Backbone of the World: The Blackfeet

The Badger-Two Medicine is the last Blackfeet sacred treaty land threatened by a government call for oil exploration.

Film Signature Image
PBS Plus Presentation
Premiere Date
November 1, 1998
60 minutes
Funding Initiative
Open Call
Series and Special Projects

George Burdeau

George Burdeau, a member of the Blackfeet Nation, has been a director and producer for more than 30 years. He received an Emmy Award for The Native Americans and a Peabody Award for Surviving Columbus. He is the founding dean of the communications department of the Institute of American Indian Arts and former director of the National Center for the Show more Production of Native Images, both in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Burdeau was the first Native American director in the Directors Guild of America. He served as chairman of the Indian Arts and Crafts Board, board member of the Institute for the Preservation of the Original Languages of Americas, board chair of the Institute of Native Culture and Communication, and founding board member of the Native American Public Broadcasting Consortium. Show less


Pamela Roberts

Pamela Roberts came to filmmaking as a social issue medium, after graduating with honors from the University of Southern California with a master’s in social work. In 1982, Roberts co-founded Rattlesnake Productions, Inc., and over the past 26 years she has produced and directed a number of award-winning documentary films and videos for public Show more television, as well as for national and international theatrical and video distribution. Roberts produced Backbone of the World: The Blackfeet, with an all-native crew and cast under the direction of Blackfeet director George Burdeau. The film was broadcast on public television in November 1998. Roberts also co-produced and co-directed Ishi, the Last Yahi, a one-hour NEH-funded documentary that was nominated for an Emmy Award in 1994. Broadcast on American Experience, the film won many awards. Prior to Ishi, Roberts co-produced and co-directed Contrary Warriors: A Story of the Crow Tribe, broadcast on A&E and PBS. Show less

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The Film

Filmed in the Blackfeet homelands of Canada and Montana's northern Rockies, Backbone of the World: The Blackfeet tells of the tribe's struggle to heal and forge a new identity amidst the turmoil of 21st century demands and fading cultural mores. The Badger-Two Medicine, the last piece of sacred treaty land threatened by a recent call for oil exploration, becomes a lightning rod for self-discovery and dialogue about complex personal and tribal questions. The Badger issue and the healing legend of "Scarface" become a backdrop for the more personal story of Director George Burdeau's journey back home to live and work on the Blackfeet reservation.