Special Programming: APM Presents 'Uprooted'
On Monday, Nov. 1 at 9 PM, NHPR will air a special report from American Public Media, "Uprooted: The 1950s Plan to Erase Indian Country."
This special will air on the first day of National Native American Heritage Month. It will cover the regular rebroadcast of Hidden Brain, which also airs Sundays at 2 PM.
This documentary presents the voices of people who survived a devastating plan to solve “the Indian problem.” In the 1950s, the U.S. government launched a campaign to assimilate Native Americans by eliminating reservations, terminating tribal governments, and persuading Native people to move to cities. Hundreds of thousands of Native people relocated to distant cities such as Chicago, Minneapolis, Detroit, Oakland, and Los Angeles.
Government pamphlets and films promised that Native people who agreed to relocation would find a better life in cities, but when they arrived, they were met with open discrimination and they struggled to find good jobs and housing. However, as their numbers in cities grew, Native Americans from hundreds of different tribes found each other and solidified their political power. They created American Indian Centers and schools and formed activist organizations like the American Indian Movement.
Today, about two-thirds of Native Americans live in cities, not on reservations. Many Native people have joined the middle class, but termination and relocation did long-term damage. Native Americans are at the bottom of lists of grim statistics when it comes to poverty, drug addiction, and homelessness. The silver lining is that America has entered a new era of Indian policy called “self-determination,” which recognizes tribal sovereignty. This has empowered a new generation of Native leaders to return to reservations with the aim of making them self-sufficient and economically successful. They’re doing this with their urban relatives in mind, and expanding the scope of nationhood beyond geographic borders.
The relocation program has received little coverage in the media, despite its enormous influence on the course of Native people’s lives. This documentary provides listeners a unique opportunity to hear the voices of Native people who lived through this era, and people still struggling to overcome its effects.
The documentary is produced by Max Nesterak, a former reporter and producer for MPR News. Nesterak also previously worked as a producer for NPR's social science podcast Hidden Brain.