For much of the 20th century child welfare workers took Native American children from their homes and placed them with white families. A Jamaica Plain documentarist's Emmy Award winning film looks at the heartbreaking untold stories of the Wabanaki people of Maine who suffered from this particular atrocity.
"We made Dawnland independently at the invitation of Maine Wabanaki-REACH and the Maine Wabanaki-State Child Welfare Truth and Reconciliation. Going inside the first government-sanctioned truth and reconciliation commission in United States history, we made Dawnland in an effort to reveal centuries of injustice and create space for healing," said Jamaica Plain resident Adam Mazo.
The Maine Wabanaki-State Child Welfare Truth and Reconciliation Commission is the first of its kind in the U.S. It is the first TRC to be created by all parties to a conflict.
Dawnland won the National News & Documentary Emmy Award for Outstanding Research and was nominated for Outstanding Score in 2019. It won the Jury Award for Best Documentary at the Woods Hole and Buffalo International Film Festivals, and the 2019 Media for a Just Society Award for Best Film.
The documentary is airing on television for the first time this week on World Channel on PBS (WGBH), on Nov. 7 at 11 pm and Nov. 8 at 10 am.
These removal of the children fit into a systematic pattern of denying Native children their heritage and the continued pursuit to wipe out Native Americans. The children were given new names, and were forced to act and dress like white Americans.
The documentary was made by the Upstander Project, which Mazo co-founded with fellow Bostonian, educator and curriculum designer Mishy Lesser. The Upstander Project uses its documentaries, learning resources to educate teachers and students to destroy hateful stereotypical racist ideas. Upstart first started that mission with its first film Coexist in 2010, which looks at post-genocide Rwanda.
"We hope that Native people feel seen and heard and non-Indigenous people in the territory of the Massachusett people will affirm that Native people are still here, they defy stereotyping and seek self-determination, and welcome solidarity and action from aspiring upstanders and allies who want to learn everyone's history, not just the history of the European colonial settlers who came here 400 years ago to occupy Native homelands," said Lesser.