Promised Land is screening at Seattle Central College on Thursday, February 9th, and at the University of Oregon on Friday, February 10th. For other screenings in various cities, please see listings here.
Imagine that you live in a place your ancestors have occupied for thousands of years. Every landmark, every waterway, every plant and tree and animal is part of your heritage. You can stand in places that your grandmother, and her grandmother, and women stretching in an unbroken line back to a mythical point, told stories about, stories that defined your people.
You have stories passed down since the Ice Ages, which your ancestors witnessed. You don’t remember the ice because scientists found its traces in the rocks and on the land: you remember it because your tribe descended from people who lived with it, and your generational memories are strong.
Imagine that your roots here go that deep, that they stretch over ten thousand years into the past.
Now imagine that new people came, and took possession of your lands without permission. They uprooted you and cast you aside. They tore down your houses and stole your art. They changed your rivers and landmarks almost beyond recognition. They built cities on your land, the land that holds your ancestors, that was your inheritance and your future, and then outlawed you from those cities – not for any crime, but because of the color of your skin. They made it literally illegal for you to step foot in the cities they built on your land after sundown, and they only allowed you in by day in order to exploit your labor for their profit.
They made it illegal for you to gather together, to tell your stories, to carry on your traditions, to pass your culture on to your children. They tried to strangle everything that made you you: your language, your clothing, your art, your music, your identity.
Imagine you somehow survived all of this. You held on. You sang your songs. You spoke your language. You protected what was left of your land as best as you could. You learned how to survive in this new world without losing quite all of your heritage. In a city named for one of your forebears, you have done your best to survive as a people among strangers who are happy to take your art and your symbols and your resources without giving much of anything back.
And imagine that after all of this, those strangers tell you that they won’t recognize your tribe as a legal entity. That, despite the fact that you come from an unbroken line of indigenous people stretching back ten thousand years, perhaps more, in this place, you can’t check the box that says you’re Native American. You have to call yourself White, or Other. You can’t protect the things that belonged to your ancestors when they’re unearthed. You can’t protect your lands. You can’t even get back a tiny fraction of the wealth that was stolen from you, because they say you’re not one of the tribes who can get a grant or a scholarship reserved for those whose inheritance was taken by force, fraud, or both.
That’s the story of the Duwamish, told in the heart-rending documentary Promised Land. Continue reading “Promised Land: A Must-See Documentary in This Era”