Last night, the Native American Cultural Programs (NACP) hosted a screening of “Dawnland” in the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center as one of their final events for Indigenous Peoples Week.
The documentary “follows the the first government-sanctioned truth and reconciliation commission in the United States to contemporary Wabanaki communities to witness intimate, sacred moments of truth-telling and healing. With exclusive access to this groundbreaking process and never-before-seen footage, the film reveals the untold narrative of Indigenous child removal in the United States,” according to the film’s website.
Through heart wrenching testimonials, the film documents acts of genocide against Indigenous peoples.
After the screening, the Director of the Dodd Center and Assistant Professor of Human Rights and Education Glenn Mitoma led a short discussion of the film. Audience members offered their questions and thoughts about both the film and complex activism including questions of allyship, indigenous visibility and privilege.
Specifically, people talked about the complexity of asking someone to share their story and the level of exploitation inherent in asking, that empathy is not sufficient to enact change and that allyship often involves taking a step back and recognizing that these spaces are not for white opinions and healing.
Anna Kimberly, the secretary of the Native American Cultural Program and a seventh-semester biology major, stressed the importance of education whether it’s through films like Dawnland or other means.
“Education not only just for obviously, non-Native communities, but also for Native communities as well to keep this story being told for generations to know what they had to endure for where they are now,” Kimberly said. “Just to really let people know what did occur not just having one side of history really showing both sides.”
Ed Underwood, the president of NACP and a seventh-semester marketing major, said that advocacy and education are important because they help bring awareness to a marginalized population within the country.
“Through years of heredity, there’s a lot of cultural mixing so I feel like the Native culture gets buried under a lot of other things. So films like this, events like this that we’ve been doing, advocacy, awareness, education it really helps remind people that these people are still here and they’re still fighting for their rights because they haven’t been granted all of them yet.”
Michelle Curtis, a first-semester, accounting major, was stuck by how current the facts and testimonials are. Oftentimes, indigenous histories, when they are told in school, are told as if they only happened in the age Columbus and colonization.
“The most striking thing definitely was the fact that history isn’t as long ago as we think. Like this is happening recently,” Curtis said. “Our parents were alive while this was happening. Even now it’s still happening.”
“The change can’t come immediately,” Underwood said. “It’s something of you have to heal first before you can try and heal the whole community and that starts with the native community first and from there the education has to be spread so that other people can learn from this situation so that their ancestors in the future will learn and be able to grow, to live on past this, to have these practices be a thing of the past and not have to have future generations ever have to go through things like this.”
Today is the last day to sign that NACP’s petition to get UConn to change Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples Day.
Alex Taylor is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.