"Into the West" series

I was searching through On Demand Free Movies earlier this evening and I came across some episodes of a show entitled "Into the West." I was intrigued, so I looked at the details. I don't know how I manage to do so, but I always find the most interesting shows on television when I least expect them!

The show is a series through TNT that, according to its website, was the most Emmy-nominated program of the year when it came out in 2005--and I'd never even heard of it! It's about the history of westward expansion in the United States and it's incredibly fascinating! The storyline is fictional, but all the historical details are accurate. It's a U.S. history teacher's dream; I've been thinking to myself while watching this show how many opportunities a teacher would have to utilize this program as an interesting teaching aid. It is extremely violent at times; however, but there are definitely segments that would be perfect for reinforcing concepts learned in the classroom. The first episode that is available On Demand is episode three, so I jumped right in without getting some back story on the characters, which was fine. I'm tempted to buy the series on DVD; that's how good it is.
My favorite part is the story that we often don't see, especially not in school. The episode of this series that I have seen does an excellent job of showing the Native American (in this case Lakota) perspective on the historical events that occur during the course of the show. Because it is a movie, it allows for subtleties that books and school textbooks cannot show. One example is during the signing of the Treaty at Fort Laramie in September 1851, the Native Americans signing it wouldn't have had an easy time doing so; the Native people didn't have a written language and didn't use pens as the white settlers did. They likely wouldn't have had a signature with which to sign their names. (There were Native Americans who painted, so in that case they would have had an understanding of holding a pen, but in this case, they wouldn't have had a John Hancock like the others signing the treaty.) I had never thought about this before, but they were able to show it in the episode.

Another scene I found interesting showed the events that occurred at Brule in the Nebraska Territory in 1854. I just looked it up online, and apparently the incident was called the Grattan Massacre. Anyway, the part of the scene that I found valuable was realizing that in communicating with the Native Americans, white soldiers and white settlers needed a translator. In this scene, the translator is drunk and doesn't tell the white soldier what the Native American chief was truly saying. I had never thought of this scenario before, and especially had never considered that translators might mis-translate because of dislike of the Native Americans. Little things like this throughout the episode I watched made it such an informative show. It also reinforced my understanding of various historical events and provided some images of historical situations that I'd only ever read about in dull textbooks, which I can now picture with better understanding.

If you're interested in learning more (the website for the show is an amazing resource of information and if I were a history teacher I'd be going crazy with excitement over this discovery), visit the website here. If you're a teacher, or want to see the educator materials that go with the program, click here.Now to watch episode four!

Green Gal


“Tell me, and I will listen.
Show me, and I will understand.
Involve me, and I will learn.”
-- Lakota proverb


  1. I've never heard of this series, either. Thanks for finding and sharing it with us. You make a good point about how teaching a subject can be enhanced with visual representation. We learn in many ways--not just reading and lecture--and if a fictional but historically accurate story line keeps students engaged and sparks discussion and further interest, that's great!

    I see that the series was produced by Steven Spielberg. He recently joined with Tom Hanks to produce a series on World War II, to great acclaim.

    While we often dismiss television as a mind-numbing distraction, it can be a portal to many great learning experiences.

  2. Wow ... I've never heard of this one either but it sounds like a wonderful program. I love historical dramas ... especially when they consider all sides of the truth and not just the "party line". I'm going to try to get it! :)

    Thanks for sharing it with us!

  3. I did see this series when it first came out. You are right--it's a good story and helps you to understand all perspectives.


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