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New Documentary “Dawnland” Explores Only Truth And Reconciliation Commission In The U.S.

Can the United States transition “from being an occupier to being a neighbor”?

So asks gkisedtanamoogk, a Native man living in Maine. He poses this question in “Dawnland,” a moving 90-minute documentary that the Anisfield-Wolf Book Awards is proud to sponsor this year at the Cleveland International Film Festival.

The documentary follows four key participants in a truth and reconciliation commission entered into five years ago by the Wabanaki people and the state of Maine. It centers on the consequences of decades of government policy that ripped Native children from their families and placed them in foster homes.

The commission, which ran for 27 months, reported that between 2002 and 2013, Native children in Maine were five times more likely to be forced from their homes than non-Native children.

“Our film,” says Bruce Duthu, a Dartmouth professor of Native studies, “reveals a practice of state power that is ongoing, state action directed at the heart of the family and depriving individuals of something that I think most of us take for granted: the idea not only that we can have children but raise them the way that we want to.”

Duthu looks into the camera to say, “When state power deprives people of that right, we should all be concerned.”

The documentary will screen at Tower City Cinemas on three dates: 8:30 p.m. Friday, April 13; 1:20 p.m. Saturday, April 14 with a film forum and 9:20 a.m. Sunday, April 15.  You will receive a $2 discount per ticket using the Anisfield-Wolf code: ANW0. Tickets go on sale March 23.

“It is hard to fathom for many in Maine that genocide occurred here,” the commission report states, “much less that it continues to occur in a cultural form.”  

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