The Connecticut premiere of the award-winning documentary, Dawnland, will be held at the Noah Webster House & West Hartford Historical Society on Indigenous Peoples Day, Monday, October 8, 2018, from 4 – 6:30 p.m. Christopher Newell (Passamaquoddy tribe, ME), Connecticut resident and senior advisor to the film, will provide historical and cultural context and will facilitate a Q&A session following the film. Due to popular demand, an encore presentation may be shown at 7 p.m. if there’s enough interested. A sign-up list can be found here.
The film casts a spotlight on a state welfare policy in Maine that forcibly removed Native children from their families and placed them in white foster homes with the intent of erasing Native identity and heritage. Over the course of two years, Dawnland filmmakers traveled to the Maliseet, Micmac, Passamaquoddy, and Penobscot tribal communities in eastern Maine to gather information and testimonies from survivors, family members, and state welfare workers. The film draws from the first state-sanctioned truth and reconciliation commission in the U.S., established to bear witness to oppressive state policies toward Native peoples in Maine and to chart a new course for state and tribal relations.
Maine’s state welfare policy worked in concert with U.S. federal policy. Historically, Native children were taken from their families and forced to attend boarding schools administered and taught by whites. As boarding schools waned in popularity, they were replaced by the foster family system. This compulsory separation of Native families occurred throughout the country (and in Canada) during the 19th and 20th centuries until the Indian Child Welfare Act was passed in 1974. A 1977 Senate report found Native children in Maine 19 times more likely to be removed from their homes than non-Native children. Even today, Native children in Minnesota are 14 times more likely to enter foster care than non-Native children.
The Noah Webster House & West Hartford Historical Society presents Dawnland as part of its Conversations: A Community Forum series, in conjunction with the West Hartford Human Rights Commission. In West Hartford, little is known about the Native tribal community, the Sequins, who summered here in the woodlands prior to the arrival of the colonists. What more can we do to honor and bear witness to the original inhabitants of our community? Should Connecticut consider the creation of a truth and reconciliation commission? Mr. Newell, an experienced educator at the Mashantucket Pequot Museum, will help participants grapple with these questions and more.
The 4:00 p.m. screening is SOLD OUT. An encore presentation of the film will be shown at 7 p.m., with an introduction by Chris Newell, if there is enough interest. Please sign up for the waiting list here. The event will be held at the Noah Webster House & West Hartford Historical Society, 227 South Main Street, West Hartford, CT 06107. Call (860) 521-5362 with any questions.
Thank you to event sponsors the Ann and John Montgomery, Jane Lehman and Matthew Winter, the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center-UConn, and the Trinity College History Department for making this screening possible.