“My foster mother told me … she would save me from being Penobscot.”
By Sally Wagoner
Dawnland, a documentary about Native American children, culture and the Child Welfare System, will be shown on Sunday, November 18, 2:00 p.m. at Loomis Lodge, 136 Croton-Hardy Drive, Newaygo. This free event is open to the public and is being hosted by the Native Circle of Newaygo County, a non-profit organization dedicated to sharing culture and history from the Native American Indigenous voice. Due to the mature and sensitive nature of the film, older youth and adults as opposed to young children are the recommended audience.
As recently as the 1970’s, one in four Native American Indigenous children were living in non-Native foster care, adoptive homes, or boarding schools This occurred due to the government policy that empowered agents to forcefully remove Native American children from their homes and place them with white families. Physical abuse, emotional harm, and cultural genocide were the results.
In Dawnland , for the first time, these Native families are being asked to share their stories.
This feature-length documentary goes behind the scenes of the first government sanctioned Truth and Reconciliation Commission in the United States to pursue this national tragedy. For over two years, Native and non-Native commissioners traveled across Maine. They gathered testimony and beared witness to the devastating 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
“This is not ancient history,” reports one member of the Native Circle of Newaygo County. “We have Native families today, here in Michigan, who experienced these things personally in recent memory. The skeleton of a huge, industrial “Indian Boarding School” still stands in Mt. Pleasant. And these things still happen today with a Child Welfare system that is biased against Native parents. Many of our children are still taken from our People and placed in non-Native homes. Many of us suffer the intergenerational effects of our parents’ and grandparents’ traumas, and we are still finding our way to healing and home: physically, emotionally, geographically, and spiritually.”
The name Dawnland refers to the Wabanaki People who live at the easternmost edge of Turtle Island (U.S and Canada). They are the first to see the new day’s light. The filmmakers state, “If harmony and justice begin in the east, as some prophesize, surely this Truth and Reconciliation Commission is a sign of this beginning.”
The film will be preceded by prayers sung with Drum by area First Nations members to help prepare people and place for the difficult stories that unfold. Discussion will follow the presentation to help with understanding of this dark history and its continued influence on people and policy. All are welcome to participate in these events. For more information, contact the Native Circle of Newaygo County: 231.709.9005; firstname.lastname@example.org
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