In a groundbreaking move, Maine has initiated the first-ever government-approved Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) in the United States to address a dark chapter in American history: the forced removal of Native American children from their families and their placement with white families. This practice, prevalent throughout much of the 20th century, peaked in the 1970s when a staggering one in four Native children were living apart from their birth families—either in non-Native foster homes, adoptive families, or boarding schools. The emotional and cultural scars left by this policy continue to haunt Native communities.

The TRC’s mission is ambitious and historic. Over the span of more than two years, a diverse group of commissioners—both Native and non-Native—have been traveling across Maine to collect stories, testimonies, and evidence. Their focus has been on the state’s child welfare policies and their effects on the Maliseet, Micmac, Passamaquoddy, and Penobscot communities, collectively known as the Wabanaki people.

The documentary film “DAWNLAND” provides an unprecedented look into this emotional and revelatory process. With unique access to the commission’s activities and never-before-seen footage, the film shines a light on an overlooked aspect of U.S. history: the erasure and mistreatment of Indigenous families through state-sanctioned child removal.

Unfortunately, the commission’s investigations reveal that these aren’t just issues of the past. State agencies continue to disrupt Wabanaki families today, casting a shadow over the tribe’s very existence. Addressing this systemic issue head-on, DAWNLAND not only lays bare the colossal challenges faced by the TRC but also its aspiration for truth, reconciliation, and the ongoing survival of Indigenous communities.

Positioned at the easternmost tip of Turtle Island, the Wabanaki are often described as the “People of the Dawnland.” They are the first to witness the new day’s light, imbuing them with symbolic significance in the search for justice and harmony. If, as some predict, true justice begins in the east, then the establishment of this TRC may very well signify a hopeful beginning.

Through a daring exploration of truth-telling and healing, the TRC is more than an investigative body—it’s a catalyst for profound societal change. Its work serves as a beacon for justice and a model for how the nation might come to terms with a difficult and painful history. As DAWNLAND captures these poignant moments, it invites us all to participate in a transformative journey toward acknowledging past wrongs, making amends, and building a future where all Indigenous peoples can thrive.

RSVP for the event today: