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  • BY Adam Mazo and Ben Pender-Cudlip | IN Race & Ethnicity
    Premiered November 5, 2018

About the Film

They were forced to assimilate into white society: children ripped away from their families, depriving them of their culture and erasing their identities. Can reconciliation help heal the scars from childhoods lost? Dawnland is the untold story of Indigenous child removal in the US through the nation's first-ever government-endorsed truth and reconciliation commission, which investigated the devastating impact of Maine’s child welfare practices on the Wabanaki people. MORE

The Wabanaki are the people who are there to greet the light, "the people of the dawn," in the upper Northeast. For decades, Maine’s child welfare system placed Wabanaki children in foster or adoptive homes under the presumption that assimilating into white society would improve their quality of life and give them a better future. Many children in the system suffered untold physical and psychological abuse. Their story brings to light how getting to the heart of the truth can offer a flicker of hope.

The Filmmakers

Adam Mazo (Co-Director/Producer) co-directed and produced the short documentary First Light. His hour-long film Coexist (Africa Movie Academy Award nominee, 2011) aired on public television and WORLD Channel. He is co-founder and director of Upstander Project, a filmmaking and learning collaborative which helps bystanders become upstanders through film and learning resources. Coexist, First Light, Dawnland and their companion resources are the cornerstone of Upstander Project’s flagship program, the Upstander Academy. Adam is a member of the core faculty at the weeklong inquiry-based summer professional development experience. Originally from Minnesota, Adam was transplanted to Sarasota, Florida, for high school and later graduated from the University of Florida. He now lives in Boston with his wife and family.

Ben Pender-Cudlip (Co-Director/Director of Photography) also co-directed and served as director of photography on First Light. He has directed numerous short documentaries and contributed cinematography to independent documentaries, such as Tickling Giants, The Peacemaker, and Best and Most Beautiful Things. He was selected as a 2014 Points North Fellow at the Camden International Film Festival alongside Mr. Mazo. He graduated from Bard College at Simon’s Rock and lives in Boston. LESS

Film Credits

Produced by
Upstander Project

In Association with
Principle Pictures
Unrendered Films

Adam Mazo
Ben Pender-Cudlip

Adam Mazo
N. Bruce Duthu

Kristen Salerno

Director of Photography
Ben Pender-Cudlip

Jennifer Kreisberg

Learning Director
Mishy Lesser

Senior Adviser
Chris Newell

Impact Producer
Tracy Rector

Executive Producers
Beth Murphy
Heather Rae

Executive Producer for Vision Maker Media
Shirley K. Sneve

Filmed in the Territories of
Aroostook Band of Micmacs
Houlton Band of Maliseet Indians
Passamaquoddy Tribe at Motahkomikuk
Passamaquoddy Tribe at Sipayik
Penobscot Indian Nation

Location Sound
Adam Mazo

Additional Photography
Kevin Belli
Beth Balaban
Chuck Green
Kevin Brunswick
Chek Wingo
Ben Severance

Additional Sound
Kevin Brunswick

Art Director
Kevin Coochwytewa

Title Design & Poster
Yen Tan

Kyle Predki

Post-Production Facility
The OutPost at WGBH

Colorist/Online Editor
Jim Ferguson

Audio Mix & Design
Christopher D. Anderson

Assistant Editor
Lindsey Denault

Director of Post-Production
Chris Fournelle

Promotional Photography
Jeremy Dennis

Impact Fellow
Ruth Garby Torres

Margaret Jacobs
N. Bruce Duthu
K. Tsianina Lomawaima

Sam Lednicky
Shamini Ganasarajah

Sandra Forman

Anthony Medel
Michal Shilo

Recording Studios
Silk City Music Factory
Waponahki Museum at the Sipayik Community Center
MasterTracks Recording Studios

Philip Mann

Andrew Macrae
Eddie Basset

Additional Music
Philip Mann

Jeff Chen

Piano & Keys
Philip Mann

Archival Materials Provided by
ABC News
Bangor Daily News
Christian Advocate
Cumberland County Historical Society
Getty Images
“Long Night’s Journey Into Day,” courtesy of Iris Films
Maine Public
Maine Wabanaki-State Child Welfare Truth and Reconciliation Commission Archive
National Archives and Records Administration
NBCUniversal Archives
South Africa Broadcasting Corporation
University of South Carolina
Wazee Digital

Traditional Passamaquoddy/Maliseet
Performed by Wayne Newell and Christopher Newell

“Improvisations on the Sunset”
Written and Performed by Cris Derksen and Jennifer Kreisberg
From the album “Cris Derksen: Orchestral Powwow”
Cris Derksen appears courtesy of Tribal Spirit Music

“Grass Dance Song”
Written by Jerich Morey
Performed by Simon Nevin and Wabanaki Confederacy

“The Human Beings”
Written & Performed by Jennifer Kreisberg

“Old MicMac Chant (MicMac Feast Song)”
Traditional Micmac
Performed by Maggie Paul

“Canoe Traveling Song”
Traditional Passamaquoddy
Performed by Wayne Newell

“The Dream Chant”
Written & Performed by Barbara Paul

“All My People”
Performed by Lauren Tomah

“New Women Song Reprise”
Written by Cris Derksen and Jennifer Kreisberg
Performed by Jennifer Kreisberg and Jeff Chen
Additional arrangements by Philip Mann
Based on the original composition “New Women Song”
by Cris Derksen and Jennifer Kreisberg
from the album “Orchestral Powwow by Cris Derksen”

“The Longest Walk”
Arranged by Jennifer Kreisberg
Performed by Jennifer Kreisberg, Henu Josephine Tarrant, and Rich Carlson
Additional vocals by Patricia Tarrant and Gracie Tarrant

Special Thanks
Abbe Museum
Alanis Obomsawin
Allen Sockabasin
American Friends Service Committee Wabanaki Program
Andrew Keller
Anne Makepeace
April Tomah
Becky Larsen
Bert Hirsch
Brian Altvater
Brit Reed
Cedric Woods
Christopher Ives
Civil Rights and Restorative Justice Project at Northeastern University
Claudia Fox Tree
David Felix Sutcliffe
David Pezzano
David Westphal
Deirdre & Mark Gleason
Donald Soctomah
Dwight Parrett
Elisha Altvater
Emily Mazo-Rizzi
Eric Gulliver
Erin Gleason
The Evergreen State College
Firelight Media
Florangela Davila
Geo Neptune
Good Pitch made by Doc Society
Independent Filmmaker Project
International Center for Transitional Justice
Jack Cushman
James Demo
James Francis
Jamie Bissonette Lewey
Jeff Soyk
Jill Williams
Joel Schomberg
John Dennis
John & Rhonni Pender-Cudlip
Julie Mallozzi
Kopkind Colony
Kristin Feeley
Lisa Sockabasin
Liza Berkowitz Mazo
Lori Jewell
Luke Joseph
Maine-Wabanaki REACH
Maine Wabanaki-State Child Welfare Truth and Reconciliation Commission
Margo Guernsey
Mark Chavaree
Martin Neptune
Mashantucket Pequot Museum and Research Center
Maulian Dana
Meredith Difrancesco
Michelle Mizner
National Indian Child Welfare Association
Newell Lewey
Non-Fiction Cartel
Northeast Historic Film
Paco de Onis
Pamela Yates
Points North Institute
Polchies Family
Sarah Yahm
Seattle Indian Health Board
Shanta Puchtler
Shawn Yardley & Family
Sloane Klevin
Susan Hamilton
Tailinh Agoyo
Teresa Elsey
Terry Tempest Williams
Thomas J. Dodd Research Center
Tyler Sabattis
Vera Francis
Wabanaki Health and Wellness
Wakinyan Redshirt

In Memoriam
Dominic Polchies

Fiscal Sponsor
Center for Independent Documentary

Produced with the support of tax credits by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

Funding Provided by
W.K. Kellogg Foundation
Germeshausen Foundation
The LEF Foundation
The Charles G. Wright Endowment for Humanity
Massachusetts Foundation for the Humanities
Morton-Kelly Charitable Trust
Bertha Foundation
Hannah Roush
The Mara & Ricky Sandler Foundation
Maine Humanities Council
Kathryn G. Fuller
Christopher Fleck
Ted and Cynthia Cushman
Starr C. Gilmartin
Maine Community Foundation
Jane Licata
James and Maureen Gorman
Maine Initiatives
Roger Milliken
And others. A complete list available from PBS.

Original Series Funding Provided by
The Corporation for Public Broadcasting
John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation
Wyncote Foundation
The National Endowment for the Arts

DAWNLAND is produced by the Upstander Project for a presentation of Vision Maker Media, with major funding provided by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB).

This program was produced by Upstander Films, Inc. which is solely responsible for its content.

© 2018 Upstander Films, Inc. All rights reserved.

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    Outstanding Research
  • Woods Hole Film Festival
    Best Documentary Feature
  • Buffalo International Film Festival Jury Award
    Best Feature Doc
  • Tacoma Film Festival Audience Award
    Best Feature Doc
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How much did you know about this story going in? What aspects of it are relevant today? Does your family's own cultural identity remain intact?