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. Promised Land is a 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.
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.