Dawnland

Feature documentary in POST-Production

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Decades of forced assimilation and misguided child welfare policy have blighted the lives of Maine’s indigenous people. Can an unprecedented truth and reconciliation commission recognize centuries of abuse and begin an era of decolonization? Dawnland goes behind-the-scenes as this historic body redefines reconciliation, grapples with unseen truths, and transforms all involved in unexpected ways. 

Directors' NOte

Dawnland is an independent feature documentary film that uses exclusive behind-the-scenes footage to share the transformative journey of an historic body: the Maine Wabanaki-State Child Welfare Truth and Reconciliation Commission. The commission ultimately concludes that the state of Maine has been, and continues to be, engaged in “cultural genocide” against the Native people who have lived there for millennia. 

Dawnland will shine a spotlight on the commission and its unprecedented response to a nationwide crisis in the United States. Today Native American children are far more likely than other children to grow up away from their families and tribes. Many of us are familiar with popular culture’s portrayal of the westward expansion, Indian wars, and boarding schools. We are often taught to think that these occurred in a distant time, disconnected from people who are alive here now. The headlines hide the historical through-line from the state-funded bounty killings of Native women and children, to forced assimilation of children, to what one commissioner in Maine calls the federal government’s atonement for colonial policies of dismantling tribes and families.

We released our short film First Light on Indigenous Peoples Day, October 2015 to begin to tell these stories to help break the silence that undermines healing. We felt we could not wait until 2017 when we plan to release Dawnland

In First Light we tell a piece of the story of the commission and its origins. In Dawnland we will bring viewers inside the commission, and share testimony from those who suffered because of the child welfare system and those who upheld its policies.

FILMMAKING Team

Directors Adam Mazo, Ben Pender-Cudlip
Producers Adam Mazo, N. Bruce Duthu, J.D.
Executive Producer Beth Murphy
Director of Photography Ben Pender-Cudlip
Editor Kristen Salerno
Learning Director Mishy Lesser, Ed.D.

CONSULTANTS

ADVISORS

  • Chico Colvard, University of Massachusetts Boston adjunct lecturer, documentary filmmaker (A Family Affair)
  • Donna Hicks, Ph.D., associate at the Weatherhead Center for International Affairs at Harvard University, author of Dignity
  • Dave Joseph, LICSW, senior vice president for program, Public Conversations Project
  • Robert Koenig, film director (Returned), producer, writer, and editor
  • Rebecca Lowenhaupt, Ph.D., assistant professor for educational leadership and higher education at Boston College 
  • Dick Olsen, strategic planner and fundraising consultant for major non-profits

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