CAMDEN — The Camden Public Library will host a screening of the documentary Dawnland (86 minutes, not rated), Tuesday, March 19, at 6:30 p.m.
Maria Girouard, of the Penobscot Nation, will facilitate a discussion following the screening of this film about the removal of Native American children from their homes by child welfare authorities.
In Maine, the first tribal-state truth and reconciliation commission in the U.S. made a historic investigation, according to Camden Public Library, in a news release.
Dawnland goes behind the scenes as this historic body grapples with difficult truths, redefines reconciliation, and charts a new course for state and tribal relations.
Maria Girouard, of Penobscot Nation, is an historian with particular expertise in the Maine Indian Claims Settlement Act. She holds a master’s degree in history from the University of Maine.
Girouard is a longstanding community organizer and activist of environmental and social justice. She is a founder of The Peoples’ Garden community garden at Penobscot Nation and dedicates many volunteer hours to community gardening.
Girouard is a 2015 recipient of the Maryann Hartman Award for her advocacy work on preserving the rights and cultural heritage of Penobscot Nation. She serves Maine-Wabanaki REACH as coordinator of health, wellness, and self-determination.
“My foster mother told me . . . she would save me from being Penobscot.”
For most of the 20th century, government agents systematically forced Native American children from their homes and placed them with white families. As recently as the 1970s, one in four Native children nationwide were living in non-Native foster care, adoptive homes, or boarding schools. Many children experienced devastating emotional and physical harm by adults who mistreated them and tried to erase their cultural identity.
Now, for the first time, they are being asked to share their stories.
In Maine, a historic investigation — the first government-sanctioned truth and reconciliation commission (TRC) in the United States — began a bold journey. For over two years, Native and non-Native commissioners traveled across Maine. They gathered testimony and bore 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.
The feature-length documentary follows the TRC to contemporary Wabanaki communities to witness intimate, sacred moments of truth-telling and healing.
The TRC discovers that state power continues to be used to break up Wabanaki families, threatening the very existence of the Wabanaki people. Can they right this wrong and turn around a broken child welfare system?
Dawnland foregrounds the immense challenges that this commission faces as they work toward truth, reconciliation, and the survival of all Indigenous peoples. Living at the easternmost edge of Turtle Island, the Wabanaki people are the first to see the new day’s light. If harmony and justice begin in the east, as some prophesize, surely the TRC is a sign of this beginning.