Monday, April 13, 2009

PBS starts "Appalachia: A History of Mountains and People"


On Monday, April 13, 2009 PBS stations aired the first of a four-part series, "Appalachia: A History of Mountains and People,” narrated by Sissy Spacek, directed by Jamie Ross and written with Ross Spears.

PBS does not have a full webpage on the series yet, but here is one on NPR. Channel 26, PBS station WETA (in Washington DC) has a link with minimal description here.

Most of the first series dealt with the description and natural history of the Appalachians, with a lot of history of the indigenous peoples, and of the wildlife. Native Americans actually wiped out many of the wild populations. The name of the mountain range actually comes from a tribe in Florida, Apalche, after interaction with French Hugenots. Many early explorers, like De Soto, plundered and left nothing of value. The native peoples did not have written languages, so when they died off in battle or because of smallpox, much of their history was lost.

People living in the area speak of attachment to the mountains, and early native Americans believed that the mountains protected them and gave them life. The show gave a lot of history of native tribes in the area, like the Cherokees.

The film tends to show a lot of scenery from the Smokies in North Carolina, but it asl shows the Knife Edge of Katahdin in Maine. Appalachia runs from Maine to Alabama, and as far west as mid Ohio (around Mt. Vernon). The poverty is mostly in the coal mining regions west of the Eastern Continental Divide in southern W Va and eastern Kentucky.

Here is a link for a related PBS show “Razing Appalachia”, about strip mining and mountantop removal, from the “Independent Lens” series. Strip mining will be covered later in this series.

About a year ago PBS broadcast a two-hour documentary “The Adirondacks”.

Picture: Stripmine highwall in far western MD (2007, my picture).

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