Paul Goldsmith, ASC
color, 57 min, 2011
Also available on DSL and DVD
Ernestine De Soto is a Chumash Native American whose mother Mary Yee was the last speaker of her native Barbareño language. In 6 Generations, her family reaches back to the days the Spanish arrived in Santa Barbara and made first contact. Ernestine tells this history from the perspective of her female ancestors, making her a unique link with the past.
Famous anthropologist John Peabody Harrington, whose work focused on native peoples of California, started research with her family in 1913 and continued with three generations for nearly 50 years. This inspired Ernestine’s mother to begin taking notes and, combined with mission records (which survived intact from the late 1700s), they form the heart of this story. Because of these circumstances, her story, possible only in California, is unique in America.
The impact of loss of land, language, culture and life itself is made all the more clear as this story is told in Native American voices, who describe the events as they experienced them. Ultimately, it is a story of survival and the fierce endurance of Ernestine’s ancestors, particularly the women.
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