Documentary short in post-production, release in 2020
Penobscot parents and their children celebrate their survival by reading and reacting to a bounty proclamation that promised large sums of money for colonial settlers to hunt, scalp, and murder their ancestors.
about the film
The film Bounty will center on the “Phips Proclamation” issued in 1755 by Lieutenant Governor Spencer Phips, Commander in Chief of the Province of Massachusetts-Bay. Revived in popular memory by Penobscot people as proof of their survival of genocide, the proclamation called on “his Majesty’s Subjects” to pursue, captivate, kill, and destroy the “Penobscot Tribe of Indians” of all ages for a bounty, to be paid from the public treasury, for their scalps or bodies when brought to Boston. The edict is evidence of colonial settlers’ intention to exterminate Wabanaki people. The film is set in the very council chambers in Boston’s Old State House where the proclamation was signed. A contemporary reading of the appalling text of the proclamation speaks to the present through the past—a powerful expression of decolonization.
We will use the film and related learning materials to teach about the systemic nature of scalp bounty proclamations and the relationship between taking scalps and taking land. There were at least 58 scalp proclamations issued in the 17th and 18th centuries in New England. The learning resources will spotlight these decrees and show that settlers were rewarded in money and land for slaughtering Native people. We believe all schoolchildren should learn this history as much as they learn about the arrival of the Pilgrims and midnight ride of Paul Revere. Ultimately the message of this project is best summated by the Wabanaki co-directors of the film who proclaim: We are survivors. We are still here.
Penobscot Families: Dawn Neptune Adams, Carmella Bear, Layla Bear, Maulian Dana, Shiwa Noh, Charlie Shay, Tim Shay, Woli Williams
Filmmakers: Dawn Neptune Adams (Penobscot), Maulian Dana (Penobscot), Adam Mazo, Ben Pender-Cudlip, Tracy Rector (Choctaw/Seminole)
Producers: Adam Mazo, Tracy Rector (Choctaw/Seminole), Ben Pender-Cudlip
Learning Director: Mishy Lesser, Ed.D.
Historical Consultant: Rebecca Sockbeson, Ph.D. (Penobscot)
The film will focus a single example of the use of scalp proclamations to exterminate Native people in order to take their land. Bounty’s learning resources will link the scalp proclamations to a primary purpose of land dispossession including seizures, deeds, and allotments, which led to spikes in settler population preceding and following the issuance of proclamations. This material will become the Bounty Teacher’s Guide, containing two lessons, will focus on: Raphael Lemkin, origins of the word genocide, drafting of the U.N. Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of Genocide; scalp proclamations and the question of intent in the U.N. Convention on Genocide; and Native peoples’ resistance and decolonization efforts.