Location: Rines Auditorium
For most of the 20th century, government agents systematically forced Native American children from their homes and placed them with white families. As recently as the 1970’s, one in four Native children nationwide were living in non-Native foster care, adoptive homes, or boarding schools. Many children experienced devastating emotional and physical harm by adults who tried to erase their cultural identity.
Now, for the first time, they are being asked to share their stories.
In Maine, a historic investigation—the first government-sanctioned truth and reconciliation commission (TRC) in the United States—begins a bold journey. For over two years, Native and non-Native commissioners travel across Maine. They gather testimony and bear witness to the dramatic impact of the state’s child welfare practices on families in Maliseet, Micmac, Passamaquoddy and Penobscot tribal communities. Collectively, these tribes make up the Wabanaki people.
The feature-length documentary Dawnland follows the TRC to contemporary Wabanaki communities to witness intimate, sacred moments of truth-telling and healing. With exclusive access to this groundbreaking process and never-before-seen footage, the film reveals the untold narrative of Indigenous child removal in the United States.
The TRC discovers that state power continues to be used to break up Wabanaki families, threatening the very existence of the Wabanaki people. Can they right this wrong, and turn around a broken child welfare system? Dawnland foregrounds the immense challenges that this groundbreaking body faces as they work toward truth, reconciliation, and the survival of all Indigenous peoples.
Living at the easternmost edge of Turtle Island, the Wabanaki people are the first to see the new day’s light. If harmony and justice begin in the east, as some prophesize, surely the TRC is a sign of this beginning.
Directed by Adam Mazo and Ben Pender-Cudlip | 86 minutes
After the screening there will be a panel discussion with Esther Anne and Mishy Lesser, Ed.D, who will speak about the creation of the film.
About the Speakers:
Mishy Lesser, Ed.D., is the learning director for the Upstander Project and Education Fellow at the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center at the University of Connecticut. She is director of the Upstander Academy, a weeklong professional learning experience for teachers and museum educators that focuses on genocide and human rights education and the skills of upstanders. Currently Dr. Lesser spends much of her time researching and writing the five-inquiry Teacher’s Guide for Dawnland. Mishy authored the Coexist Teacher’s Guide to promote learning about the complexity of reconciliation in post-genocide Rwanda. She is a Circle Keeper and has been featured on WBUR (Boston) and PRI/BBC’s The World. Mishy was a Fulbright Scholar in Ecuador and spent 12 years learning and working in the Andes.
My name is Esther Anne, I am Passamaquoddy, part of the Wabanaki -the people of the dawn and I am from Pleasant Point. I joined the Edmund S. Muskie School of Public Service in 2003, engaging young people in foster care to ease their transition into adulthood. I had the honor of having a critical role as a Muskie staff person and a Wabanaki community member in the creation and establishment of the Maine Wabanaki-State Child Welfare Truth and Reconciliation Commission and Maine-Wabanaki REACH. I am now deeply engaged in the implementation of the Commission’s recommendations through the lens of restorative justice and decolonization. I earned my Master’s degree in Social Work at the University of Maine in Orono in 1997 and have served as adjunct faculty to the school. Currently, I facilitate the tribal-state Indian Child Welfare Act Workgroup and create products for tribal-state collaboration and best child welfare practice with native children and families through the Capacity Building Center for Tribes. I am working toward reclamation of Wabanaki territory, language, and ways of knowing and being. I enjoy making art, outdoor activities and spending time with the young people in my life.
This event is made possible by partnerships with the following organizations: Southern Maine Conservation Collaborative, The Nature Conservancy, Maine Audubon, Portland Trails, and The Telling Room.
About the Series » Portland’s Sustainability Series
Portland’s Sustainability Series: Leading conversations on Maine’s changing climate
Sustainability (from sustain and ability) is the endurance of systems and processes through time. The Portland Sustainability Series will present a diversity of speakers to share different aspects of the work moving Maine to greater endurance and sustainability. Please join the Portland Public Library and the Southern Maine Conservation Collaborative as we engage in these important issues and conversations.