What's Promised Land?
Promised Land is an award-winning social justice documentary that follows two tribes in the Pacific Northwest: the Duwamish and the Chinook, as they fight for the restoration of treaty rights they've long been denied. In following their story, the film examines a larger problem in the way that the government and society still looks at tribal sovereignty.
Promised Land debuted in select theaters fall 2016. It won the award for Achievement in Documentary Filmmaking at the 10th Annual LA Skins Fest, and was an official selection for the 41st Annual American Indian Film Festival, Northwest Film Forum's 19th Annual Local Sightings Film Festival, the 12th Annual Ellensburg Film Festival, and the 5th Annual Social Justice Film Festival, among others. To arrange for your school, group, museum, or local theater to show a screening of the film, or to inquire about an educational license for your school or organization, please contact us here.
"The film is about federal recognition, yes, but on a deeper level it’s about how to be an Indian in the modern world, how to fight even if you’re an elderly lady or a terminally ill man, how to take joy from the fight because of the friends you make, and most importantly, how to face death bravely and with honor, recognizing it as a transition and not an end. The U.S. will someday crumble into dust and be forgotten like all other empires. But cultures like the Chinook and the Duwamish will endure indefinitely, as long as there are those who love their ancestors and honor them with good work."
Indigenous recognition is at the frontline of the battle for native sovereignty. These tribes—who signed treaties, helped settlers, and lost their land—are asking for their treaties to be honored. To redefine their recognition, to put blood quantum restrictions on who is and isn’t native enough, to redefine treaties over and over, continues a toxic cycle of colonialism where the government, and the corporations it partners with, continues to unlawfully profit off of the resources of indigenous lands at great peril to our increasingly climate-challenged world.
The Northwest is arguably one of the most politically liberal regions in the country. The names of our cities and towns are in Chinuk Wawa and Lushootseed, the region’s native languages. Seattle’s logo is an image of Chief Si’ahl. If in this area, with these tribes that all kids learn about growing up in school, justice can’t be found, then how does that bode for the rest of the country? This film uses the region to spark a discussion about identity and sovereignty, but the message about whose land we inhabit and how we work to right these wrongs is universal.
Though the film begins in a specific region, the story it tells is one that countless tribes are going through not only throughout North America, but throughout the world as well. The film ends by expanding its focus to issues such as identity, blood quantum, and the struggle of indigenous communities for self-determination.
As we've toured, we've sought to partner with indigenous communities whose land the film is screening on to help draw attention to all issues of self-determination that all bands and tribes face in every country. This film is presented without a narrator, so that only the voices of the tribal members themselves, along with their allies, are the ones presenting the story. We hope that all our showings will be avenues for indigenous voices to meet with the community and have their voices heard.
The Salcedos, Vasant and Sarah Salcedo, comprise the filmmaking team Tall Firs Cinema. They made this film with the Chinook Nation and Duwamish Tribe overseeing and getting approval on the work throughout every stage. They began the film in 2013 and are the directors, writers, cinematographers, editor, and producer of the project. You can learn more about them here. The documentary was filmed in Washington, British Columbia, Oregon, California, Washington D.C., and New Jersey. It was sponsored and supported by 4Culture and San Francisco Film Society, working in cooperation with both tribal councils, and receiving generous help from the community.