Documentary Examines Forced Separation of Native American Families

anna townsend testimony residential school

The film’s storyline is fragmentary, its focal point like a crack in a wall.

A young girl, chin tipped up to the microphone, fingers toying with a bead necklace, attempts to tell a room full of congressmen about the abuse her brother endured, but she chokes on an enormous sob and can’t go on. In a black-and-white photo of American Indian children at a boarding school, identical in their close-cropped and bobbed haircuts and plain clothing, the number of children grows larger and larger as the camera zooms out, and then, a moment later, the image becomes just one of many pinpoints on a map of the United States. A woman tells of having her mouth washed out with soap for speaking Penobscot and abruptly stops. The screen goes black.

Throughout the new documentary Dawnland, screening Oct. 19 in Dartmouth College’s Loew Auditorium, a sense of incompleteness, of halted revelations and impenetrable grief, pervades. As it explores a dark and largely overlooked aspect of American life, the film opens just a tiny fissure, grants only the smallest suggestion of healing.

It is, nevertheless, a start.

Read the full article by Sarah Earle in the Valley News.

Advertisements

At SIFF: Bearing Witness to Stories of ‘Cultural Genocide’

georgina sappier-richardson dawnland movie

To watch the documentary Dawnland is to experience having your stomach clenched in a knot. Native mothers weeping about having their children taken away from them; U.S. government policies stripping Native Americans of their culture; ‘reconciliation’ staffers fully aware of their white privilege but refusing to shelf it as they do cross-cultural work.

It’s all anguishing and infuriating to take in. It also makes Dawnland a powerfully illuminating film — a history lesson that you’re ashamed to have never learned but whose truths you’ll likely never forget.

Filmmakers Adam Mazo and Ben Pender-Cudlip spent five years completing their feature-length documentary about the forced removal of Native American children from their families into White adoptive homes, non-Native foster care and boarding schools. The government’s racist intentions — clinically explained in historic footage included in the film — was to “civilize” Native youngsters. The legacy of such policies can be seen in the continued high rate of Native children in foster care and in the tortured memories of those who wanted to embrace their cultural identity but who were told, sometimes violently, that they must not.

Read the full article by Florangela Davila in Crosscut.

Joseph and Jesse Bruchac at Mariposa Museum’s Annual Dawnlands Storyfest

joseph-bruchac

Author of more than 120 books for children and adults, Joseph Bruchac has been creating poetry, short stories, novels, anthologies and music that reflect his Native American heritage and traditions for over 30 years. Recipient of numerous awards, Bruchac is perhaps best known for his bestselling “Keepers of the Earth: Native American Stories and Environmental Activities for Children” and other titles in the “Keepers” series, which integrate science and folklore in highly entertaining and interactive formats that make them ideal for classrooms and family libraries alike.

This Saturday, Feb. 4, Joseph Bruchac will be the featured storyteller at the annual Dawnlands Storyfest at the Mariposa Museum and World Culture Center in Peterborough. He will be joined by his son Jesse Bruchac, a leading figure in indigenous efforts to preserve the Abenaki language and culture.

The Mariposa Museum is located at 26 Main Street in Peterborough, NH. It is wheelchair accessible. Admission is free to the Dawnlands Storyfest, which is hosted by the Mariposa and co-presented by the NH Storytelling Alliance and Peterborough’s business community. The event runs from noon to 8 p.m.

The Bruchacs will be joined at Saturday’s event by other local tellers of indigenous tales, including Medicine Story (Manitonquat), Sebastian Lockwood, Kim Hart, and HearsCrow. Simon Brooks and Chris Ekblom will emcee. In storytelling tradition, visitors will also have the chance to share their own tales at three open mics.

Read the full account at The Monadnock Ledger-Transcript.

Chronicle Talks Wabanaki Culture at Bar Harbor

george neptune chronicle bar harbor

This week, WCVB5 Boston’s popular Chronicle travel journal visited Acadia National Park and Bar Harbor, where the sun first rises on the US East Coast. They spoke with Passamaquoddy George Neptune at the Abbe Museum about the culture  and the People of the Dawnland, the Wabanakiak. Watch the video – Wabanaki footage at 2:30.

Second Annual Dawnlands StoryFest at Mariposa

john bear mitchell penobscot storyteller

The Second Annual Dawnlands StoryFest will be held at the Mariposa Museum (Peterborough, NH) on Feb. 6 from noon until 8 p.m. The event is free and open to the public.

Hosted by the Mariposa Museum and World Culture Center, Dawnlands StoryFest is organized and presented by the New Hampshire Storytelling Alliance. Dawnlands is the only story circle in New Hampshire dedicated to sharing the stories of the region’s indigenous people.

The festival takes its name from the Algonquin word Wbanahkik [W8banakik], or Dawn Land, which was the name the Algonquin-speaking Abenaki people gave to New England, Quebec, and the Canadian Maritimes. The name Abenaki means People of the Dawn Land.

Full details at the Monadnock Ledger-Transcript.

Photo: John Bear Mitchell, Penobscot storyteller, from the Sun Journal.

Confluence

The February sun sets over the low terrace where Fort Hinsdale once stood, on the north point above the meeting of the Connecticut and Ash Swamp Brook.

Confluence means ‘a flowing together.’ In a literal sense, it is about rivers. But it’s often used to talk about the coming together of ideas or cultures as well. Swirls, eddies, currents, cycles, transitions… Nothing changes, yet everything changes. It is said one can never step in the same river twice. Perhaps the message is not that all things are changing so that we cannot encounter them twice, but something much more subtle and profound: it is that some things stay the same only by changing. A river is a river because it is moving and shifting. Here constancy and change are not opposed but inextricably connected.

On seeing: The boundaries and labels we encounter on our modern-day maps are relatively recent political and historical constructs springing from a Western worldview. It can be difficult to view the land clearly with this tangled overlay of demarcations, polities, and hierarchies. If one can see beyond the arbitrary notions that this is Vermont, and that is New Hampshire, for example, and begin to think in terms of watersheds, and in terms of hundreds, if not thousands of years, then the true face of the country begins to appear. This is the Dawnland: N’dakinna. A land from before time, a land that begins anew each day. The same water that flows here  now has coursed down the valley of the Kwanitekw for thousands of years, to the ocean and back, in towering clouds with crashing thunder and twisting, silvery rivulets wending down the mountainsides to return to the gathering valley below.