possible for their futures. Hear Native leaders telling their stories in their own words, and illuminating the path for Native youth everywhere.

Kyle Pearce

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