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The Emmy award-winning film Dawnland will be shown virtually on the weekend of  March 18-20 with a special panel discussion on Sunday March 20. Dawnland, an 86 minute documentary produced by the Upstander Project in Maine, is the untold story of Native children taken from their homes and put in boarding schools and foster care to force assimilation into white culture. The film documents the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which was set up to address the inter-generational impact of this policy. The Woods Hole Public Library, the Falmouth Public Library, the West Falmouth Library, and a new local group, L.I.N.K.: Linking Indigenous and Non-Indigenous Knowledge, will co-sponsor the documentary. A goal of L.I.N.K. is to bring awareness to the Falmouth community of the history and culture of native people in our country and in our communities.

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. In Maine, a historic investigation—the first government-sanctioned truth and reconciliation commission (TRC) in the United States—began a bold journey. 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 discovered that state power continues to be used to break up Wabanaki families, threatening the very existence of the Wabanaki people. Dawnland spotlights the immense challenges that this groundbreaking body faces as they work toward truth, reconciliation, and the survival of all Indigenous peoples.

The co-directors are Adam Mazo and Ben Pender-Cudlip, who also produced the earlier short film First Light. Mazo also co-founded and directed the Upstander Project, a filmmaking and learning collaborative which helps “bystanders become upstanders” i.e. “as one who stands up in the face of injustice” through film and learning resources. Coexist, First Light, Dawnland and their companion resources are the cornerstone of Upstander Project’s flagship program, the Upstander Academy.

The discussion, to be held via Zoom on Sunday, March 20 at 3 PM, will include a Q&A segment for those who wish to learn more about this important topic. Panelists are Linda Coombs, member of the Wampanoag Tribe, gkisedtanamoogk, also a member of the Wampanoag Tribe and one of the co-chairs of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, and Mishy Lesser, who is co-director of the Upstander Academy. The discussion was put together by members of the newly formed L.I.N.K. (Linking Indigenous and Non-Indigenous Knowledge) group.

As with all other films that the Library has sponsored this year, the film will be available for people to screen from their homes anytime from noon Friday to noon Monday. Everyone who registers for the film (by emailing whpl_mail@clamsnet.org) will receive the link to view the film as well as a link to the panel discussion and Q and A to be held on Sunday afternoon, March 20 at 3 PM.