Promised Land

An award-winning documentary, PROMISED LAND, a social justice film on the Duwamish and Chinook tribes, their fight for restoration, and what the federal recognition process says about indigenous sovereignty today.


Indian Country Today, "Documentary on Federal Recognition ‘Promised Land’ Will Make You Mad"

Excerpt: "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."

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King 5 Evening Interview with Vasant Salcedo, co-director and editor of Promised Land, and Ken Workman, Duwamish Tribal Councilmember

Excerpt: "They were here long before the rest of us, but since 1974 the Duwamish Tribe has no longer been recognized by the federal government.
'It's heart-wrenching,' said tribal council member Ken Workman, a descendant of Seattle's namesake, Chief Si'ahl."

The Portland Mercury, "Sovereignty Struggles"

Excerpt: "For two native tribes dwelling on opposite ends of Puget Sound, a struggle for recognition from the US government hinders their ability to be politically seen and heard. In Promised Land, tribal council members and chairmen from the Duwamish and Chinook Nations chronicle their peoples’ history and the complexity of navigating the process for tribal recognition. Through dozens of interviews with tribal members, historians, and archaeologist allies, Promised Land provides an in-depth, harrowing overview of why recognition for these tribes has been repeatedly denied. [...] Promised Land finds the fight for tribal recognition that goes beyond a claim to identity—it also speaks to the larger story of erasure, and to the United States’ disregard for centuries-old, legally binding treaties."


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Professor Brian Klopotek, University of Oregon: "Promised Land powerfully documents the tortured politics of the federal acknowledgment process, as well as the resilience of tribal life outside the federal purview for the Chinook Indian Nation and the Duwamish Tribe. The screening at the University of Oregon, which featured a panel discussion afterward with Chinook tribal leaders and the filmmakers, drew a large and energetic crowd. The film and the panel discussion were lively, memorable, and very educational." 

Judith Blount Sanders, Board of Directors - Ellensburg Film Festival

"Viewing Promised Land was memorable. It was an honor to have Ken Workman, a descendant of Chief Seattle, with us. This documentary is not only informative, it is encouraging and healing, in a way. The tribes show us how to clarify what is right and how to pursue it with dignity and perseverance. It was heartening to observe the respect and great interest of the audience who attended the film and panel presentation. On a personal note, I graduated from Highline High School in 1955; Cecile Hansen (née Oliver) was in my class. As a leader of the Duwamish, she is an example for all girls and women today. I encourage all to see this quality educational film and to participate in discussions concerning its content. I would like to see it again."

Kimberly Tate-Malone, Seattle Central College: "For many reasons, Promised Land is an extremely important and timely documentary.  Bringing the film, filmmakers and tribal representatives to the Seattle Central College campus provided an opportunity that many students have never had before -- a chance to learn about the history and people of the land we occupy. Being able to expose students to the histories and continuing efforts of the Duwamish and Chinook tribes was an excellent experience, one that students, faculty, and staff alike enjoyed."

Jo Anderson Cavinta, Diversity Services Coordinator for King County Library System: "Promised Land [took place] at the KCLS Renton Library, newly rebuilt directly over the Cedar River.  The vast majority of the audience stayed for the post-film discussion, which included filmmakers Vasant and Sarah Salcedo, Ken Workman (Duwamish Councilmember) and Aaron Jones (Chinook Indian Nation, UW Professor). Attendees complimented the beauty of the cinematography and were moved to know how to personally support the cause."

Elissa Washuta, author, Cowlitz Tribe: "Everyone should see this--including everyone who lives on occupied Indigenous land in the US, everyone from tribes with and without federal acknowledgment of their existence. This documentary is about the Duwamish and Chinook tribes and their fights for federal recognition, but it's also a seriously thorough discussion of sovereignty, the government-to-government relationship, the absurdly difficult process of achieving federal acknowledgment, and so much more (I couldn't believe how much ground this film covered). Even though the Cowlitz Indian Tribe only received federal recognition in 2002 after many years and a lot of effort, while I watched the film last night, I was acutely aware of what that recognition allows us that our Duwamish and Chinook friends don't have--like the application of the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act. This film is a powerful statement on the endurance of the Chinook and Duwamish tribes despite federal government efforts to eliminate them. Colonization is not over. We can see it happening in so many ways, including the federal government's denial of that these two tribes and others even exist, that they are, and have always been, sovereign nations. There will be many more showings of this film. Watch it and invite your friends. Contact the filmmakers if you want to arrange a showing at your school or in your town. The film is important and it's intensely beautiful. (The inside of the Chinook longhouse---!!!!!)"

Professor Connie So, University of Washington: "Vasant and Sarah Salcedo’s documentary Promised Land debuted in 2016.  Since then, it has been shown at several distinguished film festivals and conferences.  On November 2016, I had the pleasure of viewing the film with over 100 guests at a Native American Heritage celebration hosted by the American Ethnic Studies department at the University of Washington.  The event was interactive and the audience was treated to a special performance by Tribal Elders. The key feature, of course, is Promised Land, an award-winning social justice documentary on the Duwamish and Chinook tribes, their fight for restoration, and what the federal recognition process says about indigenous sovereignty today.  The story is told without a narrator.  Instead, there are interviews with a descendant of Chief Si'ahl (for whom the city of Seattle is named), the current leaders of the tribes, and other members of the Duwamish and Chinook tribes.   The story they tell is heart-wrenching and, at the same time, inspiring.  While it is about “aboriginal identity, blood quantum, and the struggle of indigenous communities for self-determination,” it is also about determination.  I would encourage anyone interested in the struggles of aboriginal people and social justice to view this important film."

Siobhán Aalmann, Diversity & Inclusion Committee Chair, Bloodworks Northwest: "On March 29th, 33 Bloodworks Northwest employees, family members, and special guests participated in a private screening of the social documentary Promised Land, followed by a Q&A panel comprised of the filmmakers, a council member from the Duwamish Tribe and a representative from the Chinook Indian Nation. The film itself is a moving narrative of the decades-long battle for federal recognition. The compelling testimonies of tribal members afterwards gave voice and understanding to issues that most audience members were not aware of. It was a powerful and memorable experience for everyone present. The event asked each of us to examine what it means to protect tradition, to honor history and to be self-defining. Not just for our own familiar culture and experience, but also to understand, respect and honor peoples whose experiences are vastly different from our own. Before the film began, Duwamish Council Member Ken Workman welcomed the audience to his ancestral land in Lushootseed. When the film ended, our audience members were highly engaged and eager to get their questions answered. Each question was better than the last, and the candid and insightful answers from panel members peeled back layers to reveal the deep complexity of the struggle. Hearts and minds were touched and forever changed. The participants walked away educated, socially awakened, eager to learn more about Native American culture and committed to share their experience and learning with others. Some noted that they will be visiting the Duwamish Longhouse. Since a large number of Bloodworks locations are on Duwamish ancestral land, others related their experience at the event to a senior executive -- who has proposed that we partner with the Duwamish to recognize that connection. The energized buzz from the employees who attended the event has inspired other employees who missed the event to seek out community screenings. The Diversity & Inclusion Committee, which sponsored this event, created an online photo album of this special night to share with the entire organization. No one who was there will ever forget it, and its positive ripples continue to touch peoples’ lives."

Lisa Kauffman, Host of West Seattle Meaningful Movies: "The West Seattle Meaningful Movies, along with the Southwest Seattle Historical Society, showed Promised Land on January 7, 2017, in West Seattle. It was an excellent evening. Ken Workman, a member of the Duwamish Tribe, opened the program with a blessing and some information about the tribe. Then one of the filmmakers, Vasant Salcedo, introduced the movie. The audience responded very well to this beautiful film. Ken Workman stayed for a lively post-film discussion in which he answered many questions and shared his perspectives on nature, the tribe, and their struggle for federal recognition."