Meet the Natives and the Racists Behind the Show

By Leticia Miranda Dec 17, 2009

The Travel Channel has recently premiered a new series called "Meet The Natives: USA" and yes, the actual show is just as messed up as its title suggests in so many ways that one blog can’t say it all. The basic story is these five men (pictured above) from the South Pacific Island, Tanna, were ‘picked’ by Travel Channel producers to travel the US and basically be an on-going joke about native primitivity. The joke, according to the show, is that these native Tannese men, who are leaders in their tribe, will meet the ‘natives’ of the US: white people. Here in the US, they’ll learn civility (i.e. TV, shooting Elk for game and capitalism) and in turn, viewers learn about the oh so simple ways of life in native Tanna from the "vibrant" dancing to its quaint communal ethics. From the show’s website:

They are traditional hunters and farmers, wearing grass skirts and penis sheaths. They have no electricity or TV, and a very limited idea of the world beyond their tiny island until now.

But it seems the Travel Channel is the one with primitive thinking. The five men ‘chosen’ by producers are a part the few indigenous Tannese who have maintained their traditions and rituals despite the efforts of christian missionaries in the early 20th century to convert all Tannese to christianity. Considering this anti-imperialist history, perhaps it’s the producers’ world that needs some expanding.