Discovery, Destruction and Preservation in a Massachusetts Town
Professional, Native and antiquarian researchers combine to investigate the archaeological history and modern legacy of Eastern Native civilization in Turners Falls, MA.
Directed by Ted Timreck
Produced by Ted Timreck and Peter Frechette
Writer & Editor: Ted Timreck
Paintings: David Wagner
Antiquarian Research: William N. Goetzmann
Music: The Flying Fish Dancers of Mars with Pico Alt
A Hidden Landscapes Production
The town of Turners Falls, Massachusetts is attempting to expand the runway to its airport. The plan calls for the removal of a low hill that contains what Native American tribal representatives identify as a ritual site - a ceremonial stone landscape. The surprising discovery and the on-going effort to understand and protect what may be an extraordinary historical asset, is a dramatic story of environmental and cultural preservation.
"Takes us on a journey across space and through time to reveal stunning insights into what the landscape symbolizes to the region's Native peoples." Patricia E. Rubertone, Professor of Anthropology, Brown University
The film is part of the Hidden Landscapes Project which represents the joined efforts of hundreds of professional, Native and antiquarian researchers who have generously volunteered to combine their expertise into a chronicle of exploration - a series of video stories that investigate the archeological history and the modern legacy of Eastern Native civilization. The combined vision of so many researchers working together also represents a new approach to the long standing and often, very heated controversy that surrounds the mysterious stone ruins of Eastern North America.
In the case of GREAT FALLS, for the first time, the National Register of Historic Places is using a video production as oral history when considering a site to be recognized.
Other films by Ted Timreck are The Mystery of the Lost Red Paint People and Norse America.
Grade Level: 10 - 12, College, Adults
US Release Date: 2012
Copyright Date: 2011
DVD ISBN: 1-59458-907-0
"Provocative and powerful. Great Falls testifies to the willful ignorance and denial of most Americans of the accomplishments of Native Americans and the fragile protection afforded Native sacred sites. It should concern anyone in the ongoing business of discovering America."
Jace Weaver, Professor of Religion and Native American Studies, University of Georgia
"Great Falls is a fascinating and compelling visual documentary that should be a prized possession of every secondary school and college or university library...The content is outstanding...The educational value of this film is enormous, being applicable to a great variety of interests and academic disciplines: American History, Native American History and Religion, Anthropology and Archaeology, Sociology, Ethnography, Rock Art, Ethno- and Paleo-astronomy, Arctic Studies, Human Geography and Environmental Studies, and contemporary policy-making, among others...It makes abundantly clear just how much can be gained from joining together the work of professional scientists, historians, and preservationists with the knowledge and experiences of serious amateurs and local residents in close consultation with native peoples and their remarkable oral traditions. And what is gained is quite profound: a new perspective not only on an enigmatic symbiosis of a particular people, place, and time, but also a
reorientation of our very way of looking at our globe."
Richard Kortum, Associate Professor, Philosophy and Humanities, East Tennessee State University, Project Leader, Rock Art and Archaeology: Investigating Ritual Landscape in the Mongolian Altai
"Great Falls explores the blind spot of Eastern US Native history, destroying the widely-held belief that the stone structures found all across the landscape are nothing more than European colonial stone fences. As the film explains, there is no easy colonial explanation for any of these sites. Instead, the easy explanation is that these ceremonial stone structures are integral to an understanding of ancient Native astronomy based on their practices that ritualizes place. Great Falls convincingly makes the case that through an understanding of these places, which is firmly based in Tribal knowledge, we will finally 'discover America'--although they had to wait until the 21st century to do so."
Dr. Phil Bellfy (White Earth Anishinaabe), Founding Faculty Member, American Indian Studies Program, Michigan State University, Executive Director, Center for the Study of Indigenous Border Issues, Author, Three Fires Unity: The Anishnaabeg of the Lake Huron
"Fascinating..A place of gathering of Native peoples for thousands of years, the area holds deep historical and spiritual significance for several tribes. At the center of the controversy are tribal efforts to halt an airport expansion that would disrupt the Turner Hill site...Tribal members contend that these stone ruins deserve protection. Often believed to have been created by ancient Europeans or colonists, tribal members argue they are rather manifestations of ancient ancestral Native Americans cultures and remain centers of living ceremony. The film should prove especially valuable in discussions of sacred site protection, and in discussions of the uses of oral history and traditional knowledge as source material."
Mary B. Olson, Professor and Chair, Department of Sociology and Anthropology, Cornell College
"New England's enigmatic stone structures and standing stones have been the subjects of wild imaginings...Great Falls adds a vital counterpoint that sees these stone ruins as sacred places on the Native American ceremonial landscape. The documentary takes us on a journey across space and through time to reveal stunning insights into what the landscape symbolizes to the region's Native peoples and suggests about their history. The evidence is compelling and provocative, and brings much needed attention to the challenges of recognizing and protecting sacred landscapes...Will provide an absorbing and instructive exploration of New England as Native space."
Patricia E. Rubertone, Professor of Anthropology, Brown University, Author, Grave Undertakings: An Archaeology of Roger Williams and the Narragansett Indians
"This whole film could surely be used for debates in classrooms...The director brought rigor, clarity, and a varied documentation....For college students in American Studies, anthropology, Native Studies, archaeology, political science, and human rights studies, this documentary would certainly be instructive."
Yves Laberge, L'Université du Québec à Montréal, Indigenous Peoples Issues and Resources
"Documents the complex relationship between development, archaeological excavation and historic preservation...The film provides an interesting case study of the need for consultation as part of the Section 106 process."
Christina Rieth, New York State Museum, Anthropology Review Database
"The ideas that Native American tribes were more interconnected than previously thought, and many more sites of archeological interest remain throughout Northeastern United States are intriguing and worthy of investigation...Engaging...Recommended."
Jessica Isler, University of Maine at Augusta, Educational Media Reviews Online
DVD features include SDH captioning for the deaf and hard-of-hearing, and scene selection.
The Producer's Website
Awards and Festivals
Honorable Mention, Columbus International Film + Video Festival
Race and Racism
Urban and Regional Planning
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New structures in seven North American Native communities that reinterpret traditional forms for contemporary purposes.
... more Reviews
"Great Falls features a quarter-century's worth of archival footage from the Smithsonian's National Anthropological Archive and was cited by the National Park Service as evidence in securing the inclusion of a hill bearing stone ruins of the Narragansett tribe in Turner Falls, MA in the National Register of Historic Places...Timreck's lucid narration navigates the viewer through an extensive range of landscape anthropology...Recommended for public and academic libraries, especially those serving interests in Native American history."
"Powerful and remarkable; noteworthy for what it has done, what it is doing, and how it will influence applied anthropology and archaeology in the Northeast...The Native voice is expressed compellingly and engagingly...The Great Falls reminds those of us who are archaeologists that we may have allowed anthropological skills to atrophy, and insists that we broaden our sometimes myopic scales of investigation."
Alan Leveille, Anthropologist and Archaeologist, Director of Educational Programs, Public Archaeology Lab, NEAA News
"The eastern landscape has been long settled by Europeans and such stacked stonemonuments are frequently attributed to them. However, a strong case is made, using both historical records of and living Indian traditions, that many of these were natively constructed."
David A. Kaiser, Northern Earth Journal