JP Filmmaker’s Short Doc Confronts History of Scalp Bounty Hunting Premiering April 12 in Boston

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A Jamaica Plain resident's latest documentary was a collaborative project with the Penobscot Nation to reveal the hidden story of scalp bounty proclamations

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Bounty tells the hidden story of the Phips Proclamation, which is an example of the rampant use of scalp-bounty proclamations to exterminate Penobscot people in order to take their land in what is now New England. The film will premiere at the Old South Meeting House on April 12, which is on the unceded land of the Massachusett people and their neighbors the Wampanoag and Nipmuc Nations.

The documentary short is a collaborative project between Emmy Award-winning Upstander Project and citizens of the Penobscot Nation. The Upstander Project was co-founded by Jamaica Plain resident Adam Mazo 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.

In the film, Penobscot people read and react to one of the dozens of government-issued bounty proclamations that motivated colonial settlers to hunt, scalp, and murder Indigenous people.

"The Phip’s Proclamation hung on the walls of Penobscot Nation tribal offices as proof of genocide and survival. My first reaction was of the 'Holy S$#!' variety followed by, well, of course this happened and of course I never learned about it in my dominant culture schooling," said Mazo.

Mazo said that when the Upstander Project was doing teacher workshops about its previous documentaries First Light and Dawnland, they'd talk about Phips proclamation.

"We would ask people to raise their hands if they knew of the proclamation. Typically one or two hands would go up belonging to Wabanaki people and those who had attended REACH workshops," said Mazo. "This journey is what led us to the idea of making Bounty. The story feels too important and too essential to the history of this land and the myriad crises we face today."

During research, Lesser saw that the document was signed in Boston's Old State House, and that there was no mention of this history in the building that's on the Freedom Trail and is annually visited by thousands who learn about American revolutionaries who fought for their freedom.

Click here to register for the Old South Meeting House screening on April 12, which includes a discussion with Mazo, Lesser and more.

Watch Bounty by clicking here and scrolling.