The Donner Party
A Film by Ric BurnsStreaming Video - 2011
Trapped in the Sierra Nevada mountains during the bitter winter of 1846, nearly 90 members of the Donner and Reed families longed for California's "Promised Land." But a previously untraveled shortcut became a road to madness, death, and cannibalism. Members of the Donner party ate human flesh when they were caught snowbound just 150 miles from the end of their 2,500-mile trip across the United States. Using an array of archival photos, current landscapes, and readings of historic dispatches and letters, The Donner Party, from the PBS American Experience collection, creates a vivid portrayal of this ill-fated story; examining how the heartbreaking circumstances and miscues by the Donner party turned a common migration into one that is remembered as a colossal American tragedy.