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1491: The Untold Story of the Americas Before Columbia

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"1491: The Untold Story of the Americas Before Columbus" is an eight episode docu-drama television mini-series based on The New York Times best-selling book 1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus by Charles C. Mann (Knopf, 2005). It was co-produced in Canada by Aarrow Productions (Victoria, BC) and Animiki See Digital Production Inc. (Winnipeg, Manitoba) and first aired in Canada on the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network in 2017. Filming took place in Canada, the United States, Mexico and Peru and its creation involved over 400 Indigenous cast and crew members.

Through dramatic re-enactment, narrator voice overs, and interviews with leading Indigenous scholars, the series illustrates that before the arrival of Columbus in the Americas, the Western Hemisphere was heavily populated with Indigenous societies which were highly advanced in agriculture, astronomy, architecture, governance, medicine, technology, science, trade and art. Specific examples are shown from eight geographic regions covering the entirety of North and South America. Presented from an Indigenous-perspective, the series follows a timeline that dates from 20,000 years ago to 1491.

Episode Guide[edit]

Episode 1: Origins Explores indigenous origin stories as well as discoveries by archaeologists, anthropologists, geneticists and linguists on how and when Indigenous people first arrived in the Western Hemisphere.

Episode 2: Environment Indigenous people created significant changes to their environment through resource harvesting, farming, urban development, irrigation, controlled burning and deforestation.

Episode 3: Agriculture Maize was first developed in the Americas from a wild plant known as teosinte. Crops like sweet potato, beans and cacao were cultivated and spread throughout the Americas via well-developed trade networks.

Episode 4: Architecture Indigenous people in the Americas developed iconic and innovative architectural styles depending on their needs for shelter and available resources.

Episode 5: Governance and Trade Governance models were developed by each Indigenous nation to control their citizens and establish normative behaviours. The Americas are replete with a variety of examples: from patriarchal and matrilineal-based societies, to complex political systems governing multi-nation empires.

Episode 6: Science and Technology Scientific and technological ingenuity in the Americas is apparent through specific examples such as the earliest use of the number "0", the mapping of the planets and the stars, the development of multi-year calendars, and the invention of writing systems.

Episode 7: Art Depending on the natural resources in each region, art was created which reflected a specific Indigenous world view. Many of these artistic expressions have survived to this day through the preservation and perpetuation of each unique style.

Episode 8: Continuance Despite 500 years of pressure to assimilate, Indigenous culture has been retained and reclaimed through repatriation of material culture and programs promoting language preservation and indigenous literacy.

Key Creative Contributors[edit]

Co-Produced by: Aarrow Productions (Victoria, BC) and Animiki See Digital Productions (Winnipeg, Manitoba)

Executive Producer: Pat Ferns

Writers: Barbara Hager (Cree/Métis) and Marie Clements (Métis)

Directors: Barbara Hager (Cree/Métis) and Lisa Jackson (Anishinaabe)

Composer: Russell Wallace (Lil'wat)

Production Designer: Teresa Weston

Costume Designer: Carmen Thompson (Nuu-chah-nulth)

Director of Photography: Bob Aschmann

Editors: Michael Clark and Tyler Gamsby

Narrator: Dr. Evan Adams (Tla'amin)


Times Colonist Article, November 2017 www.timescolonist.com/entertainment/miniseries-1491-led-by-victoria-s-barbara-hager-offers-a-different-view-of-history-1.23087267

Playback Article, February 2014 [www.playbackonline.ca/2014/02/10/aptn-to-go-into-production-on-1491/]

Playback Article, October 2017 [1]

Pow-wows.com Article, November 2017 [2]

Newswire Article, October 2017 [3]

Nation Talk Article, October 2017 [4]

TV-Eh? Article, October 2017 [www.tv-eh.com/2017/10/26/indigenous-produced-docu-drama-series-1491-reveals-untold-history-of-the-americas-before-columbus/]

APTN website with links to watch the episodes online www.aptn.ca/1491

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