The directors of “First Light” chose Columbus Day on purpose to debut the short documentary examining abuses of native children and communities within the child welfare system.
“We think it’s important to release First Light on Indigenous Peoples’ Day to shift the spotlight from Christopher Columbus, a chief architect of colonial violence, to the more than five million indigenous and Native American people living in the United States today and current critical issues: Tribal sovereignty, sacredness of children, land and tradition,” said Adam Mazo, one of the film’s co-directors in an interview on Indian Country Media Network published Monday.
The film highlights the the Maine Wabanaki-State Child Welfare Truth and Reconciliation Commission, a first-of-its-kind partnership between state government and tribal leaders to examine what happened to native families in the state’s child welfare system.
The commission released its findings in June, and some of them are disturbing — and not limited to history: Within the last 13 years, native children were more than five times more likely to end up in foster care. It also appeared they are less likely to be adopted than other children.
The film also looks at the historical motives to remove native American children from their homes, first by sending them to boarding schools at the turn of the 20th century and then, starting in the late 50s, through adoptions.
The film First Light, and a subsequent feature-length documentary is produced by the Upstander Project, an organization whose goals are to to “help bystanders become upstanders through compelling documentary films and learning resources.”
Featured article image a screenshot from the documentary, First Light.