Happenings Lifestyle Reader Contributed

Documentary about Cultural Survival and Stolen Children in Maine to have Connecticut Premiere in West Hartford

Navajo children, June 19, 1929. Courtesy: University of South Carolina (Submitted image)

‘Dawnland’ will have its Connecticut premiere at the Noah Webster House & West Hartford Historical Society on Monday, Oct. 8.

Georginia Sappier-Richardson sharing her story at a TRC community visit. Photo by: (screen grab) Ben Pender-Cudlip Courtesy: Upstander Project (submitted photo)


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, Oct.8, 2018, from 4-6:30 p.m.

Christopher Newell (Passamaquoddy Tribe, Maine), a Connecticut resident and senior advisor to the film, will provide historical and cultural context and will facilitate a Q&A session following the film.

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.

Georgina Sappier’s elementary report card from Mars Hill elementary in Mars Hill, ME, for the years 1947-1953. Photo by: Ben Pender-Cudlip Courtesy: Upstander Project (submitted photo)

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? Newell, an experienced educator at the Mashantucket Pequot Museum, will help participants grapple with these questions and more.

Dawnland will be shown from 4-5:30 p.m., at the Noah Webster House & West Hartford Historical Society, 227 South Main St., West Hartford, CT 06107, followed by a discussion led by Newell. This event is free and open to the public. Advanced registration is required; space is limited.

Please visit www.noahwebster.yapsody.com or call (860) 521-5362.

Thank you to event sponsors 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.

The museum would like to thank the Greater Hartford Arts Council and Hartford Foundation for Public Giving for their ongoing support.

The Noah Webster House & West Hartford Historical Society is a cultural destination where citizens can learn to understand and appreciate the past. The museum preserves the birthplace of Noah Webster, the founding father, educator, author, and lexicographer who taught generations of Americans what it means to be American. This National Historic Landmark is also a repository for West Hartford’s history, the community that molded NoahWebster’s future, and is still thriving over 250 years later. The historic house and exhibit spaces are open daily 1 until 4 p.m. For more information on the museum’s extensive school and public programs, please visit www.noahwebsterhouse.org or call 860-521-5362.

Like what you see here? Click here to subscribe to We-Ha’s newsletter so you’ll always be in the know about what’s happening in West Hartford!

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

About the author


We-Ha.com is the place to go for the latest information about West Hartford – a town that "has it all"! We-Ha.com is part of and proud of our community, and we bring a hyperlocal focus to news and features about the people, schools, businesses, real estate, sports, restaurants, charitable events, arts, and more. Contact us at: [email protected] or [email protected].

Leave a Comment

Translate »